I have a folder named « new website 2017 » in my Google Drive. As I write this article it’s 2020 and that folder is the most obvious proof of a laborious journey that took place.
Let me tell you the story of a digital agency having the hardest time to revamp its website. Though that is something we’re doing constantly for our clients, we failed for a long period of time at finding the right path and self-discipline to do it right. Why did that happen? Say hello to dead ends, unruliness and disorganisation...
> We got trapped in the never ending flow of hesitation and useless noise.
- PROBLEM: A lot of heads bring many ideas but hardly agree on a single one.
- SOLUTION: Define a core team. A team of 3 to 5 persons that includes a decision-maker is ideal. Too many voices and opinions cause stagnation. If you want to brainstorm, gather your core team. For feedback, ask for individual reviews. Simple as that.
- PROBLEM: Ego is your worst enemy. A project, even for yourself, your team or your company is never about you but always about everything else that surrounds you.
- SOLUTION: Here we are, in our comfort zone, no client to consider, what a relief you think... But wait what’s coming up there? A huge shadow is approaching, veiling the daylight behind it. Can it be? Yes, this is him... Restricted for too long, your ego awakes, often for the worst... Conflict, misunderstanding and frustration will lead your project into desertion. The best way to deal with your ego, or the one from others, is to ask questions, accept to talk less and listen more.
> We feel overwhelm and self doubt, so we procrastinate.
- PROBLEM: No impetus, no directive, no results.
- SOLUTION: Take action and bootstrap that project - because with no responsibility goes no care. This is your project and you want to see results, so you’ll have to be leading your team through the process, both figuratively and literally.
- PROBLEM: Parkinson’s Law is right: work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
- SOLUTION: Everyone always says: “I’m too busy”, and often that is true, but with a bit of organisation there is very often room to achieve one more thing on a weekly basis. Set incremental deadlines with a clear objective so you’re not paralyzed by the big picture. Deadlines are not just big milestones but also points to make decisions. Should we move on or still adjust? Every time you do a report, you keep a record of progress. And even if the progress is small, it’s still progress, be proud! Also, keep in mind that this is an internal project so, sometimes not every deadline can be respected as clients always come first, because, well, priorities, and that’s okay. Who’s here to judge anyway? The most important is to get back at it as soon as you can!
> We are humans not machines, how can we use constraints for good?
- PROBLEM: Perfectionism and indecision go hand in hand to stay in your way.
- SOLUTION: Divide and conquer, my friend. Break the project down into small, clear and easy to achieve parts. This means defining a specific Mission, Objective and Result for each part. With a clear roadmap comes peace of mind and great results. Do yourself a favour and plan ahead! As Tim Casasola well stated: “structure is paradoxically freeing, not restricting." As humans we thrive in good structure, but the problem very often lies in finding or creating a good structure. From our experience, good structure comes from asking the right questions, dividing tasks with the right balance and communicating clear objectives when working with a team.
- PROBLEM: Thinking taking shortcuts is the fastest way to get the project done. (Spoiler alert: it’s a trap!)
- SOLUTION: When you are used to doing something for others, it’s easy to be willing to take shortcuts for yourself. You feel like you were blindly following those steps in that specific order for your client, when in reality, this methodology was helping you to make the client feel involved, collect the right information and provide you with the right constraints to solve problems. Do you think a chef would skip some of the steps of his recipe when cooking for himself? Well, if he wanted to have the same result as at his restaurant, he would definitely not. That’s the exact same thing for us as creatives. Do things the way you usually do them for your clients and make the most of this experience to improve your methods. You won’t have a better occasion!
It feels very ironic that it took us so long to realise what was going wrong. It might be human nature, not wanting to apply to ourselves what we do well for others… We know how to manage and execute a creative project from A to Z but we had such a hard time doing it for our own needs.
A bit of distance gave us a better understanding of our mistakes. So, if some days you feel trapped in the deep, dark quirks of your human nature remember “How to NOT revamp your website”:
- Start the project without a clear structure or project break-down
- Forget about your usual methodology
- Schedule meetings without a definite objective
- Invite too many people around the table
- Snub the powerful effect of deadlines
- Make your ego too strong
Dear reader, wherever you are stuck, we wish you a lot of courage and resilience. Let your ego aside and embrace organisation & self-discipline!