Every project has a unique set of challenges, constraints and risks. It’s our job to help guide our clients through the project smoothly. Part of this is communicating the more common risks to projects we see consistently that lead to budget, schedule and scope issues. Below are some common risks we come across and how they can be approached. This list is not exhaustive, and risks should be managed on an ongoing basis but are common ones we often see.
At Fishtank, we are very focused on delivering high-quality websites, it’s all we do. We have been doing it for many years, and our combined staff experience is extensive. Our clients are in a variety of industries, but the one thing none of our clients do is focus on delivering high-quality websites. We deliver our best when we can utilize our recipe. Our recipe refers to our process, our tools our expertise. When clients start dictating some or all of the above, this can be a large risk as we have lost the ability to bake the best cake.
We are very flexible and understand that clients have organizational stage gates that need to be managed. We will always work with whatever constraints exist, but the more we are trusted and able to deliver based on our experience, the better results.
Transparency goes both ways. Us being honest about the true state of the project, outstanding risks and issues. We will also be transparent about our recommendations, even if they aren’t aligned with how our clients want to approach something. Our clients being transparent with us about how they and other stakeholders are feeling also helps us mould our approach to meet these goals. If Fishtank or our clients are surprised by anything, this is a concern. Let’s look to avoid that.
Content is king! A typical approach is that our clients will take on copywriting, imagery, and a combination of us, and our clients will perform the actual authoring. This is a lot of work for a new website. It takes months of planning and execution to ensure the content is ready to be authored once the parts of the site are complete to be able to author this content. Our clients often wait too late to start planning and executing content, and it is the most common reason our projects don’t get done on time.
We structure pricing both fixed price and time and materials (actuals). Both come with a unique set of challenges for both parties to be aware of. Fixed-price projects are great for the clients as they know exactly what they are going to pay. If we know the scope up front and can fix the price to this, that can be great; however, scope changes, so fixed price engagements often run the risk of more impactful change requests versus time and materials projects. Another challenge with fixed-price work is estimating when we don’t know the scope. If we haven’t gone through a design and discovery phase, but a client asks for a number. This number will be higher than the same project with a time and materials estimate. Clients are fine with this as it still leads to a fixed number.
Time and materials projects are great for agile projects, and it’s a much more flexible way to manage a project as the weekly burn can be reported, and the project can bend and flex to where the budget needs to be. The obvious challenge is that it requires more management to ensure we stay within budget expectations at all times.
A lot of our clients, when choosing a partner to build their new website, will pick an agency more focused on design and brand. Design and brand, of course, are critically important, but these agencies typically aren’t experts when it comes to the technology. We are these experts. So we often find that once a website is built, those agencies no longer hold any value, and we are used for many years to come as the chosen partner. By the way, Fishtank also does stellar design work and has experience, credentials, and approaches to back it up. So before choosing a partner, consider what’s important for a long-term partner. We like to marry, not date ;).
Search is more important than anything else on your website. There I said it! Website users don’t want to “hunt and peck” for information via complex menus. They want to jump into search, type in keywords, and press enter. It is the fastest way for website users to get the information they need. Website users are used to Google, perhaps ChatGPT. Search we find is often an afterthought after all the other pieces of the website. It should be the first and most important thing discussed for a stellar website experience. A stellar search experience will create brand loyalty, not how many options are in a menu.
We all work with tight budgets. So when scoping a project, a lot of upfront strategy work is sacrificed to “save” budget for development, content or another milestone of the execution of the website. Investing in UX research upfront and strategy will ensure that once the site is delivered, we are able to define metrics that tie back to what the UX strategy told us. It also ensures the site is delivered based on user research, not what we or the client thinks looks best. Not spending money on UX up-front will guarantee you are not only spending it later but re-doing development work to catch up. UX is critical, don’t sacrifice it.
This list isn’t exhaustive, and we will work with any client to define and manage any issues during a project, but the more they are discussed and understood up front, the better end result will exist.
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