Continued from Part 2 – http://lichtman.ca/uncategorized/whole-life-approach-to-website-development-part-2
In Part 2, we covered some of the stages during development and just after the launch of a website.
I’ve frequently seen websites launch successfully, only to lose steam rapidly, once the obvious difficulties in actually running a web-business come into play.
Operating a successful web-based business can be a lot of work, no matter how much effort is placed on automation.
A website that sells a product can have a major time committment required in order to fulfill orders (i.e. package them up and mail them), or to answer queries.
Content-based sites can be even harder to maintain, particularly when the general public has the ability to participate in the content creation process – large social media sites often have a significant number of staff dedicated to removing content that contravenes the terms of service.
I’ve recently worked with several customers who have partnered with fulfillment centers in order to offload a portion of the order fulfillment process onto specialists. The websites have been designed to integrate with the fulfillment center’s systems in order to keep the order statuses current. I’ll eventually post an update here when I’ve seen how well this works in practice.
Creating a plan – possibly even as early as the business plan stage – for how operations will work, the amount of time needed to keep a website running, and whether any staff are required for this purpose (and particularly how much that would cost), is an effective way of making sure that the resources will be in place to run things after launch. It also gears owners of web businesses up for the long, ongoing task of running an online business.
9. Maintenance Cycle
Most web developers approach the ongoing maintenance of a customer’s site as a form of additional revenue after a project has completed.
Few owners of websites appear to budget for ongoing maintenance related issues – which could include bug fixing or building additional functionality – before or during development.
For developers, there’s a risk associated with the maintenance cycle, given that an ongoing series of invoices (unless well justified) could result in the customer leaving for another development company.
Ensuring that new owners of web businesses understand what is involved (particularly with regards to costing) in maintaining a website over time will go a long way towards forging a better partnership between developer and customer.
10. Creative Destruction – When to Scrap It and Start Over
I’ve worked on a number of websites where the site had some initial success, which dropped off over time. Unfortunately some products are faddish in nature, which means that there is a very well defined life cycle for the product.
The products or services sold by a website may not be the only things subject to this inherent life cycle.
A website built today may not work as well in the future. Technologies change, people’s design taste changes, and websites do become outdated over time.
As some point in time, a decision may need to be made to scrap a site and start over.
This often seems to happen on an ad-hoc basis, where a customer becomes infuriated with a developer and leaves for another web development company; the new company will typically try to sell a complete start-over, as opposed to modifying somebody else’s work.
By ensuring from the start that customers understand that there are inherent lifespans involved in a web business (just like any other), developers can potentially develop a longer term relationship with their customers that lasts beyond a single project.
There are a few quick conclusions that can be drawn from all of this:
- A web business involves a lot more than just throwing together a website and putting it up on the internet. If you ignore the fact that its a business like any other, you may be setting yourself up for failure.
- Web development companies are only part of the “supply chain” involved in building a successful web business. Other companies that are often involved include: business consultants, accountants, lawyers, loan companies or investors, PR people, SEO/SEM companies, supply chain management or fulfillment centres, phone support companies and many more. It makes a lot of sense for web developers to cultivate relationships with each of these kinds of companies, in order to be able to provide a full “package” to their customers.
- It takes time and extended effort to build a successful web business. Both you and your vendors need to have tenacity, because a lack of staying power won’t cut it. Despite anything you’ve seen in the news, most successful online businesses are the result of many, many years of hard work.