Website

Who It Takes to Build a Website

“I have a buddy who does websites, he can help.”
“My nephew is a wiz ‘on the computer’, let me see if he can crank out a site for us”
“I think Linda has some resource on her team who can help”
“We’ll just have the agency do it”

Insert a similar comment you’ve heard over and over again here…

I feel like I’ve heard them all, or some derivative, probably more than once. There is something about a website that lead people to think they are easy to build. I’m not sure if it’s that some of us took HTML in High School so you think you can create a page or maybe it’s because we’ve all been online for so many years now and we’re so comfortable with the medium that we think we know what makes up a good website?

I’ve been around websites and website production for 18 years. Even after building hundreds of sites it still shocks me how much work and how many people it takes to actually get that site to launch. Sure, there might be that one key player who is doing a good bit of the heavy lifting, but if you really want a successful launch, it takes a village of skilled designers, planners, testers, developers and users to make it really go.

Let me make one distinction: if you need a blog or a simple template site, that’s not what I’m talking about. Get a WordPress site or sign up for squarespace and spend a few hours – you’re done (though it’s funny how many of the same decisions and elements need to be figured out on “simple” sites as well).

What I’m referring to is that customer-facing, business-affecting website that can make or break. It’s the one where you have a kick-off and it gets everyone all excited (or overwhelmed depending on where you sit). Your calendar blows up with daily check points and your whole world centers around this one launch, while typically also doing your “real” job.

If you’re wondering why the project seems so challenging, let me just give you a quick little list of everyone that usually is involved with a project like this:

  • Project Sponsor – they sign the checks
  • Stakeholders – it’s their head
  • Project Manager(s?) – they keep us on track
  • Content folks (editors, approvers, developers) – who’s gonna write all this stuff?
  • Architects (information, development, data) – how it all plays together to make sense
  • Designers (visual, interaction, navigation) – how it looks and works
  • Developers (coders, testers, front-end, back-end) – the nuts and bolts
  • User Testers – the neutral group you bounce things off along the way
  • QA Team – making sure it’s all working as expected before you flip the switch

Does it give you some sense of validation for why this thing is so challenging? It should! I’m probably missing a few, but you can see from just this list that it really does take a lot of work to do this right.

As a side note, if you don’t have the roles represented above (some people might take on multiple roles) you are asking for trouble on your launch. Put the right resources to the task as this is a big one.

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