Recently, we’ve been seeing a lot of the following sort of scenario happening in the late stages of a client’s decision to embark on a needed website redesign:

emagine:  So Mary, how are things coming with the redesign project we’ve been discussing? …are you folks getting close to a decision yet?

Mary Marketer (client’s prime contact):  Good news, Phil;  I got the budget approved, and we’re about ready to get started.

Phil:  That’s great, Mary! …let’s go ahead and set up the kickoff meeting.

Mary:  Well, first let me give you the bad news;  in signing off on it, our CEO told me it was conditional on launching the new site by 10/30! …which is about half the time that was in your proposed timeline.

We’re not sure what explains this sort of arbitrary pressure, or why it seems to be on the rise since the economy deteriorated.  Is it simply executive hubris, believing that any desired outcome can be achieved by simply commanding it?  Has the recession brought about some sort of government-style expense budgeting, so that any funds allocated but not spent within a given quarter are simply lost forever?

What we do know is that such dictates are never based on adequate information or experience, and are nearly always corrosive to the conduct and outcome of the project.

emagine has been building or rebuilding websites for clients ever since there was a World Wide Web …nearly 200 of them at last count.  That has given us a pretty good handle on how long it takes to do a custom website development project with quality.  When we project an elapsed time of, say, 3 months, it’s not because we plan to relax for six weeks, then hurry up and do the actual work in the remaining six;  it’s because there are discrete, identifiable activities that on average will add up to that amount of time.

Here are just two of the major time-consuming elements in a typical website rebuild:

Content development

Rarely does a client tell us, “All of our existing content will apply;  we just need to map it into the new structure/design.”  More typically, all usable existing content will need to be updated/upgraded, and something like 20-50 pages of new material will need to be written;  and it all needs to be error-free, keyword-rich, and engaging for the target readers.  Whether or not the client engages outside help from eMagine or elsewhere, this task must remain solely the client’s responsibility;  and it’s generally the longest single component on the project timeline.  Rushing it to meet an arbitrary deadline will require cutting corners somewhere, and the result will be evident to the site visitors, the search engines …or both.

Design consensus

In designing a client’s website, we try to incorporate several factors:

  • esthetic appeal
  • website design principles based on eye-tracking research
  • client-company “personality” and branding

This would be vastly easier if design were as black-and-white as, say, programming;  but in fact it’s a highly subjective activity.  That means that the selected design must not only conform to the above factors, but also satisfy the subjective preferences of the client firm’s key stakeholders.  For this reason, we generally provide the client with three initial design choices;  and we also build in time for a second design cycle, which will be needed in most cases.  We could press the client to settle on one approach sooner;  but that generally guarantees dissatisfaction with the site at an earlier point down the road.

Be assured that your Web consultants’ interests align precisely with yours in regard to speed:  we’re just as eager to complete your site and get on to the next project as you are to see your site launched.  But professional ethics will never allow us to sacrifice quality in pursuit of some arbitrary deadline;  all that does is raise the stress level for everyone involved in the project, and lead to an outcome that no one can be proud of.

There’s a saying in the restaurant business, that “Good food takes time.”  It applies equally well to the business of website design.