There are countless horror stories about big businesses and governments launching new websites that are either poorly designed or suffer from serious technical flaws. In the best case scenario, a poorly managed website launch merely opens an organisation up to some ridicule. However, in some cases a bad website launch can have a devastating impact on a business’s bottom line. Recently, Marks & Spencer reported that technical flaws with its new website were partly to blame for a fall in profits. With the stakes so high, businesses should undertake every technique they can to mitigate the risk of putting together a flawed website.
One of the most common problems with a new website is the ‘tunnel effect’. Essentially, this is where the website that is finally created is far removed from what was originally commissioned and is, putting it bluntly, not what the executives of the business wanted or envisioned. In most cases the tunnel effect is the result of a separation between the corporate team and the website developers. Websites can take between six to eighteen months to move from the initial idea to the final launch. In this time the core aims of the website can become forgotten as the construction of the website becomes the sole responsibility of developers. The solution to this problem is quite straight forward – make sure the corporate and development teams work hand in glove. By having regular inter-team meetings and a sign off process at each stage of a site’s development, businesses can ensure that everything stays on track and there are no nasty surprises on launch day.
Along with regular meetings, it is crucial to adopt a routine of testing the site at each stage of development so the business team can actually visualise their requirements. New technology is becoming available in the form of enterprise app stores (that Gartner predicts to be the main vehicle to manage corporate-sanctioned apps by 2017) that allow developers to work with business users in quick iterations and deliver results swiftly. By nipping these problems in the bud as and when they occur, rather than after the site is completed, the chances of a disastrous flaw being exposed after the launch is vastly reduced.
Research is often an undervalued element during the initial stages of creating a site. The choice of designer, CMS and other service providers is usually driven by price, rather than functionality or track record. After all, a botched website launch isn’t always down to flaws on the site, an equally damaging issue can be that the site looks dated as soon as it launches or does not have the same level of integration or services as competing websites. By researching all the available options and being fully informed of what technology is available a business can ensure it partners with the best companies to create the best possible website. Aligned with this strategy is the mentality of treating a website as an app. Long gone are the days of static websites. Today, a site needs to be linked to the CRM, marketing automation systems and sometimes the business management software within the organisation, thus becoming itself a full-fledged application. Consequently, websites needs to be closely monitored for glitches and upgrades need to be anticipated. Ensuring that responsibility is taken for these tasks and a clear strategy is laid out prior to launch is key.
Of course, the best way to avoid a botched website launch is not to launch a new site at all. By thinking of a website as a long-term investment and building it using a platform that has modules, templates and apps that can be updated separately, a site can become dynamic. This all but removes the need to undertake a risky or costly complete update to the site every few years as technology improves.
The reality is that through careful management, a solid strategy and the right development partners, the risks associated with a website launch can be greatly reduced. It may take more time and cost a little more, but this extra effort is certainly worth it.
By Emmanuel Garcin, Chief Operating Officer at Jahia.
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