The 7 P’s of Web Projects ... And 7 Reasons Why They Work
Jillian Kuhn, Former Viget
Think back to your school days, when you were tasked with writing the longest research paper of your life. Chances are, you pulled an all-nighter before the deadline and miraculously cranked out an acceptable essay (double-spaced, of course). Looking back, do you think this was your finest work? Would you want the rest of the world to look at this hastily thrown-together effort as the ultimate representation of your abilities?
No, I didn't think so.
It surprises me how often companies take this "all-nighter" approach for their websites. They want their new site to do X, Y, and Z ... and they want it NOW. A website, like a research paper, isn't something that should be pieced together as quickly as possible without proper preparation. A research paper without research is often a disorganized jumble with no coherent vision or purpose; a website without strategy will reach the same fate.
This is where the 7 P's come in.
Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance (please pardon my French!). A former coworker loved to quote this phrase, and though he wasn't talking about web development, the philosophy fits our field perfectly. In any web effort, a great deal of thought goes into the project before a developer even dreams up the first line of code.
The Viget process builds in plenty of Proper Prior Planning, and we're always working on ways to add even more creative and strategic collaboration at the onset of an engagement. Additional critical thinking up-front achieves several important objectives and starts the project on a positive trajectory.
However, the benefits of this strategic Prior Planning portion of the project are often less obvious than the more tangible benefits delivered at later stages (new site maps or designs, for instance) and therefore need a little extra explanation. So, without further ado, here are 7 major reasons why the 7 P's will improve your web project:
- Better knowledge of your business. You wouldn't give a stranger the keys to your house, so don't give them the keys to your website, either. Strategic planning gives us the opportunity to really get to know a client's brand, goals, audience, and industry. Once we can "think like the client," we can make the best possible decisions to guide the project.
- Collaboration. Because of the nature of development and design, a lot of our work is done solo. Getting everyone together, especially at the start of an engagement, solidifies the team, puts everyone on the same page, and encourages open communication -- which undoubtedly leads to a better project experience.
- Customization. Since every project is different, why should they all follow the same standard process? Prior Planning gives us the flexibility to tailor the process to meet the client's specific needs -- instead of locking in a definitive course of action before we're even familiar with the project. Maybe the initial proposal suggests a site map, but as we get to know the project better we'll realize that a concept model would be more effective.
- Innovation. Rome wasn't built in a day; awesome web ideas take a little more effort, as well. Getting our best and brightest together to brainstorm on a project before production starts gets the creative juices flowing and leads to new and original concepts that take a site to the next level.
- Minimizing complications. Inevitably, during a project, something will go wrong. If you don't ask all the important questions and identify potential obstacles now, you'll be unprepared when complications pop up later (which will undoubtedly cost more time and money). Advanced awareness will help you avoid these pitfalls throughout the project.
- Problem-solving. "All-nighter" websites usually bear an eerie resemblance to the old site, and you'll find yourself dealing with the same old problems. Strategy sessions let us think these through and propose effective solutions. If the Contact form wasn't getting conversions on the old site, rest assured we'll find a way to improve the new one.
- A straighter, speedier project. If you carefully plan your route before embarking on a road trip, you're less likely to get lost, and you'll make better time. Prior Planning increases efficiency. The rest of the project will go faster and easier, getting you directly to your end goal without the costly need to stop and ask for directions at each turn.
These 7 reasons alone are enough to justify more strategic activity up-front, and I'm sure there are even more benefits (which I'd love to hear -- please comment with your thoughts!). Of course, there are always issues of time and budget, but it is unquestionably worthwhile to make room for Proper Prior Planning if your scope will allow. When you think first and develop a strategy before launching into the production phase of an engagement, you're more likely to achieve the final 4 P's: Preventing Piss Poor Performance.