Lessons from a digital project

We learnt a great deal from our decision last year to create a new website. I’ve worked on a few websites in my time – editing, writing, posting, structuring, taking client instruction etc – but this was the first time I’d been on the other side of the brief. I thought I’d share some useful lessons learned from Chiene + Tait’s own experience.

Know your limits

While my example is a website build, this applies to all digital technology: you’re probably not an expert. Probably no single person is. Accept that and it becomes a lot easier to learn, progress, and think about things in a new way.

Issue an open brief

Our first brief was quite descriptive, and structured around what we wanted. This is old-fashioned. Some agencies will respond to a tight brief, but braver are those that say no. In our case, an agency politely turned our brief down and then asked for a meeting, in which they explained that what we wanted might not be what we need. Instead, they said, we should start by finding out what users need the most, and then building a brief around that.

That meeting – in which we were told we were wrong, and that there was a better way to do it – gave us confidence, an understanding of the right process, and an idea of how we could make the website better.

Get input from different sources

With this in mind, we implemented a phase in which we canvassed client feedback and internal feedback, holding focus groups so that we could all discuss the functions and features the new website should have, as well as how they should be prioritised. We also mapped the different ways our different clients might use the site, from those who would prefer a phone call and would need to know the number, to those who might read blogs and news on their phones.

Gen-up

Technical issues need to be understood. It’s no good asking for a new website and then shrugging if the agency asks what you want regarding analytics. You have to read and learn about this stuff; it’s also worth noting that this never ends. New technology only ever keeps coming, new learning only ever needs doing.

We keep an eye on the basics through New Media Breakfasts, membership of marketing associations like the Professional Marketing Forum, trade journals, blogs and the like. Following professionals on Twitter will normally get you access to a load of interesting, relevant trade-level content. We ask our digital agency, Design33, if we’re not sure and cling resolutely, immovably and hopefully to the edict that there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

Learn from it

There are lots of associated or tangential issues to digital builds, and it’s worthwhile learning about them. Think about the data protection and privacy issues of tracking users through cookies. Think about the internal processes and emails needed to address a submission from a contact form. Think about who’s got the passwords to your site, and what happens if they leave. (You don’t want a situation like Uber in Sheffield.) You’ll find out your own issues as you go along, and it’ll be an enlightening – if sometimes bewildering – experience.

 

In short, I’m not a beginner when it comes to digital. But I know my limitations, and understanding those goes a long way to a) getting good advice from professionals and b) researching enough myself to understand the mechanics and implications. It’s crucial that, if you’ve got governance responsibility, you do the same.