A Web Design and Development Blog


The Gap between Web Design and Deployment

Sometimes there is a mismatch between a client's expectations of how long it takes to deploy a website and the actual timescale. The usual reason? Content provision.

Over many years (far too many!) as a designer/developer I have created many websites. And I have found that balancing the requirements of the various interested parties is a vital and yet undiscussed area of the design and development process.

There are negotiations to be made between the client and the web company. That much at least is a well trodden path and I am sure we have all done it - whichever side of the fence we are on. The most basic points of contention are usually money, timescales and design. The financial side of the job is of course a standard business transaction. In one way, the design is actually the least contentious of these in my experience. The web company produces a selection of flat designs and (after some back and forth!) a look and feel is agreed. As far as some clients are concerned, that's a done deal. The less technologically aware client will assume that it is now a quick and easy task to produce the final site. And of course in some cases it is straightforward. Sometimes though there is a lot of background work to be done - the swan might look as if it is proceeding gracefully, but there's a lot of frantic paddling going on out of sight! It is important that there is a clear understanding between the client and the web company of the processes and timescales involved during the development/production phase, when it may appear that not much is happening. So, let's think about timescales and expectations.

One point that I feel ought to be stressed to the client is that a web company is not an expert in whatever their own particular industry happens to be. As such, asking a web company to come up with the copy/content for their site is asking for trouble. Of course, an experienced technical author could be engaged, but failing that much of the burden of content creation is going to fall upon the shoulders of the client. A confident client may be happy to enter their own content via a CMS once a site structure and skeleton has been set up. Typically though a client will provide content to the web company (at least initially) to populate the site. 

So of course here is a source of tension. The client will want the site up and running as soon as possible - and will in many cases be slow in providing the content to enable that to happen. That can very quickly become an internal tension within the client company. Speaking from the web company perspective, these are very dangerous. The client's marketing department will want their shiny new site up right now - the over-burdened employee they have asked to produce the content can't produce the goods as quickly as they want. Of course, if as a web company you don't know anything about the situation, there isn't much you can do about it. Once you get wind of it - suggest alternatives. Maybe a staged release? Get the client to prioritise the content and get to a stage where an initial release of the site can be made. If you haven't got every single testimonial or case study, does it matter? Maybe, but almost certainly less than delaying the website launch for another week or two!

We have found it useful in some cases to produce a spreadsheet checklist to make this a more straightforward for our clients. For example, for an e-commerce site you will have to have a list of products. Each has to have at least an image, a description, a price, a shipping cost and a stock level. In some cases there may be far more information required - colour/size variations, bundled deals, discounts and so on. Helping the client organise their content provision is an extra step in the production process is something that we have found to be mutually beneficial.

So, if you are the client and don't understand why your site isn't ready - don't get immediately frustrated. Ask your web company about the delay - you may find that it is not solely down to your web developers playing Angry Birds all day! The bottleneck may be closer to home, and there may well be something that can be done about it.

If you are a web company and the content provision dries up, it is too easy just to shrug and say that it is up to the client. Get in touch and see if you can help. It is both parties interests for the project to come to a successful and timely conclusion, after all.

Until next time ...

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