Why Planning Matters
Business school teaches future leaders that success rarely comes without a plan — without a wholesale look at business goal, initiatives, and the future of the business. So we know that planning matters. But what about with our websites? But why does web planning matter?
In the 90s sitcom, Friends, each episode follows the six main characters as they face the challenges that come with growing up and finding your way. When Monica Geller asked Phoebe Buffay if she had a plan for the rest of her life, Phoebe responded with, "I don't even have a pla."
While rolling without a plan may be a normal stage for twenty-somethings figuring out life, it shouldn't be the case for web teams. Web teams need plans.
This isn’t ground-breaking. They teach this in business school — success rarely comes without a wholesale look at business-wide goals and initiatives, whether that main goal is focused on an increase in revenue, or simply better recognition of a product. But while this concept seems to be well understood, at Blend we often find that business-wide goals and initiatives don't extend down far enough to apply to the business' website.
So we know that planning matters. But why does web planning matter? For starters, it contributes to a higher return on the investment into the website, design, and tools used to power the site. When our clients reach launch day, we share in the celebration — but we also remind them that their site is never "done."
We encourage caution against neglecting their site. As websites live on, content is added, styles are manipulated, images and videos are uploaded, and Google and web browsers evolve. They become outdated and fall short of user expectations — both in terms of performance and content structure. Site visitors become frustrated with their experience and, by extension, your brand. If it sounds like a lot of work — it is. And that’s okay — websites and digital tools are a necessary investment, but without ongoing attention and maintenance, that investment will go a much shorter distance.
Beyond the bottom line, planning also improves the human experience — for users and site editors. At site launch, an editor commonly learns the basics of the CMS, but it’s not until the tool becomes more familiar that they truly learn where technical efficiencies could complement internal processes.Additionally, we have to remember that it’s not just the website is changing: the business itself changes, which makes, it unrealistic to assume that the content model and functionality in place at site launch will meet future user expectations.
So...where does planning come into play?
First, we have to start somewhere. At Blend, we use our clients' support contracts to timeline planning sessions. At the beginning of each support term, we ask for a more extended planning session with key stakeholders. It differs with each client team, but often the stakeholders include marketing directors, sales managers, site editors, designers, and IT.
Then, we plan for the future. During planning sessions, we jump into the website's strengths and discuss where the group feels improvements can be made. The session results in a roadmap detailing how to best use the upcoming quarter's support hours (hello again to "higher ROI") with clear goals that align with the higher-level business goals and metrics to track.
Finally, we keep coming back to our plan. We regroup each quarter to recap the progress we made in the previous quarter and identify areas of focus for the next quarter.
Easy enough? In theory, yes. But gathering all the right people for one time together in the middle of hectic schedules tends to be complicated. While scheduling can be a roadblock, planning sessions are sometimes the one opportunity for all website stakeholders to be on the same call, discussing the health and strategy of the website. Most importantly, each stakeholder brings a unique perspective on how the website fits into the customer journey. The merging of these perspectives and opinions, results in a well-rounded approach to maintaining the effectiveness of the website.
As a partner, we aim for all of our clients to have such a strategy. We want to know our clients have not just a "'pla" but a thoughtful, collaborative plan in place.