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3 important reasons why you shouldn't put your website build on autopilot.

Websites are not as simple as crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. It pays to listen and engage in the process.

Where did it all go wrong?

Some 'website designers' out there are terrible, and they make awful, out-of-the-box, complicated sites. But if you hire a good designer who goes through all the right steps, and still end up with an unsatisfactory website, it begs the question, 'what on earth went wrong?'.

You see, building a website—even a simple one—is never straightforward.

In my experience, problems happen when there is a disconnect between the client and the process. For someone like me who loves the detail, I can forget that it's, well, kind of boring.

BUT, and it's a big but, disengaging from the process, or trusting that it will all happen without your input is a bad idea.

So I thought I'd share the 3 most important things you can do to help keep your site on track and get the result you're after.

1. Identify and involve the person with the final say.

I recently finished a website project where everyone was happy. Everyone, that is, except for the key stakeholder who waded in with his opinion at the final hour.

He was unhappy with a number of things, wanted extra pages out of scope, and imposed an impossible deadline on launch.

It was a nightmare.

The result was a rushed, half-baked solution that should've been given an extra week to iron out all the flaws.

If someone other than you has the final say on the site, get them involved early on—there's nothing more disheartening than everyone's hard work getting thrown out the window, and worse, the extra costs involved in working overtime to get the extras done.

Illustration of a boxer punching an enourmous fist in vain. Don't get caught up in a battle you can't win with the final stakeholder—get them in the ring nice and early.

2. Who will actually be using the CMS?

Whoever will be using the Content Management System (CMS) needs to get involved from an early point as well. Like key stakeholders, they will have a valuable opinions in the early stages.

If you don't have someone responsible for content, then I encourage you to either hire one, upskill an existing staff member, or hire outside help.

I recently had a scenario where just such a person came in halfway through a build, and they quickly realised that the designs in place didn't do what they wanted.

It led to them asking for changes halfway through development, which meant out of scope charges.

If they had been involved from the beginning, then the designs would have reflected their needs, and everyone would have been happy.

If your content person doesn't know how to use the CMS, then train them well before the launch—let them add news articles and upcoming events so that your site isn't a ghost town when the button gets pushed.

Illustration of an arrow going against the direction of all other arrows. Changing direction halfway can be problematic.

3. Understand the scope.

I can not stress enough how important it is to get involved in the wireframing of your site.

Wireframing might seem like an unnecessary step to the uninitiated, but this is the stage where scope is, to a large degree, set in stone.

If you want a wider area for youtube vidoes, or you need an extra page for your vision and values, now is the time to flag it, or run the risk of extra costs later on.

For most sites I create, I'll provide an extensive strategic document ahead of wireframing as well, which although hefty in detail, details everything you can expect to get for your money.

If you want an interactive timeline or store finder halfway through the process, then that's fine—but it's an out-of-scope expesne. Make sure you understand the documentation so we can avoid that awkward converstaion later on.

Illustration of an arrow hitting an umbrella which is protecting a computer. Understanding the scope will protect you from any unexpected costs.

Anything else?

To a large extent, you shouldn't need to worry about what happens after you engage a digital designer to create and build your site. But knowing these three things will help you start to understand that amazing results don't magically happen.

They require a large amount of input from you, so don't be tempted to cross your fingers and hope for the best.

Ben Stevens is a Digital Designer based in Melboure, Australia.

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