How to Prepare for a Web Project

Before you even think about RFP’s or vendors, get organized

A web project starts long before the actual kickoff. Even before you secure the budget and go in search of design and development shops, there are several things you can do to get your organization ready to go and set up to have a faster, smoother, more successful experience.

Who Are You? Assemble your key assets.

Gather your mission statement, branding guide(s), and descriptions of what you do. Make sure you have a clear sense of the tone and style that makes your organization what it is. This is a great time to collect assets you know you’ll want on the website such as new images of staff, the board, people in your programs, and more.

What Do You Have Now? Review your current website.

You probably have a long list of things you want to change on your website already, but asking the people who use and visit it what works and what does not can surface opportunities and strengths you may not have considered.

What content could be jettisoned and what content could be spruced up and kept around? Take some time to organize all of your images or other media files so you can easily decide what to keep and what to leave behind.

Finally, look at your analytics and get a clear sense of what areas users access most and least. See if your hunches are backed up by the data on your website’s traffic, or if anything else can be learned.

What Do You Need? Focus on goals and objectives, not tactics.

Dream big. You’ll have plenty of time to scale it all back or take things in phases– but starting with a clear vision for what your site should achieve will help you make decisions, collaborate with more focus, and prioritize.

Focus first on the end goals rather than the details of how to get there — your design and development partners should help you chart the course from one to the other. Capture the results you want to achieve rather than the tactics you think could work. For example: “We want visitors to feel more emotionally involved in the work we do,” rather than, “We want bigger images on our home page.”

Finally, list specific objectives you imagine will be critical to achieve your goals. Do your visitors need to find certain content, or see articles in different languages, or submit information more easily? Do your content administrators need a better way to manage the publishing workflow? Does your marketing staff need to collect information and get it to your CRM more effectively? Write it all down any way that works, or using a standard project brief if your team typically produces them.

How Will You Get There? Define your essential timing and team.

Any big project typically  takes longer than you think.  First, define any concrete constraints or deadlines – do you have a registration period, an annual fundraiser, a significant board meeting or event? What is the minimum you would need and by when? Capture these milestones as early as possible so you can plan the timeline accordingly.

Who will be on the core project team? Identify three to five people who will shepherd the project, and one person who will be the main point of contact with the vendor(s) and partners you work with. Consider starting a blog or monthly email to the rest of the staff to build excitement, provide updates, or gather feedback about the project.

Get ideas flowing early so you have time to build momentum and go into your web project, no matter how small or large, feeling organized and set up for success.

Good luck!