Bang for your buck

What I fail to understand is why building websites and applications for new clients nearly always involves a rebuild or a technical u-turn.

Mark Hopkins
Mark Hopkins
Rebuilding Website from Start
Rebuilding Website from Start
$ INVOLVED AND REBUILDING A PROJECT

Maybe it's the $ which is involved, which skews the vendor's recommended strategy, or perhaps it's just a comprehensive failure to understand the technical platform the client has within its own grasp.

Whatever the case, a rebuild is not the only option, as there are plenty of interim measures which can do a similar – or indeed better – job. For example, developing a new interface, modifying existing templates, rebuilding journeys or abbreviating user flows are unquestionably cheaper, quicker and – done well – can generate better results.

For context here, a rebuild is highly likely to be lengthy, stressful and costly, so it's definitely not a binary decision to invest from the ground up. Don't get me wrong, there are cases when an application is so clearly poor that a rebuild will be transformative. However, not every scenario necessitates that huge investment – both in terms of $ or emotional capital.

Project Cost and Efforts Relation
Project Cost and Efforts Relation
ASPECTS OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

Another aspect of digital transformation I struggle with is the continued deference to the experience platforms of the world. By the way: this isn't my Jerry Maguire moment. Quite the opposite. I respect their toolkit and ability to connect the premier brands of the world to their customers. But it should be known that the open-source technologies have lifted their game - big time.

Open-Source Community
Open-Source Community

Gone are the days when category-A companies buy the top-corner of Gartner's Magic Quadrant. Instead, I see a pattern of smart, tuned-in CTOs moving away from the multi-year contracts toward an architecture that involves multiple open-source tools, which offer more versatility, scalability and affordability. Sure it requires more customisation, something you can't escape, but the overall uplift in terms of TCO and customisation will undoubtedly cause some (healthy) debate between the technology and marketing functions in the future.

CONCLUSION

By contrast, an area of under-investment I don't understand is analytics. So often the last item in the list of functional deliverables, it nearly always get overlooked as the agency or SI either gets squashed for time (as go-live encroaches) or because they mistakenly believe their remit ends the moment the code is deployed and the stabilisation milestone is signed.

Wrong. Focusing all your efforts on the customer-facing deliverables is myopic. An application cannot be improved – over the medium or long term – without a fundamental understanding of how it performs. And I am not talking about at a code level. What I mean is how it engages with customers – the only barometer of success.

Analytics for SEO, User Testing and Social Media
Analytics for SEO, User Testing and Social Media

As such, basic integration with Google Analytics just doesn't cut it for me. It won't, for instance, tell you where your checkout process is struggling, or - by contrast - what content is driving sharing or intent to purchase. It won't even tell you what mechanism is driving customers to your site. I prefer, by contrast, to allocate a significant wedge of the production pot to a skilled analytics set-up.

Whether it's dashboards or session-based insight tools – the data needs to be useful, accessible and enable a culture of iterative improvement.

Ironically, having a constant focus on calibrating user experience will also reduce the need for brands to knock down their site in the first instance - and start again. It will also enable a quicker route to market and ensure their web products and channels are viable without exhausting their digital budget. After all, digital success doesn't begin and end with the build. The shopping list should always extend to a supporting cast that includes content design, SEO, user testing and social media. But that's another story…