More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity. ~Francois Gautier
Bingo! How true this is and how often we overlook it.
Have you ever hired someone to build you a website and it just didn’t come out the way you wanted? Maybe the project stood still because your web developer was waiting on you to give her guidance or they lost interest altogether? I hear these ALL the time:
“My website isn’t working for me.”
“It’s just not what I had in mind.”
“I don’t think my website accurately reflects who I am and what I do.”
My response usually starts by asking them questions, like “what do you want it to do?” and “who are you looking to communicate to?” Almost 100% of the time these individuals can’t answer me. Why, because they were looking for an end product without thinking it through first.
I believe that websites should be an extension of ourselves and represent the vision we have for our business. This means that the site may not pop up overnight but the result will be more significant and far-reaching.
I know this from experience. My first website I created myself, quickly to have an online presence, it was a placeholder and I knew it.
When it came time for redesigning I had a team of people ready to help me but I didn’t know what to tell them. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to promote exactly and the designs I loved weren’t necessarily conducive to my audience, so I did what most people do, left it in the hands of someone else.
Bad idea. Months and months of time were spent on hand-drawing elements that were never used, meetings that went nowhere, and a mounting level of frustration for everyone. As the pressure built I had to begin making executive decisions just to get something up that worked and was workable in the future. Time spent: 6 months. Money spent: over $9000 and counting.
If this project were on my plate today I would have taken the time to get clear first and then execute the project.
How does one go about getting clarity? Here are a few steps I take before embarking on a new project.
1. Write out your goals. How can you know where to begin if you don’t know what you’re looking to accomplish? This makes math class seem easy, you have a problem that needs to be solved. Each project can be tackled in a similar vein once you know what type of result you are looking for.
2. Think about the end user. This may vary depending on the scope of the project but it helps to identify the tone of voice, look and feel that will be used. Think about where these people ‘hangout’ and what they have in common.
3. Know your budget. This is a part of your boundaries that you need to work within. If you don’t have a lot to spend, more of your time is usually required, so be sure to budget for this too. If you have more capital to work with you can hire more help but be sure to follow the other steps so that you’re hiring the right people for the job.
4. Determine whose help you’ll need. We can’t do everything on our own, that’s why people specialize. Knowing your limitations and being honest with yourself is the best place to start so you can see the gaps that will need to be filled. Once you know what needs you have, write out the attributes and skill sets of what you’re looking for.
5. Start with the low hanging fruit. New projects can often seem overwhelming when you try and tackle it all at once. It’s best to start where you are most confident and use that initial energy to help drive the more tedious tasks.
No two projects are ever exactly the same but the process one can go through to develop clarity before execution remains the same. I have learned from experience that it is better to stay focused on thinking things through and putting one foot in front of another first, rather than trying to leap to the finish line before the race ever started.