How Managing Your Expectations Drives Successful Web Projects

When building a new website, it’s natural to want the best of everything—amazing designs, interesting interactions, quality content, and a search function that rivals Google. The problem is building the best website anyone’s ever seen is incredibly time consuming. You’ll spend many months and thousands of dollars waiting for your site to be perfect before it goes live, but the whole time you’re building it, you’re losing out on potential revenue.

The better approach to building a website is to first determine what basic features are needed in order for the site to bring in revenue. Make a list of what your site needs, and develop those features as quickly as possible. When they’re finished and your site is functional, launch it. Then take time after launch to make improvements. Over time, you’ll end up with the website of your dreams, but instead of waiting for it forever and losing potential revenue, you can make money while building your site.

When developing a new website, you need to make your development plans with a “good, better, best” mentality.

“Good” Experience

A basic website offers a “good” user experience: needed actions can be performed and information can be retrieved without an unnecessary amount of frustration. The functionality that is delivered satisfies your major goals and no more. Things that would be nice to have but are not absolutely necessary are not considered for inclusion. Once you have a “good” website, you can launch it for use by your customers.

“Better” Experience

A “better” experience can be created after your initial launch by incrementally adding features and improving site functionality. It builds on top of the “good” experience by adding the most useful or desired elements that were cut from your initial scope. However, keep in mind that the “better” experience does not deliver everything you want; it only adds site features and elements that you were most hesitant to cut from the “good” experience.

“Best” Experience

A best experience is one in which all of your requests have been satisfied, and your website is exactly what you wanted when you pictured it initially. It will take a lot of time to get your website to a “best” state, so it’s important to have patience. By managing your expectations and truly considering if a feature of your site is absolutely necessary, you’ll have a better chance of getting your site live more quickly and making money off of it while you continue to develop.

Examples of Good, Better, and Best Functionality

Let’s take one potential feature of a website and determine how it can be broken into good, better, and best versions. In this example, we’re building a form for credit card payments. We’ll need to collect the credit card number, expiration date, and security code. However, because the security code is not necessarily a recognizable element to all users, we need to indicate where the user can find that information.

Good

A “good” way to satisfy our requirement of letting our user know where to find his security code is to simply add some helper text to the field label where the security code is requested. This could be achieved in a variety of ways. It could be as simple as adding the text “3-digit code found on the back of your card” after the form label, or it could be a tool-tip or modal that, when clicked, provides instructional content.

good

Better

A “better” way to satisfy the requirement might be to add an illustrative image indicating the placement of the security code on the card. It provides more instruction than most users likely need but makes sure than even users who are completely unfamiliar with online payment systems are able to execute the task without issue.

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Best

If you have the time and money and just want to do something people will think is neat, you might create a “best” version of the functionality where an interactive credit card displays on the screen and replicates your credit card as you type data into the fields.

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Defining “Good,” “Better,” and “Best” Features

Before starting to build your new website, write down everything you want on the site. You can add to the list later, but an initial brain dump is a good start. Try to break your requests down into the smallest components possible.

Once you’ve completed your list of wants for your website, seriously consider whether or not each request is absolutely necessary. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this request absolutely necessary for a functional site? If it is absolutely necessary, consider if it can be simplified in order to build it more quickly.
  • Will the site still be usable if this feature is removed? Your “good” site needs to be usable in order to generate revenue, so don’t remove features that are integral to your site’s usability.
  • Will this feature bring in revenue? Pretty sites with innovative features are pleasing, but these elements don’t necessarily bring in additional revenue. If a feature or element isn’t going to drive revenue, it’s not a must-have.

Once you’ve determined which of your requests are must-haves and which are nice-to-haves, you can prioritize your list of requests by slotting things into “good,” “better,” and “best” buckets. When all of the requests in the “good” bucket are built, you can launch your site. After launch, follow up with incremental releases of the features and elements in your “better” bucket. And if you have time and money after those are complete, you can start working on the requests in your “best” bucket.

Other Benefits of the “Good, Better, Best” Approach

The “good, better, best” approach will allow you to get your website live more quickly and start earning revenue sooner, but those are not the only benefits of the approach.

  • It helps you stay on budget. You’re probably working with some sort of website development budget, and this methodology will help ensure you don’t exceed your budget before your site is live. By building only absolutely necessary elements and features first, you can ensure you don’t blow your whole budget on something that’s just neat and end up with a lovely but unusable website.
  • It allows you to get feedback. Publishing your website will provide you with ongoing usage data. Where are users struggling to perform tasks on your site? What are your customers complaining about, and what are they loving? What pages are performing best in search? Where are your forms erroring? What content seems to engage users, and what content isn’t getting views. This information can help you improve your site, but you won’t get it until your site is live.

Getting Started

By managing your expectations when it comes to your new website, you’ll be able to publish your website quickly, get feedback and data that can help improve your site, do a better job of staying on budget, and start earning revenue sooner. Get started by reviewing your requirements for your site and considering which are absolutely necessary. Build those first, launch, and iterate with improvements.