You know the drill: three years or so have passed since your organization last redesigned its website. Everyone had an opinion once it launched (where were they during the planning phases?) and there was much excitement, maybe a few tense discussions, and a few Monday morning quarterback ideas. Then, about 30-45 days after it launched, most of the organization went back to their “day jobs” since planning a website really just got added to their workload since it only happens every few years.
Meanwhile, a few individuals in Marketing and IT were left as stewards to keep this new behemoth up to date while everyone went back to their daily business and all of a sudden 12, 24, 36 months go by, and the organization finds itself with a site that no longer has relevant content, and doesn’t perform as needed. It’s an outdated site that no longer serves its purpose. But what if there was a better way to approach such a vital marketing channel?
How We Got Here
If the above describes your situation, you are not alone. We have all inherited a method of marketing and designing websites that was born from a different era that had much different constraints than the one we’re living in.
The traditional software development lifecycle (SDLC) is an outcome of the Modern idea of efficiency, scalability, and a belief in the infallibility of logic and structure. It is a product of the culture that spawned the assembly line and mass production, of the advent of the skyscraper and mankind’s travels to space, in that a single unwavering plan can be created at the beginning of a process and have little or no alterations made while a project that takes many months or years unfolds based on that plan.
Keep in mind that as recently as the 1970s, paper punch cards were being used while developing software, meaning that the entire process of writing code required measuring and planning that was timely and costly to perform. Computers were scarce, and the punch card process was not forgiving. For instance, there was no “undo” button. Any mistakes or errors required starting over.
The website design and development process is based strongly on the fundamentals of the software development lifecycle (SDLC). It uses what is referred to as a “waterfall” methodology which requires one step to be performed before the next is started. This ensures that dependencies are thought through and that all the moving pieces are planned one by one.
The downside to this, however, is that this process doesn’t take kindly to any new information, findings or observations a team might have once they are partway through the process. Any changes to scope are costly and can greatly increase the timeline.
In response to this, the agile approach to software was developed which started with some rapid application development methodologies in the 1990s and was finally solidified in the 2000s. With this agile approach, instead of all the planning done in the beginning of the project, the actual work is done in “sprints” of individual features or areas that allow problems to be tackled in more direct and meaningful ways. Several of these sprints make up a full project. This allows product owners to spend more focused energy solving specific problems, and allows learning from one sprint to inform another.
Rethinking the website redesign
An agile web design and development approach is a continuation of a thought process that is informing many other industries and types of work all around us. The marketing world is switching to a more agile approach that keeps them nimble, hence “agile marketing” becoming a buzzword in recent years. Necessitated by a constantly changing landscape, marketers have been forced to adjust their plans as social networks rise and fall, new technologies come into existence, and preferences shift.
A shift to an “agile web” approach means websites are not simply built, used and scrapped. They are a continually measured and optimized marketing tool that evolves, but rarely, if ever, undergoes a complete redesign. Instead, small changes over time keep it fresh, performing well, and provides a consistent yet always improving experience for customers. This means that the current method of creating and maintaining websites needs to shift.
This agile approach fixes a few things that are currently flawed with the web design process:
- Incremental changes make results more apparent
Wholesale changes don’t really help you to figure out what works or what doesn’t, so in a way it deters you from truly learning from last time. By making smaller, measurable changes, you can easily see how each element performs, instead of having to guess which part of a major redesign is effective.
- Continual Improvement
An agile approach means that you are able to constantly improve the performance of your site, versus making changes in stops and starts, or worse yet, waiting months (or years) to make optimizations. In having the opportunity to continually improve your website, problems that arise can be immediately addressed and resolved.
- Consistent User Experience
Don’t forget that your customers have a unique perspective on website redesigns as well. While a fresh new look can enhance your brand, making big changes to an interface that a regular user is familiar with can often have negative effects on their satisfaction. Making incremental updates are not disruptive but often welcome improvements and updates.
The industry has evolved from programming with paper punch cards to an always-connected, big data, software as a service, cloud-based world. An agile approach to websites means the end of the redesign as we know it. No more clean slate drawing board every few years, but instead a continual state of listening, evaluating and optimizing. No more dramatic site launches, but instead a more consistent Web presence that helps provide continuity for customers, your other marketing efforts, and even internal staff.
Your current website might unfortunately be in a place where a redesign is required due to it being so out of date, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan your next redesign to have an agile optimization and support schedule once it launches.
As marketing becomes an increasingly agile practice, transitioning your approach to a more agile one is a natural progression and one that parallels the evolution to continually measuring, analyzing, and optimizing marketing efforts. The agile approach is a win-win for everyone.
(This post provided by Carousel30, a Capitol Communicator sponsor.)