One of the most significant things brands can do to dramatically improve their web presence and actually REDUCE their overall marketing costs is to begin practicing “continuous” website development. This approach is in stark contrast to what most brands today do, which is to perform a major site overhaul every 3-5 years with little or no attention paid in the intervening time.
There are a number of significant benefits to taking a “continuous development” approach. Here are a few of them:
Avoid the friction of starting/stopping a project
There’s a lot of friction associated with starting/stopping web projects. You’ve got to find time on everyone’s calendar, download your entire current company vision, spend weeks writing/revising content and learning how to use the CMS. These obstacles create a lot of resistance to getting started, and once the project is disbanded, everyone involved tends to forget what was done and why. In contrast, a continuous development team is in constant communication. Relationships are strong. Vision is well aligned. Excitement for working together is high and interpersonal conflict is minimal, all of which translates into a better work product.
Avoid the pressure to get it right the first time
When working on the website only once every 3-5 years, there’s a lot of creative pressure to do it right because “we’re not going to touch it for a few years.” This leads to writer’s block and a hesitancy to make ANY decision because the impact seems so big. In other words, analysis paralysis.
Avoid owning an embarassingly out-of-date website
Perhaps the strongest argument for continuous website development comes in the avoidance of the opportunity cost of having a bad website. In the “redesign every 3-5 years” model, companies spend the final 2-3 years saying to themselves and to customers “Yeah, don’t look at our website.. it’s note very representative of what we actually think/do.” This represents wasted time and opportunity that a continuously developed website could have avoided.
How to do it
Your ongoing development work is going to basically break down into two categories — “reactive” and “proactive” work. My advice is to keep the initial build as simple as possible and leave as many items as possible for “phase 2+.” Focus on building a minimally viable product in the first round with a solid roadmap for expansion when the time comes. Next, allocate a modest budget each month and put your web development company on “retainer” to execute against the provided roadmap absent further instructions. Review the roadmap at some regular interval, and make changes as needed to what’s coming down the pipe. This represents the “Proactive” process.
The “reactive” process is intended to take care of things that pop up and need to be addressed right away. “Reactive” tasks generally have a higher priority than the proactive requests, so the web development team should handle them first. For example, the web team’s plan “absent further instruction” may be to implement a blog on the website this month. But if the client determines that there’s an opportunity to capitalize on a new product or market trend, the blog initiative may be sidelined while the new landing page or PPC campaign is developed.