Newfangled works with independent agencies to create lead development web platforms for their clients.

Newfangled works with independent agencies to create lead development web platforms for their clients.

Strategic Planning for a Web Development Project



Starting with Strategic Planning


Every project should be preceded by strategic planning; think of it as similar to drawing up your shopping list. However, determining the scope of a web development project is not really as simple as drawing up a bulleted list of wants (Video? Check. Ecommerce? Check. Blog? Check.). What's missing from this list is a guiding strategy. So far, I've been using a grocery store analogy, but my next point is best made from the wood shop.

Measure twice, cut once.


That was one of Bob Villa's (of This Old House fame) mottos, which was printed on a mug my step-father used to hold pencils in his garage woodshop. Whenever I think of him, I think of that motto and appreciate the value of carefully considering something before you do it. Villa held to this motto because lumber can't be un-cut; once you've started sawing through wood, there's no turning back- that is unless you have an endless supply of wood. In the same way, once you start the development phase of a website, it's very difficult to start over without significant schedule and budget losses.

This is why we hold firmly to the belief that beginning any project with a strategic phase will ensure that realistic goals are set, a manageable scope, budget and timeline are established and an appropriate content strategy is planned. Without taking the initial time to do this, it's likely that some aspect of the project will not go according to the expectations of those involved. In fact, we would confidently affirm that spending time on strategic planning will actually save time and money in general by preventing unnecessary revisions and potential road blocks.

How does it work?


Our approach to a strategic planning phase takes three particular steps: The first involves an interview, during which we spend time with our clients asking lots of questions. The information we receive in this interview helps us to be aware of expectations, fears, limitations and other factors that often do not present themselves until much later. It's not an interrogation, but a thorough diagnostic of business, marketing and technological factors. After we've gathered the information we need, we prepare a written report which covers positioning, goals, current perceptions of strengths and weaknesses, functionality recommendations, search engine optimization, and content strategy. Once this report has been completed, we regroup with the client to review it in detail and take questions. This is often the most productive portion of the strategic phase as a greater sense of goal-oriented unity surfaces and the team gets excited about the project they are about to begin. Additionally, it's at this point that we can most accurately establish a budget and schedule for a project.

To be clear, not every project we're involved with needs a "Newfangled" strategic planning phase. Some of our best projects have begun right out of the gate because our clients have already planned extensively before we became involved. In these cases, it's not that strategic planning isn't needed, it's that one has already been done, just not by us. However, if, during our sales process, we sense that an internal planning phase has not occurred, we will enthusiastically make our case for a "Newfangled" strategic phase.

Once a strategy has been developed, we can begin prototyping.







Comments

Jeri Hastava | August 29, 2008 12:00 PM
Thank you for another thought provoking article. I find myself wondering how you estimate a project if as noted above, "…it's at this point that we can most accurately establish a budget and schedule for a project." It makes perfect sense to me that strategic planning comes first, and it's in this phase that the real scope of the project reveals itself, but I've yet to encounter a client who didn't want a quote BEFORE any work, including planning, was begun???

Regards,
Jeri
Christopher Butler | August 29, 2008 12:57 PM
Jeri,

Thanks for reading!

We always give a firm quote for the strategic consulting- a flat fee. Once the strategic phase is complete, we will give a firm quote for the project if there is enough defined to do so (assuming we know all the technical requirements to scope out the actual development). If not, we tend to do a firm quote for a prototyping phase, estimate the remainder of the project and then firm up that quote once prototyping is complete.

Best,
Chris
Alice Cooper | September 3, 2008 1:38 AM
To keep a website current and in the rankings these days is becoming a real professionals job, I am sure outsourcing for webmasters SEO will really take off.
Christopher Butler | September 4, 2008 7:32 AM
Alice,

You are right about that! We recommend that our client allocate significant internal resources, not just toward managing web content but also specifically for analytics and SEO maintenance. We also frequently recommend our friends at High Rankings for outside expert SEO consultation.

Thanks for reading,

Chris
Willem Bannock | May 14, 2009 8:09 AM
In a former incarnation it was my job to perform QA on all the software we built. It was especially important for the Help Desk as they had less exposure to irate clients. Funny that I don't do much of it now that we are creating sites for the web. Should get back to it really. Anyway, thanks for the kick in the pants.
Alice Cooper | May 22, 2009 6:03 AM
Hi Chris, thanks for the feed back, will have to check out your suggestion of 'high rankings'.
David Steinkamp | September 9, 2010 1:50 PM
Hey Chris, I just read your interesting article and started thinking about the pros and cons of outsourcing the SEO issue. The client has more time to concentrate to deliver great content to the web and can profit from a seo agency or something because they are even more specialized. But if you hire someone for making the marketing part you have additional cost which have to be earned with the project and you give away a very sensitive field of your webproject. Not an easy decision, but a good cost/use analysis could tell us the most logical way.

Bye the way, really nice and interesting page, keep working on this one.

Regards, David

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