Like gravity, there are invisible forces acting on all web projects, trying to prevent them from getting off the ground. Successful web projects overcome these forces early while failed web projects ignore the forces and never get off the ground.
The four forces can be described as being:
Visual | Cultural | Financial | Technical
Consumer, retail and lifestyle brands tell their stories and brand values using visual metaphors. The design brief given to creative agencies for larger consumer brands often rolls into hundreds of pages. A good brief is essential for good design and good design is essential for selling lifestyle.
The challenge to non-consumer and lifestyle brands is that many marketers focus on making their website as pretty as possible when in fact the visual cues are less important than other project features. Quite often a brief is written on the back of an iPod Nano and competing agencies are told ‘you don’t get our brand’. From the CEO to the placement student, everyone becomes a design curator. The CEO proclaiming that she will know what good design looks like when she sees it. Sound familiar? This is the visual force at work, conspiring to drag your web project below water.
Nothing kills an intranet project like a senior management team who perceive their intranet to be something that the HR department use or as some sort of bureaucratic process management tool. This is a cultural kiss of death for the intranet.
Successful intranet projects tackle the cultural force early. If the top brass of an organisation lean in and use the intranet from its inception, there is a much higher chance that the business will have a vibrant collaboration, innovation platform rather than having a storage space for expenses forms.
Jim Morrison, the lead singer of the band The Doors sang: “We want the world and we want it now”. Jim’s lyrics could easily become the web brief for most SMEs. Unfortunately this over-ambitious project brief will leave the web project as dead as Jim himself.
Ambition always exceeds resources in a small business. Take for example a business that wants to export to 10 countries. A website is designed and translated into 5 languages. No problem so far…now all we need to do is run some Pay Per Click advertising to get some attention to the website:
£1000 per month for 10 countries = £10,000 per month = £120,000 per year
Are you sure we want to export all over the world? Let’s just start with France. Better still, Paris.
There is a DJ in Northern Ireland called Stephen Nolan. He is a shrill, dramatic character and there is nothing he likes more than to stoke up a frenzy of fear and finger pointing at big companies and central government. He loves to hear about data leaks and then loosely equates the loss of email addresses to potential terrorism and widespread bank fraud.
Who wants to go on that radio show to defend their company policy on data security? No thanks not me, I would rather ensure our data is secure.
Marketers often dismiss the due diligence required by the IT departments in large organisations. It appears to be bureaucratic and the guys in IT appear to be setting up a marketing prevention unit. All you wanted after all was a form-to-email on a website. All Stephen Nolan wants is a single stray strand of public data.
The technical force often causes delay and loss of momentum to web projects if not tackled early. Marketing and IT naturally mix as well as oil and water, but if empathy is shown for IT and they are brought in early, web projects can succeed and the CEO can be kept off the radio.
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Niall McKeown is the CEO of iON and author of the forthcoming book 'The 7 Principles of Digital Business Strategy'.