Talk About It
Updating Your A/E/C Website? Read this First.
Question: When is it time to refresh your website?
Answer: The minute after you introduce it to the public.
While that’s a bit of an exaggeration, it’s not too far off base for those of us in the corporate communications field.
Having just rolled out a new website, we wrote down a few lessons learned for the next go-round.
- First, develop a mission outlining what you want. Your wish list should include an internal internet or intranet, intuitive navigation, multilingual presence, brand, search engine optimization and social media integration.
- Next, ask your IT team to develop an outline. The outline should include details on content management and migration, mobile/tablet optimization, who maintains and hosts the site, etc.
- Interview a variety of developers. Before they walk in your office, create a website developer score sheet that evaluates team chemistry, creative portfolio, technical capabilities, schedule and cost. Let your selection team weigh in on all of the elements.
- Your developer is your partner on a long road during a website project. Treat them with trust and respect, but document.
- Read every word of the contract. Don’t just sign it, sight unseen. Ask your developer questions if you are unsure of specific items.
- Establish one key contact. This person should maintain the contract and negotiate additional services, when needed.
- Talk about converting existing text and images to the new site. Developers are taught to tell you everything is a “snap.” This part is always tricky, given new technology platforms and conversions.
- Maintain a paper trail of all requests. Something that you think is a cinch might be a costly additional service. Create meeting minutes of EVERY meeting, even phone memos. The one time that it fails to be done may cost you a lot of money. Participants of conversations all leave with their own understanding of what was discussed unless it is clearly identified for the record. A good developer is very adept at tracking their own correspondence so that decisions can be clearly traced. Be proactive and commit to this documentation ALWAYS.
- Know the difference between “optimization for mobile” and a true mobile version of the website: these are two different things. Optimization simply means your desktop site “will work” on mobile devices, as opposed to a true mobile version which will look and function differently and enhance the mobile experience.
- Beware of scope creep. Work in tandem with the developer to recognize it, flag it and track it when it seems to appear.
- Make sure you allow time for the website developer to provide tutorial lessons for everyone who will be working on the website. Set aside time between the tutorial lessons and roll-out. You will find many adjustments will be needed after the team begins using the content management backend in practice … not just in theory.
- Also set aside time between the actual website launch and any notification to your staff or clients about the new website. Again, it gives the team time to work out the kinks.
- Create a maintenance plan for each section of the website – who’s responsible for what and when. A good website is only as good as the freshness of its content. Commit to the resources to keep it strong from the moment it goes live; creating the site is just the beginning.
We know we are going to read this list long before diving into the next iteration of the HKS website. We hope this serves as a helpful tool for you, too.
Trish Martineck is Director of Integrated Communications at HKS, Inc.
Scott Withers is Website and Creative Services Manager at HKS, Inc.