Take a deep breath and put that little stress ball down. You’ve just witnessed a website catastrophe, the last straw of an ongoing disaster. You think to yourself, Is it finally time for a reset?
Chances are, yes. This situation probably seems daunting: it takes time to find the right web partner, and who knows how many bad dates you’ll need to suffer through to find the right one? Rest assured, though we can’t pull out all the weeds, there are specific steps to make this process much smoother and less stressful than you think.
Let’s start here: how do you know you need to jump back into the dating pool? Five common signs indicate the need for a new partner and a reset on how you handle web support.
- Cumbersome editorial experience - every time you want to update your website, you are told it will require developers to handle it.
- Failed redesign - your creative partner told you that they knew your platform, but as the project progressed, it became apparent that they didn’t know it as well as you thought they did.
- Mismanagement of budget and development - tickets consistently go over budget, and development tasks never make it into the proper release.
- Bad communication abounds - you are not kept up to speed on changes to sprints, estimates, releases, etc.
- Project management is lacking - your PM does not have any weekly touch bases with you, and they don’t have a straightforward process for risk management and weekly reporting.
Does any of the above sound familiar? Or maybe you’re stuck in a tactical rut, questioning if you're settling for less. If so, it’s time to re-download that dating app and find a new web partner. But before you swipe right and schedule that first date, the following steps are essential to ensure you’re ready for the shift.
- Get the keys to the kingdom! Make sure that your old web partner does not hold the keys to any critical access points, and if they do, have them transfer the keys to you ASAP.
- Document EVERYTHING—and I mean everything. Require that your old web partner—while still under contract with you—provide full documentation on all work they’ve completed, especially any technical architecture diagrams.
- Overcome the “agency vs. partner” issue. Do you want an agency that acts as task-takers? OR do you want a website support strategy that gets results with a partner that will push back, be proactive, and offer recommendations? These are two very different types of relationships, and deciding on which one you need is vital to the success of your search and transition.
Using the above criteria, you should be able to narrow your choice down to your top 2-3 options, and you may think that you’re ready to swipe right. But, it’s vital to choose a partner that has the proper processes in place to ensure that your relationship kicks off as a success. So, here’s a checklist of what to look for in a web agency when you’re ready to make the final decision.
- Do they seem informed about the technology on your site? Do they talk about it?
- Does their culture/personality jive with yours? Will your team work well with theirs?
- Do they have a proven track record? How much of their revenue is ongoing support?
- Will their process and team setup alleviate your team? Will they make your job easier?
- Do they have a vetted process that’s used to take over sites that they didn’t build? (Like the below steps that we’ll look at shortly.)
Once you’ve checked off all of the above, it’s time to throw that stress ball in the trash because you’re ready to start a new relationship! You’ve completed your search, made the final decision, and are moving forward with a new web partner. But wait—How can you make this transition as productive as possible? You don’t want to poison the well from the beginning and end up in another tire-fire situation. The steps below are an example of how your new web partner should move forward with kicking off the engagement.
Step 1: Discuss & Document
Your new web partner should engage in a technical knowledge transfer with your previous development partner or internal IT team to gather as much information as possible about the technical architecture of the website.
They should then coordinate discovery sessions with your business stakeholders to gain business-centric knowledge about the objectives and desired functionality of the website.
These sessions will give the new partner a holistic view of the current website state regarding meeting your business goals and gleaning information about the technical processes used to build the site.
Step 2: Audit & Prioritize
Any new, *right* partner will request this. A deep technical audit, carried out by a certified technical architect, is necessary to open Pandora’s box. Your site should be evaluated against criteria such as core web vitals, code health and environment security, integration risks, SEO, WCAG (accessibility), and more.
Issues that are discovered during the audit should be recorded and logged for prioritization with your team, building out your backlog for upcoming development.
Step 3: Plan & Execute
The technical audit is complete, and all reported issues are prioritized. Your new partner should now present their recommendations on how to move forward with the engagement based on the priority and size of the identified tasks. Transparency is key here! If they don’t share it, they don’t know it.
Your partner should aim to balance your team’s priorities with website-critical tasks. They should address the most critical items in the first development sprint and provide recommendations to optimize additional properties, such as SEO and UX/UI improvements.
Step 4: Rinse & Repeat
At this point, you and your new partner should be ready to roll. The development team dives in and gets to work, executing on 2-week sprints or whichever project management methodology you’ve decided on as a team.
Your new Project Manager should hold regular planning and status calls with you, ensuring that the support process is established to meet your needs. Like an extension of your team, you should feel like they are continuing to optimize and build your site to its full potential.
It’s happening! You took the plunge, and this time you did it right: through careful identification of what went wrong, preparation for the reset, and the proper project initiation, you’ve chosen a web partner that’s in it for the long haul. Though this won’t guarantee that the shift may happen again, now you’re equipped with the proper steps to minimize those first dates.
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Could your Drupal, WordPress, or Shopify Plus website use a little (or a lot of) extra love? Our DMs are open. Whether you’re looking to optimize your current site, overhaul it, or just maintain it without the headache, we’d be happy to talk through your goals and see what we can do to support them.
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