Everyone is familiar with this movie scene: the hero is on their last leg with only one chance for survival. There’s this one vaccine/weapon/software program that might just save the day. But it's never been tested outside the lab. As an audience, we wait with bated breath to find out if this last-ditch scheme will succeed. Of course, in the movies it almost always works, but we all recognize that it would be ridiculous to copy that scenario in anything but the most desperate circumstances.
It’s rare that even the most insightful businesspeople or developers can fully absorb an organization’s needs, plan a web strategy, and then succeed on the first try. Yet this method is exactly how most organizations go about designing and launching their websites!
Most people would probably agree that it’s better to subject your site to real-world challenges and pressures and then make iterations based on the results. We recognize that's easier said than done. Here are some of our recommendations about how your visitors and customers can help you make the right web improvements:
We’ve addressed the question of waterfall vs. agile. There are situations where the waterfall method is more appropriate, but consider carefully whether the agile method might be a good fit for you. Rather than wait until your site is 100% complete and perfect, consider “moving fast and breaking things.” Agile development methods can help you build your web presence more quickly and adjust as you learn what aspects of your website work and what aspects don’t.
Even if you need to plan your new website more systematically, it doesn't mean you have to lose out on the benefits of iteration. Consider breaking your project into phases where you build what you need in order to have a viable site, and leave some budget for continuous development after you launch. Very often, the first few weeks after a new site goes live are the most educational, so pay close attention to what happens during that period of time.
Data Is Better Than A Hunch
Since we’re custom design and development professionals, we have a good sense of what works well for a website. However, no website’s audience matches anyone’s expectations 100%; we always need to validate our informed choices against how users actually interact with a site. Set a few goals or key performance indicators (KPIs) and pay close attention to how your site performs. Google Analytics is a must-have free tool that puts tons of data at your fingertips and allows you to track how users behave on your site over time.
Once you have a good handle on your baseline traffic, you can begin to run experiments using A/B testing. A/B testing allows you to experiment with small changes to your page layout or even just to your page copy. Affordable services like Optimizely can segment your site audience into two groups and show each one a slightly different version of the page. These tests generate real data to help you make the right decisions.
By implementing changes that make your website more user-friendly, you will gain more trust among your potential leads and continue keeping your existing customers happy. Sure, most sites require occasional server upgrades or bug fixes, but for existing sites, we spend most of our time designing and developing additional features or improving existing portions. To reflect this, NPG will soon be rebranding our ongoing development services as “Continuous Improvement.”