This is it.
You finally have the budget for a new website or a major overhaul. You have all of your stakeholders on board and you’ve found a great web design agency to work with. Everything will go perfectly right? Afterall, the web design company you chose has stellar references and great online reviews.
But what about your side of the deal? Will you be an impediment or an ingredient to your success?
Here’s my list of the top 6 things you can do to royally sabotage your next web design project.
Tip #1: Operate on a Starvation Budget
Unfortunately, for many companies, the way they come up with a budget is completely arbitrary. Instead of doing market research and discovering what normal prices are, companies will base their budgets on what’s comfortable for them to spend in the current season.
In reality- for their business, their market, and their needs- they may need a $20,000-$30,000 budget to get the job done right. But instead, they’re limiting their project, and the companies they can work with, severely because of an arbitrary $8,000 or $9,000 number. Look, I’m not saying that companies should blindly throw more money towards their website project, but what I am saying is to hold your budget loosely and base it on the market. Talk with 4 or 5 web design firms first before locking down your price range.
Here are the biggest problems with what I’m calling a “starvation web design budget”:
- Competence: You may end up hiring less competent designers and developers
- Missed Opportunity: If the project fails, you may not be able to get funding from leadership for another 3 or 4 years. Better to wait a bit to get more budget and get things right the first time.
- Limited Agencies: As stated above, you may severely limit what companies you can work with
- Limited Features: With a shoestring budget, you may find yourself frustrated that features aren’t working the way you want or you simply can’t afford the features you want.
- Settling: You may wind up settling with a website that you’re not truly proud of
Tip #2: Expect Mandatory Perfection
Here’s another good unrealistic expectation. Treat your vendors like they’re superhumans that shouldn’t make mistakes. Afterall, folks like you and I don’t ever make mistakes right?
Here’s the truth. Any agency that you’ll ever work with is full of people. Fallible, error-prone, breathing people. No project ever goes perfectly smooth. No professional will be flawless in all aspects of their work. That’s just not how the world works. We do the best when we have enough room to fail and correct. Learn and improve.
Instead, keep the following principals in mind:
- Individual shortcomings are important, but here’s a bigger importance: how does an agency do in owning up to and correcting their mistakes?
- Budget for problems. They shouldn’t be constant and you may find that there are few, but if you don’t budget for any issues during your project then you’re gearing up for disappointment.
- Be careful with assumptions. Often times a professional has thought through a particular approach and giving them a chance to explain themselves will bring clarity and understanding.
Tip #3: Be Impatient with Your Timeline
Of course, we all wish that everything was completed yesterday. There are so many opportunities we have at our agency. So many rabbits to chase. So many fruitful directions we could go.
But all of this takes time. And isn’t it ideal for something to take longer if it ends up being better?
In some cases, a company can be in a pinch and an extended timeline just isn’t possible. But if that’s not the case for your company, ask the question “What things are driving our aggressive timeline and are those things truly important?“.
Tip #4: Make a Quick Decision when Choosing a Firm
Often times, whether a project will be a success or not is determined before the project ever breaks ground. The proposal. The plan. Ultimately, the firm you choose.
Rush through your decision-making process when choosing a web design agency and you’ll be sure to have a rocky project on your hands. Sure, sometimes companies don’t do their homework and just get lucky, but why play Russian roulette with your most important marketing asset? I go into this topic at length in this article but here are a few tips:
- Patience: Again, take your time. You’ll lose way more time trying to fix issues from hiring a bad vendor.
- Reference Calls: This is perhaps one of the most important tasks when hiring an agency. I like to ask this question of references: “How would you rate xzy company for overall performance on your project?”. Look for 8s, 9s and 10s. Ask followup questions like “Would you work with them again?” and “What did you like most and least about working with them?”. Make sure to talk with at least 3, but ideally 5 or 6 references. Here’s another article related to web design company reference calls.
- Related Experience: Look for agencies with related experience. Whether that’s work in similar industries as yours, or expertise in a particular platform or framework. You want to avoid an agency that claims that “they do it all”. No one agency can possibly serve any industry or any project type with complete competency.
- Detailed Planning: How does the agency’s proposal look? Is it vague or ambiguous? What about their process? Can they explain how and why they do things? Good agencies have good and articulate answers. Inexperienced agencies respond with general, unspecific answers.
Tip #5: Micromanage Everything
Want another surefire way to sabotage your website project and frustrate your website agency? Make sure and micromanage everything. Things that don’t matter. Things that aren’t important. Everything. Just micromanage the heck out of it.
Perhaps the reason why this can happen the most is from a lack of confidence in the firm you chose (see tip #4). And this is why choosing the right firm is so vitally important. But micromanaging is demeaning to your partners and unhelpful for you. It would be better to look for an out in your contract than to settle for working with a firm that you don’t respect.
Tip #6: Don’t Budget for Discovering Things Mid-Project
As with everything in life, future unknowns have a way of disrupting our plans or hopes. If you think that you know everything about your project at the very beginning, you’re setting yourself up for frustration.
Instead, keep your plans with a degree of looseness. Maybe you get into your website project and discover that you really need a corporate blog. Or perhaps a feature you wanted ends up more complicated than you expected. The only way to avoid all unknowns is to know the future.
When working through the proposal process, make sure and budget an extra 10-20% for unknowns. Later, when you need the funds, it’s not a big deal. It was part of the plan.
Do you see yourself as a marketing director, CEO or partner falling into one of these mistakes? If there’s one item to remember it’s this: take your time and do your homework. Nothing of lasting value ever comes quickly and this principle surely applies to your website.