Reproduced from the Areeba Company Blog. Colin is the Director of Client Services and has been with Areeba since May 2004.
This is part 1 of a series focusing on the different approaches to a successful digital project. Colin Yeung, writes from the Client Services viewpoint taking an operational strategy approach.
Over the years, I’ve been invited to speak at a number of events and also engaged to deliver specific business focused analysis of an organisations operations, integration and the cultural aspects of embracing “digital” as a viable and contributing part of the business. Part of this is the often repeated question of what I define as “Digital”. Considering my background, my views are somewhat operational in approach, encompassing a more holistic view of the business and how it interacts. It is aptly summed up with:
Digital: any sort of information, business process, or data handling which is accessed and connected to the internet
No mention of CSS, HTML, W3C, CMS, ASP, API or any other acronym you care to draw upon. The strength of what we deliver is that we embark on the creation of systems which deliver business value across the organisation. Our team have a focus on the User Experience, which encompasses Brand, Usability, Solutions Architecture and Adaptability. Words like User Engagement, Process and Governance guide the outcomes of what we deliver.
Having the opportunity to present, opens up interesting possibilities in the dialogue that transpires in a group environment of individuals focused upon learning and demystifying the vagaries of what can be often considered a black art. What has struck me in the the Question & Answer session that follows after a presentation is the diversity of inquiry and the underlying limited understanding with which business in general apply the concept of digital to their day to day operations. It’s no understatement to say that I’m constantly floored by the view that websites are still online brochures, that are treated as a communication medium which is little more useful than a broadcast device. The process of getting to a successful website which interacts in a 2 way fashion with clients encompasses so much more and the learning opportunities that business have in-front of them to harness User driven outcomes are more plentiful than ever before.
With that approach in mind, area’s we’ve consistently identified that don’t receive the attention they deserve in web projects are:
1. User Audience
Too many assumptions rule the day here. Clients often believe a particular information set or demographic interact with their website. But they don’t know. The process of ongoing assessment, verification and validation of the audience and who they are is often met with blank stares and uncomfortable silences. If you go to the next level of what their audience is doing in reality, it falls into the next area below.
2. Analytics & Data
Massively and totally undervalued, underutilised and misinterpreted. I’m talking beyond Google Analytics and what page views a site visitor is clocking up. Analytics of data – what information is being served. Analytics of intent – what data is being inputted into the system. Reporting around the data and forecasting trends is another area which often falls short of the mark.
3. User Experience
Usability, User Interface Design, Content Design, Typography, Brand, Information Architecture. It’s not unusual for us to find that the extent of the thinking has gone to a Site map. Consideration needs to be given and thought undertaken in relation to the differing facets of a cohesive User Experience.
4. Business Goals
So many web systems are designed and developed in isolation from the overarching organisational strategy set at the executive level. A high quality web outcome is guided by a holistic approach to creating an organisation wide digital strategy. This also incorporates an internal as well as external social media strategy. A good quality digital strategy is a whole topic in itself, but at a high level, it encompasses the business values, goals, expectations and uses digital can play in relation to the delivery of business value.
Why is it so many web projects are owned by the “IT” or by “Marketing” departments? And further, talking to the other department is forbidden if you are interacting with either business unit? Organisation wide web projects that are rated as successful by the client in our experience encompass representation from all departments and each department has to act in a responsible fashion to each other, being of a collaborative and understanding outlook that each has its respective remit, but with the underlying driver of the success of the business as a whole the benchmark criteria.
6. Success Criteria
As trivial as it sounds, if the CEO likes the site, because it has enough “green, blue or pink”, than that can be deemed a success criteria, just as equally as if online sales are improved by 20% in the first quarter. Defining what a successful outcome is and the metric by which it will be judged and improved by needs to be considered.
On the basis of the conversations that I’ve had in the Q&A sessions, the question of what budget to allocate to a web development always arises. When you tell a client a figure based upon your professional assessment of their business and the opportunities available, unless they have an understanding of the process and rigor described above, you’re often left with the challenge of building out a project which has to take short cuts. Whilst this in itself is not a problem, the outcomes and the dependencies that can eventuate are.
The reality is that organisations which want to be serious about delivering digital projects with due consideration to the above points need to adopt a User Centric approach and be prepared for the variations that a creative development takes. It is our challenge as a service provider to ensure that we communicate in a common sense and practical fashion, project outcomes, goals and validation criteria which reflect a consideration of the risks and opportunities. Further, we strive to create an environment where there is a focus on quality and that the metrics of success are defined clearly and consistently referenced.
Find more in your workshop for a successful digital project:
Part 2 – a technical viewpoint: 4 Things To Know Before Building Your Web Site
Part 3 – the project management part to it: 6 Rules To Avoid Killing Your Web Project
Part 4 – the digital touch: 5 Principles To Effective Web Design