The stages of web project development vary from developer to developer with some requiring eight stages and others recommending four. But however long or short the process, each project begins with a website project consultation.
The initial consultation underscores the project's success. Here's what you need to prepare:
1. Clarify your goals
Forbes contributor and start-up specialist Ilya Pozin notes that looking at your competition's website is probably the least important thing you can do because the site you are designing is for your business. Your business is unique. You emphasize different services than your competition. You treat your customers differently than the competition and most importantly, your customers expect something different from you. Your website should conform to what you deliver, how you deliver it and to whom.
Let the development team know what you want from the site, who your clients are, what services are most essential to your company, whether or not you intend to scale your business or partner with another.
Additionally, be clear about your brand's voice and how you would like to come across to potential and current clients and customers.
Avoid the temptation to design the site. Leave the designing to the designers. What you bring into the equation is your business' mission.
2. Know what to ask
Be certain to ask the development team about your site's current status, whether the developers think an overhaul would work, or if a redesign is more appropriate. Asking about a growth strategy is also essential. Website projects are not stationary. You are building a fluid structure that should parallel your business' growth and customer needs. Is the team able to dedicate the resources necessary to scale the project?
Through the course of questioning, you can determine whether or not the development team and your team are capable of communicating effectively.
According to B2Community: "Any web designer or developer worth considering should be able to explain in non-technical terms; your current website status, their plans to correct any flaws and a growth strategy."
If you are unable to understand your developers' and designers' plans and their process during the consultation, you might want to reconsider the partnership.
3. Be Flexible
Ineffective communication is definitely a deal breaker but ineffective communication should not be confused with conflicting perspectives or limited technological progress. Prepare for a web project consultation by keeping an open mind.
Developers understand what code and technology are capable of accomplishing. Be aware that technology itself can be limiting in some scenarios. Additionally, you are meeting with designers and developers who are user experience experts. They understand the many nuanced ways in which customers engage interfaces and react to prompts.
User experience pioneer Alan Cooper wrote in Fast Co Design: "Companies still need the help of an outsider to show them how their deep familiarity with the problem is confounding their ability to see it clearly. That’s where designers come in. They occupy the (understandably unpopular) position of prioritizing the users’ needs and behaviors over the ingrained views and risk-averse assumptions of the enterprise."
In other words, once you have presented your business goals to the developers they will spin it into the perspective of a customer or client. Then, they will build a design for your customers' use. Sometimes the results are surprising.
4. But don't bend over backwards
Be adaptable and open-minded but also, be prepared to ask about quantifiable evidence and analytics. The design might be surprising, but does it work? Do users really like it? Are the designers' and developers' decisions based on quantifiable evidence? What metrics will they use? What types of user testing? How long will it take to implement changes?
These are good questions to ask during major site overhauls. Additionally, if you are a business with changing services and inventory, or if you anticipate steady growth then these questions should be asked and clearly answered.