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Recently, I reached a slightly out there conclusion about website projects: building a new website is a bit like having a baby. When I voiced this in the office, at first the team were skeptical … but after I explained my reasoning, they totally got it.
The start of the build is exciting and full of energy. You’re keen, full of anticipation about the possibilities of this new project. But after a while there’s a bit of a lull. Although it’s definitely going to happen, you can’t really start talking about it – and it still feels a long way to launch. You might even find that the first set of visuals you receive are a bit underwhelming, and start to feel a bit worried.
Then – there’s a break through. You agree visuals with your designer, you feel like you finally have a clear vision of where it’s going to go. You might even agree a launch date, and feel brave enough to start talking about it.
However, there’s still a long slog to go – a steady process of planning, preparation and development. During this time, there’s a lot of discussion and co-operation necessary between the two main players involved in any web build – the client and the developer. This relationship is extremely important; they need to be honest, trust and support each other, and have great communication. They each have very different roles and responsibilities as well; the client is involved in the website conception, is present throughout the build, and likely to take significant responsibility for the website once it has been launched. The developer, on the other hand, is responsible for building the website and usually setting up the hosting and launch (though occasionally this will be led by someone else – the Caesarean section of website launches if you will).
Often, the further you get into the build, the more challenging it may feel. You start to pick up quirks and problems that you couldn’t have foreseen at the beginning. There might be a lingering problem that keeps flaring up and causes a lot of frustration. Worst of all, you might even think you’re almost there – and then find that your long awaited launch date gets missed, and you’re stuck waiting around.
The public launch itself can be one of the most challenging parts of a build, both for the client and the developer. Any problems you were putting on the back burner during the development process immediately need fixing, you spot several bugs at the last moment, there may be some technical challenges that your developer needs to solve – and suddenly there’s a tight deadline and it all has to be fixed NOW.
And then it’s finished. It’s live, out there in the world for all to see, and at first it’s a bit terrifying. But – people are complimenting you on how great it looks, how well it works, and you feel proud of it. You might identify a couple of minor tweaks that you can iron out, but ultimately you’re very pleased that you made the leap, did the hard work, and created the new site.
Finally – and this is something that a lot of people are surprised by – once your website is launched, it needs looking after. If you want your website to keep delivering great results, you need to be monitoring analytics, adjusting and updating content as necessary, keeping the back end up to date, and spotting and fixing bugs. Launching a new website and completely ignoring it for a year isn’t going to yield the results you want. Ongoing maintenance, monitoring and care results in websites that continue to be effective as the clients’ needs develop and grow.
So there it is. Building a new website is a bit – well, a lot – like having a baby. Of course, this isn’t a new metaphor to be applied to the creative and practical process. But it’s useful to remember and go back to, because ultimately, despite the many and inevitable challenges along the way, we love our work because it’s rewarding and worthwhile.