What web-developers don’t want you to know

If you’re thinking of developing a website for your business or organisation, you can use Google to find a few articles with standard boilerplate advice about using wireframes, the linear-thinking alternative, the Project Initiation Document (PiD) with a conclusion that you should really be digging the dynamic and hip agile approach to planning your work.

Combine this with the expensive but cost-effective disciplines of usability and user experience (UX) testing, the undoubted boost any online project gets from a dapper innovative design, the need for careful use-cases, the search engine optimisation and general consultant-yield and you have a hefty build and a busily billing development team.

But maybe there’s another way? It may be that the improvisational benefits of having creative staff with some slightly-better-than rudimentary web-skills can save you time and money in the over-planning department. Because here’s the thing many non-tech managers don’t seem to know: Bootstrapping clever web-applications is no longer the exclusive role of the geek. It’s often easier now to write an app for a website than it was to get a PC printer to work ten years ago!

Six things that are often missing from web-tech buying advice

Do fishmongers like that ‘teach a man to fish’ proverb?

I don’t think so. Perhaps these suggestions are missing from the usual advice guides provided by web-consultants for the same reason?

  1. Often, your readers are in lean-forward mode. They want to get at your words/pictures/products/contact details more than you realise. If the classy site design gets in the way of any of this, it’s not always a good thing
  2. So make sure that the words/pictures/products/contact details are formatted in a way that allows users to share them on other websites (most notably, social media websites). All they’ll need is a little training to do this
  3. You can often have a much more positive and noisy impact online by having staff who know how to use web self-expression tools (and are given permission to use them) than any expensive highly-optimised website.
  4. People will trust online conversations about your work more if they take place on sites other than your own. The interactivity of your team will make a bigger difference to this than the look-and-feel/structure/tech-genius of your website
  5. Staff who are given permission to think laterally and learned a few tricks will often bootstrap much better solutions than a pricey team of developers will build for you.
  6. Web-usability offers potentially huge rewards. But staff who know how to create pages and try out their own content can often bootstrap usability testing very cheaply. Remember the old fashioned direct-mail discipline of A/B sampling? (No? It means that you test two different letters to a small samples of a mailing list before you send out a million letters – explained here) Let your staff try out their content and use easy-to-understand web-stats to turn it into a game.

Douglas Rushkoff makes a really powerful case here for people to learn basic programming – not heavy-tech stuff, but to start treating the web like we started treating cars a long time ago – where our assumption is that grown-ups are drivers and not passengers.

And the moral of the story? Good re-usable content + interactive human beings will often add up to more than a carefully planned web-based workflow.

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