Recently the Affordable Care Act rolled out nationwide by way of call centers and the new HealthCare.gov website. There has been a host of complaints about the website and its inability to handle the traffic volume, frequent site shutdowns and process requests issues. According to the Huffington Post article, the government spent an estimated $394 million dollars on the new healthcare exchange and associated data hub. $394 million is a huge investment, and the type of investment most businesses cannot afford.
The majority of website development projects and website redesign projects can range from thousands of dollars to tens of thousands depending on complexity, personnel, development team and website purpose. We are not privy to all of the details of how HealthCare.gov was launched or what was needed in order for completion…however, there are certain things you need to know and ask prior to any website design or redesign endeavor. Asking the right questions and having a solid plan in place can help save you time, money, aggravation…and if you are the U.S. government – millions of dollars and a lot of embarrassment.
- Who will be on the in-house development team and what are their roles and responsibilities? Prior to development, you need to identify people intimately familiar with your company, brand and corporate identity. This team should be responsible for driving website content, website design [look and feel of the site]. The website development company will not be as familiar with your mission, brand, products or services. Your team needs to be responsible for delivering all of the assets need for proper implementation, style, and digital needs. Holding the expectation that your website developer holds all of the keys and answers is a perfect recipe for exasperation and delayed execution.
- Ask executive staff to provide a full list of services, products, business model[s] and identify each offering in clear, concise language. This may seem like a foregone conclusion…after all, your team should know exactly what they sell and what they offer, right? Wrong. You may be surprised to find the devil in the details. Having a full and complete understanding from all of the key stakeholders in what is offered and how it should be represented on the website is paramount in crafting your message and content to the world wide web.
- What are our expectations during the development process and after the website launch? Setting expectations is critical in understanding what needs to be done and what results will come out of the hours of effort. Expectations can range from roles and responsibilities for in-house staff and the development team to key performance indicators post launch. A key item to not is this: There are set variables you can certainly account for during website development…and there are other unknowns that no one can account for. The greatest unknown in any website development endeavor is the human element. All individuals will have assets and shortcomings. It is human nature. Time plays a major factor as well. When time burdens are placed on individuals without proper leeway things can spin out of control in a flash.
- What is the purpose of your website? This question may be one of the most important questions to address during the discovery phase. Establish goals as soon as possible and design the website around your goals and around your audience. With all of the recent Google algorithms updates – it is more important to ensue you meet the needs of your visitors and the secondary goal is to meet the needs of your corporate shareholders. While this seems to fly in the face of historical capitalism, we are facing another evolution of the Internet: it’s all about your visitors and not about your company. While these two concepts seem to be at odds with each other, the reality is you can have the best of both if you identify what you want and what your visitors want then provide solutions that follow suit.
- Do you know the scope of your project? One of the potential reasons the U.S. government spent over $300 million to build out the site and associated data feeds is the massive scope and resulting revisions needed to accommodate the government. Meaning, when you have too many cooks in the kitchen something is bound to go wrong. With this in mind, it is important to stay focused on the task at hand and once you have settled on scope and content of your website project, it is best to stick with the plan until completion. Once the site has been launched, there will be ample time to make revisions moving forward. Plan your work and work your plan is the major takeaway.
Website design and redesign are not simple tasks. They take time, patience, input, money and these projects always require you [as the owner or executive management] to get involved and stay involved in the development process.
Finally, it is important to know your role in the project and realize while you may be passionate about your business, brand, product or service, you can hinder the end result with demands, expectations and limited knowledge. Work with the experts and find ways to get all of your questions answered on the front end. This will save you from needed a tech surge to fix the issue. All website development projects are a group effort…and asking the right questions can save you big in the long run.