Start Small with Continual Improvements
A new approach is making major changes in how we build websites. The technique has several names. In this blog, we will call it Start Small with Continual Improvement or simply Start Small.
The Start Small strategy is to build a minimal website, yet one that will meet current needs. Implement it, then begin monitoring how visitors use the site. You don’t make a major investment up front. Instead, you make a smaller initial investment and add priority enhancements over time.
In the traditional approach, we use all the experience we’ve gathered. We forecast the company’s needs over several years and build a site that will meet them. But, we don’t know how a website will perform until we analyze visitor traffic. With the Start Small design, we minimize the investment. We will add resources to improve the site based on what our visitors want to see.
Traditional website design typically takes four to five months. The Start Small approach takes two months. Both ways need three to four months of traffic before you know how visitors use the site. So with a traditional design, you don’t have an idea what’s happening for six to eight months. By starting small, we can reduce that to five months.
Like in traditional design, Start Small design begins with a strategy. You make underlying, fundamental assumptions of what is required. These assumptions include:
- What information the buyers will be looking for.
- What the value proposition is for each of your products or services.
- What are the strategies for the website and each page.
From the basics, we define the specific features, modules, and their functionality. We will be mindful that responsive design will be essential. Finally, we come up with a list of the design criteria. We also retain the complete list of requirements and that becomes our Wish List.
Start Small takes less time
The next stage is to quickly develop the basic website. The basic website will not be perfect but it becomes a starting point for long term development. We want to develop this quickly so that we can begin monitoring how visitors use the site.
We will follow the normal development steps including:
- Messaging and content
- User experience and site architecture
- Actual design
- SEO considerations
- Quality assurance and testing
Now that the website is up and running we can begin to monitor how our visitors view the website. We will install Google Analytics and other tools, then begin to watch the traffic. We analyze the data to determine how visitors’ progress from page to page, where they leave the site and where they spend the most time. We expect that they will first arrive at the homepage and then to a cornerstone page. From the cornerstone pages they will progress to lower level pages. If they don’t follow this pattern, we can make changes to the navigation. We want them to navigate from basic information to more detailed information.
If the visitor leaves the page and the site, we can expect it may be because of lack of information. At the last page visited we decide if we need to add more information to that page or add a lower level page. We further define the need for the new page and add that to the Wish List.
Start Small with Continual Improvements
We want to update the site every two months. We want to continually update the priorities from the original Wish List. These priorities will be merged with new requirements. A new development plan will match prioritized requirements to available design and development resources. This then becomes the plan for the new update. And we continue this cycle as long as we feel there are improvements needed.
The update cycle for the traditional approach may be six months to two years; our update cycle is two months. And high priority improvements take place as needed.
In summary, the Start Small approach minimizes the investment for a new site or major upgrade. It minimizes the time before actionable results are available on visitor preferences.