There are broadly three types of web project – a technical migration of placing content on a site (from another location); a site visual redesign; and/or a strategic repurpose and redirection. Within each of these umbrella terms are a host of other tasks, such as making the user interface friendlier and navigation easier, changing the CMS, and improving overall functionality.
The complexity of these tasks is probably dependent on the size of them; the difference between building a website for a small retailer, and a change such as that of the BBC in 2015 of migrating several million pages (including tens of thousands of video and audio files) to its new site is vast. However, a few principles of good practice will endure.
The first is to have a plan, and don’t start on actual work until you’ve formalised it, consulted on it, pinpointed it and are happy with it. Know what you want to achieve and the technology that you might need to achieve it. What are the KPIs and objectives? How will you allocate resources, and how will progress be tracked? What are the contingency plans if and when things go wrong? Who will review progress at each stage? Who will report to stakeholders?
The planning should include a pricing structure for the project, with contingency plans if additional work is needed. This might include a tendering process if you are using an external firm to carry out the work – if so, it’s important not to muddy the water too much when you compare your own aims for the site with the suggested ideas of the prospective company that you use. They could have a different suggestion on ways to present or integrate content and functionality in the new site.
A wireframe detailing the structure of the project and individual pages or sections will help establish an overall direction to the task, before moving into the interface – where the back end and front end of the project meet. This will be a considerable task, and multiple decisions will need to be taken. The key is to prioritise so that the many smaller decisions do not take precedent over the overall strategic direction. The smooth transition from an old site to a new one should be paramount in your thoughts. If you are upgrading to a new server, your consideration of storage and perhaps SSD VPS or cloud VPS will be important.
At some point you have to make the decision of when to go ‘live’, and there are broadly two schools of thought. You may wish to proceed with an MVP (minimum viable product), a site or project that is by no means finished and still may have flaws, but achieves its basic aim and will improve with usage by customers/clients/staff. The alternative is to wait for a polished, pristine product with full functionality that cannot be used in the meantime. Both methods have their drawbacks and advantages, but a shade of grey between the two is probably most common.
As a final thought, but one that overarches all of the concerns here, don’t forget the most important component – people. Those who create innovative and elegant solutions, or push to get work completed on deadline, should be recognised. Establishing a calm and confident team that knows its individual responsibilities represents a huge step toward success – the technical aspects will then hopefully just fall into place.