January 2008


E-marketing Strategy
Project Management

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Web projects as political footballs

Posted 1/1/2008 12:00:00 AM by Mark Reichard

I’ve been reading The E-myth Revisited by Michael Gerber this week, which has prompted me to think about what we do well and how to systematize our process and communicate about it more effectively.

One of the key things that I've come to --- I think it helps that we work in several different areas at the same time. We are active in SEO, but our main focus is content management. Since our largest client’s Web site offers content in more than 20 languages, we are forced to think about both SEO and content management in multiple languages. Since in addition to Web development and consulting we are also a software developer, we’re always thinking about creating things that are maintainable down the road and can be easily extendable.

I had occasion last year to work with folks from a major e-commerce search and site navigation vendor. They make amazingly powerful solutions, and have a client list that is literally the who’s who of major e-commerce players. The one challenge that I found in talking with some of their folks on a client project was that they did not seem to have good answers to some of my questions about how to create a search engine friendly site that uses their navigation and search features. I got a lot of suggestions to “have the front end take care of that.” Fair enough, and as I’ve said their clients are enormously successful using their tools, but I was very concerned about having so many issues coded around in the front end --- I was concerned that we’d end up with a brittle and un-maintainable solution . Similarly, when we had conversations about how to implement a highly multilingual solution, we were back to suggestions to code around limitations in the front end.

Lots of similar stories come to mind of working with designers who believe that pretty pictures really are the most important thing, although they will give lip service to things like SEO and usability, which to them are fundamentally distractions from the pretty pictures. The point is, though, to find out how to help folks create sites that work --- for the customers, not designed by committee, least common denominator, compromises, which seems all too often to happen.

We have of, course created
design guidelines and we’ve mapped out at least a first cut at an ROI-driven Web planning process, but guidelines and process maps don’t address the fundamentally political issues at the heart of the design-by-compromise process that often seems to take place.

One way that we have thought of talking about what we do with clients is to ask them “what is a Website?” Lots of people will answer that it is a tool for getting information about an organization, or sometime for buying the organization’s goods and services. Some will say it is a collection of image and text files on a Web server. We’d typically try to get them to thing of some of the other things that a Website is:

- Your first introduction to many of your new customers, employees and partners,
- The most powerful customer service tool you could have,
- Potentially the hardest working sales person you could have,
- At worst, a potential source of liability and or embarrassment

To this list we should add “a political football.” What we’re working on now is a process to address the political side of Web development and redesigns

Tags: E-marketing Strategy, Project ManagementComments