Integrated Design and Build of Corporate Websites

I have been on lots of projects to build corporate web sites of all sorts. No matter the type internal intranets, extranets, portals, or internet sites there are some striking similarities to the projects and how they work. The typical process works something like this.

  • The company hires a firm to brand and develop the “look and feel”
  • This goes through a approval process
  • Internally a team comes up with the copy for the pages.
  • These are approved
  • A tech team takes this and builds it out (hopefully using some sort of content management system)

Typically there are three competencies for creating a site and the work they do is typically different. I highlighted the items above to show how they break down. So typically the phases of projects and the teams gets segregated into these type of buckets. For most folks that work on corporate web sites this is probably pretty familiar. With a small team and a small project these folks are mostly the same people, and for larger projects many different folks, some may never even meet. Hardly the way to build something great. Additionally, this is fairly “old school” in that most sites use a content management system of some sort and this does not jive to well with that sort of a site.

So imagine being a copy writer and creating page content and it just is not getting it done. You need a different presentation or want to take advantage of some item new internet trend and show items in tabs. But you have no idea how to do that.

Or image that the CSS given to implement as a coder by the design firm is large and clunky and the pages are just too slow to load. But the design firm that created it is done with their work.

Or maybe there are some cool features of the content management system you are coding and the layout of the pages just don’t use them.

The point being as you might be able to tell, that to really build something that is great these teams really need to be integrated and the approach to delivery needs to have them able to leverage each other skills and work together to create something great. Great is hard enough to do without any inhibitors, let alone when there are several challenge project structures making it impossible to teams to work constructively together.

So how do you prevent this?

Well there is probably no single way but short of radically changing how you do thing some ideas are

  • Hire one firm to implement the desing and build, so you have one throat to coke so to speak
  • Make one person the lead of both design and build of the system
  • Keep designers engaged through delivery of the project
  • Develop cross functional teams (boy now that sounds like something from a consultant)

However you do it, make sure you are aware of the different skills on the different parts of you delivery team and try and find a way to help the team work together. It is likely if you work with different firms that they wont do it unless your leadership prods them to.

Its also a hell of a lot more fun for a team to be able to dabble in all the different aspects of a site, the code for a designer, the design for a coder etc. Teams that do this simply just outperform the other types because they like what they are doing and dont feel like they are working in a bucket.