A beginner's guide to herding cats
Managing a web design project in your church or charity
My friend, John, looked like he’d had a hard day at his printing business. “The problem is, Al, everyone thinks they’re a designer,” he commented with a rueful smile. And that’s one of the biggest challenges you’ll face coordinating a web design project.
We once had a project where the customer (a large organisation) did things backwards. They failed to involve all interested parties at the start before briefing us. We did the design and technical implementation work as requested. However, they then canvassed wide opinion about what approach would be best – including involving an external agency. We then had to make significant changes.
Then they involved internal management – we had to make more significant changes. Then they reviewed with the external agency again who suggested contradictory changes. At each stage the specification substantially changed and we ended up with – a third and fourth set of radical changes.
We eventually got a handle on it, but this proved to be unnecessarily expensive for the customer – and for us – because of lack of clarity on the customer's part regarding what was really required. There were too many people with varying opinions being involved in a process which was not managed well due to lack of experience.
Here are 12 top tips for heading up the web design process in your church or charity. Managing it well can mean you get your project up and running in good time and on budget – and your site communicates well. Failing to do so can mean unnecessary delays, uncomfortably spiraling costs and more.
Finally, you can get the best solution by taking the following approach: rather than committees producing camels, a practical plan is to have 1-3 people who are tasked with the design decision-making process. In an ideal scenario, one person in your website team should be sufficiently senior to make key decisions on behalf of the management team.
- You may have people with strong opinions in your team (surely not!) and if they might derail the process later on. Involve all such stakeholders, including anyone with ultimate decision making/veto authority early on. Continually take them with you in the process and keep them on board, otherwise late changes will incur unnecessary costs.
- Explain to your stakeholders which target audience the design is aimed at, such as “couples in their 30s with young children,” and thus why it looks the way it does. This is important if your stakeholders are guys in their 50s!
- Tell your stakeholders what design styles you want to echo and why – e.g. clean, sharp, French Connection or light airy, white, subtle, Apple etc – so that they understand your thinking.
- Say to them that you’re not asking the stakeholders if they like the design, but whether it will communicate well with the target audience.
- Explain that you've refined the design already if you've already been through that process.
- Don't let the wider team design by committee or you'll end up with the proverbial camel. I would suggest actually saying this as it helps people understand what you are and aren't asking them. Your website team is tasked with a job – present positively.
- If possible – and you want to involve the senior team in the decision making process – present a couple of options to the team and ask them which the think will communicate better, rather than if they like it.
- Remember, everyone thinks they're a designer – beware!
- Don't let the team start thinking out loud and designing that way – "Could we try this/that, how about..."
- If asked, explain that minor changes are possible, but major ones could have significant cost implications and you want to avoid that.
- Someone will have to make a decision about the design. Not everyone will like the end result, but that’s not the point.
- When presenting the finished site to the wider church or charity, explain the thinking behind the design approach, target audience and other considerations.
Take the advice above and you can avoid pain, stress, unnecessary expense, and end up with a web design that communicates well for your organisation.
Image: © cynoclub - Fotolia.com