Creating a winning website: A complete guide to updating your website
In this article, we’ll highlight the most common pitfalls of rushing into a new website that we’ve seen happening over and over again in many companies and customers around us. At the same time, we’ll share tips on how to update your existing website.
The mantra “If only we got a new website or were able to switch to a new platform, we could do so much better” inspired us to write this article to help you to prevent risks and make the right decisions for the new website project you might be planning.
The most common reasons for updating the website or platform are:
- Outdated technology (ie. poor mobile support)
- Too strict vendor lock where updates and changes are difficult to perform
- A new team in place who wants to change technology
Companies should carefully consider the underlying reasons for website renewal to truly understand if the timing is right to start a massive IT project. Typically, these projects utilize a significant part of the company’s resources and slow down all the other business development plans for months or even for years. Consider the business objectives of the new website; what should it do to the business, why do you need it, and how can it help achieve the company goals. Additionally, it’s important to assess how far the current site/platform can go with updates or adding solutions on top of it and what insights can be gathered from it before rushing into a new project.
Here are the most common pitfalls to prevent:
- Over-optimistic schedule – we see that most of the projects are delayed massively
- Existing website is neglected due to the shortage of resources and there’s a risk that business might shrink
There’s always a lot of excitement and anticipation when companies decide to undertake a project of website development. The most common pitfall at this stage is the strong belief that this new website will cure all the problems of the current one and business will magically start to grow. With all the hype and excitement, we often see that very little risk analysis or careful planning actually takes place. Often, the responsible people from agencies have never completed or witnessed a true website/platform project from the beginning to running it live for at least a couple of years — which is required to truly understand whether the project was successful or not. Launching a new site/platform alone should not be defined as success — it’s only the first step!
Keep calm and use the following tips to create a winning website
1. Technical expertise is needed
Make sure that you have at least one person in the buying team that has the technical experience and extensive experience IT projects. This person should be responsible for the day-to-day management of the project. Extensive technical understanding will prevent any possibility of project delay or going over the budget. The other people who should be involved in the project are the budget owners, and those in the marketing, business management, and IT teams.
2. Agile methods don’t guarantee success
Developing web services is not easy. It requires lots of different kinds of professionals in the complex ever-changing business, market, and technology space. Agile methods have clear advantages because of flexibility and reduced stress, but they also have a dangerous trap of creating ‘never-ending’ projects where the focus could get lost or change inevitably. It’s also good to understand that the more resources are, and the longer the project is, the better the business is for the vendor. Agile methods also give lots of freedom for the development teams when it comes to choosing technologies. This creates risks if the chosen technology is not aligned with the company’s needs and strategy. It might be tempting to build everything custom and in these situations, it’s often forgotten that custom code needs to be maintained, documented, and further developed creating extra burden, costs, and therefore risking to slow your business. We recommend using the architecture plan to avoid this trap and use the right vendors and technologies for your business. Agile methods are the right way to develop but require clear guidance, goals, agreed rules, and a lot of know-how and skills from the buyer to obtain the best possible results.
3. Planning your technology stack architecture is critical
The basis of your technology stack architecture is to understand the company strategy and goals for the digital business. We see that this is one of the most overlooked phases that if neglected, can cause one of the most prominent reasons for failure. You should have one person assigned to own and build the architecture or hire an objective talent to build it for you. Once the architecture plan is ready, everyone in the project team as well as in the management team should understand why the components have been chosen. Only after the technology stack architecture is created that finding a vendor and choosing suitable technologies can begin.
4. Multiple vendors or only one vendor?
Overall, one vendor is easier to manage in situations when you don’t have lots of experience and internal skills. It usually also gives better control and communication over the project. It’s important to remember that one vendor automatically creates a vendor lock. This happens when the project is not carefully documented and the chosen vendor has the whole project under their control. On the other hand, multiple vendors require internal project management skills. Clearly defined roles and boundaries between different vendors are crucial. If the communication is not shared between all vendors, there’s a potential danger of confusion and a lot of wasted resources. Companies that build clear architecture plans and require rigid, clear documentation can switch vendors without having vendor locks.
5. Is it suite or Microservices architecture/headless?
Both approaches have their good and bad points. If we look at the suite approach first, it normally means that you choose one vendor for implementation. One technology and one vendor means easier management. Suites usually work best with massive enterprises that have complex organization structures and requirements with very standardized processes. The downside of the suite approach is that most often, they are significantly slower to implement and manage as the MSA/headless technologies. You’re also at the mercy of how the suite is evolving in rapidly changing environments. MSA/headless approach means that you choose the best of breed technologies and teams for each task. If you implement it well, MSA approach has much more flexibility, more development speed, and lower vendor lock risk. On the other hand, MSA/headless approach requires strong skills from the buying organization, understanding of overall architecture, and skills to manage technologies and vendors. One of the strongest benefits is that you can switch different components of the technology stack to newer and better ones to meet the changing needs of the company and market.
6. Continuous improvement is key to a successful digital business
Even though your team is tired of the current website, it’s most likely generating a solid business. Therefore it’s business-critical to learn as much as possible from the current site and improve on it even when there’s a new website lurking in the corner. Best companies build a culture of continuous website improvement by using tools such as analytics, personalization, testing, and campaigns.
How to co-exist the old site with the current one
The most typical mistake that you can make is to not invest in your existing site. This neglect can cause you to lose your customers or market share. The best companies with a culture of continuous improvement use and test ideas with the old site until the last day of operation.
We highly recommend a ‘staged roll-out’ approach. That means directing, for example, 10% of the traffic to the new site during the first month, and gradually adding more users to the site. When compared to the ‘normal’ beta site approach, staged roll-out has many benefits from getting real users immediately to the site. When done patiently, staged roll-out also fixes many issues of SEO dropping in new site releases.
These are some examples of how to make the new site release successful from the start:
- Personalization is one way to choose which kind of users the staged roll-out is targeted to.
- By gathering data, you’re able to make sure that the new site is performing better than the old one
What happens after the project?
If you have a data-driven company culture that desires for continuous improvement of customer experience with AI-driven personalization and testing, you’ll enjoy tremendous benefits of growing business and beating your competitors.
It’s always thrilling to have a big IT project that culminates in releasing it to the masses. Remember to be patient, believe your vision, consider the tips in this article, and don’t stress too much. The key is to build an experimentation culture and the skills of your team. The right of vendors is a key asset to building and accelerating your development work.
We wish you a lot of success and growth. We here at Frosmo are committed to helping you in your website projects and personalization!
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About the writer:
Mikael Gummerus is the founder and CEO of Frosmo. He’s a visionary and a firm believer in the adoption of microservices architecture, headless ecommerce, and CMS. With more than a decade of experience as a web entrepreneur, he’s passionate about growing consumer expectations of superior digital experiences.