After completing a large Website Design and Development project, some times it's just nice to call the project complete. After all, several months of living and breathing Web messaging, images, colors, functionality, work flow, and so much more can leave you relieved that your project is live, looks great and works like you intended.
It is very important, however, to take a look back and see how successful the project really was. Each project will have a different measure of success, and some times the goals might shift slightly along the way, but here's some things to help you determine if your Web site Design and Development project accomplished what it needed to.
1. Review the original projects requirements
Did the original project requirements get fulfilled? For instance, if a requirement of your Web site project was that you allow for paid event registration, does your new Web site have that?
Secondly, was the paid event registration implemented in the manner that you had originally imagined?
Finally, does the way that the functionality was created for your new Web site work well with the marketing and business processes your organization has in place?
If you answered "yes" to all three of these questions, that's great -- you and your Web Design and Development firm were able to keep things in scope and created a piece of functionality that is exactly what you needed.
If you answered "no" to any or all of these, there are two possibilities: either your objectives might have shifted during the process or your project was not successful in the area of having the basic requirements fulfilled.
The first case (objectives shifting) is nothing to be worried too about. Many times some objectives or specifics can change once you are in the midst of a project. It is important to be mindful of "scope creep" or asking for functionality above and beyond what was originally agreed to, because this could affect both the time line and the overall cost of your project, but you need to make sure that the product you end up with is what your organization really needs. Much of this can be determined by going through a proper Request for Proposal (RFP) writing stage, and by working with your contracted Web site Design and Development firm to fully discover any additions or changes from your written RFP.
If you answered "no" and your needs and requirements did not change, it is a problem. Why does your Web site not have this functionality you need? Was there a miscommunication between you and the contracted firm? Were the requirements not clearly documented? Were you not able to review the finished Web site before a 'final draft' of the product was available to view? Just as importantly, what is being done to fix this problem?
2. Ask a Sampling of Customers and Colleagues
Another way to gauge your Web Design and Development project's success is to ask the opinions of a select group of people familiar with you and your business objectives. Given that these people have an understanding of your target market and what you do, they can give you some advice about what was done right and what could be improved.
It's not a bad idea to get some of these same people involved much earlier in the process. A Beta testing group is a great way to make some final text and graphic tweaks to your pages. Be careful not to let people's individual tastes in color, spacing, fonts and other things compromise your vision, though. Pay attention to the larger idea behind their feedback. Instead of heeding the advice of someone who says "I hate that color orange that you used for your registration buttons," find out if the registration button itself was easy for them to find. Even if they don't like the color, the important point is that they are able to get through the registration process, not if the buttons are shaded in their favorite colors.
3. Check Your Analytics
Before you launch your new Web site, make sure you have statistics on how people were interacting with your old site. This is crucial to determine if you have improved processes or not. Some times the purpose of a project is really just to modernize the look and feel, and that is perfectly fine. If, however, the purpose was to drive more sales conversions, acquire more Email addresses, or something like that, you need to have the historical data to make an educated assessment of whether or not your changes worked.
Google Analytics, is cheap (it's actually free) and easy to use. It's an easy yway to get instant feedback on how many people are getting to your site, where they are going, and in many cases, what they are doing on your site.
4. Take A Survey
Some times the friends and colleagues who know about you and your organization might not be able to take that additional step backwards and give you the opinions that someone less familiar with you can. If it is appropriate, find a way to survey some fresh eyes and see what they think. See if they were able to get the basic idea of what you are selling from only spending a few minutes on your Web site. See if they were able to easily contact you using the navigation on the site.
5. Do a Personal Review
What about your Web site would you change after going through this process? Chances are, it's not something that you would have thought about before the entire process started. Don't be too hard on yourself for overlooking something that you could only see after getting your Web presence to this new point, but instead be realistic. Is this a positive step forward for you and your organization? Is this what was agreed upon from the beginning? Are your customers responding better to the new design and functionality? Are you getting good feedback from the colleagues who regularly check your site? If so, congratulations!
These 5 things should help you determine if your Web site Design and Development Project was successful. Make some notes about each aspect and see what could be changed easily, and take a little time to see if some of the things on your list might not be necessary after all. When you spend several months living and breathing a project like this, it's easy to get stuck in the minute details, but given a little perspective and time you might find that your original plan had a lot more wisdom in it. Take a little time to let the newly launched project take life and review things again in 1-2 months. You might have some even better ideas then, and you might also realize that a lot of what you have is perfect as is.