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How we developed and (almost) launched our new website in just 2 days.
One of my very first ‘marketing’ jobs was doing telemarketing for a web-development business back when I was still at Uni. Pretty much every role I’ve had since involved website development in some shape or form – from making minor tweaks and adjustments to developing completely new sites from scratch and complete re-development of existing pages. To sum it up; I know a thing or two about website development projects.
But this month I had a website first. Or more specifically a new record. Earlier this month we developed and (almost) launched our new website in just two days! We called this our website sprint. While we didn’t actually ended up launching at the end of day two we did get a lot of the work done and only did a bit more tweaking, testing and optimising in the following days to take the site from good to great.
In my past roles two days often wasn’t even enough to make minor tweaks to a page, let alone develop a whole new site. So, how did we do it? Looking back now I think there were a few key things that really helped speed things up.
We were all working in the same space
This is a big one! Often, the back and fourth between the different people involved is the main reason things are taking so long – especially when the people are in different locations and communication happens via email or phone calls.
Basically you need three key skill sets to build a website
- Web development
- Web design
- Copy writing for web (which includes SEO knowledge)
Copy writing is what I bring to the table. But in the past I was reliant on external web agencies to do the technical development and design. At Roll we have two people on the team that are awesome at this stuff so we could do everything in house. And all of us were working in the same space making communication really quick and easy. Whenever something needed clarification we would just look up and everyone was right there.
Not everyone is that lucky. But, there are other options. For example, get contractors to join your team for the project. Or maybe the key people from your agency can work from your office for at least a portion of the project time.
We used a template (but made sure we picked the right one)
We all want our websites to be special and stand out. It can be very tempting to get carried away with cool ideas and ‘never been done before’ customisations. While a template might be slightly less exciting and certainly does limit your layout / design options a little, if time (and cost) is a factor, the benefits of a template far outweigh the cons.
There are heaps of templates available these days so you actually do have a lot of options. You can get simple ones for free but if your page is a bit more complex it’s probably worth spending a bit of money. Either way, make sure you do a bit of research beforehand to pick the right one for your business. Otherwise the timesaver can quickly become a time-waster. Here are a few good resources to get started with:
We came prepared
Each one of us did our homework and came prepared with ideas and insights. For example, Mark had already investigated different template options and I had already prepared a sitemap suggestion and we all had thought about the goals for the site and the experience we want our visitors to have. That enabled us to hit the ground running. We started day 1 with a planning session where we ran through those ideas. Because of the prep-work we had already done we could make decisions quickly and didn’t spend too much time on brainstorming, ‘thinking’ and researching.
We had a good combination of structure & flexibility
For an ambitious plan like developing and launching a new website within 2 days you need some sort of plan and structure. And we did. We did have a rough plan for every day. But I think the key was that we also had a lot of flexibility. In many ways this comes back to the first point I made about all of us being in the same space. If we had planned to catch up at 12 but one of us was just right in the middle of something we were able to just move the catch up back a bit. Similarly, if I had originally planned to start with a certain bit of copy but the developers needed another part first to be able to keep moving I could just quickly re-organise priorities.
We said no to some awesome ideas
At some point we started a list with things to do later (it’s gotten quite long…). We had a lot of great ideas and were super ambitious to make our page awesome and unique. But we had the discipline to say no and ‘maybe later’ to many ideas. We held on to the fundamental Roll philosophy: Keep it simple. Websites are awesome in that they are dynamic (if you do it right). You can keep adding and optimising things which means it doesn’t need to be perfect for launch.
And finally; we drank heaps of coffee