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Agile Website Design – Launch Your Website like an Agile Project

By Jug BabicJug Babic (Guest)
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IT ecosystem was the birthplace of Agile, but now it’s spreading into other areas long dominated by traditional methodology.  You could say it’s a new, ubiquitous standard in project management and software development.

Yes, it’s possible to apply Agile to launching a website. The methodology encourages you to get your site up and running fast and gather a steady stream of feedback. It promotes rapid deployment and continuous improvement of solutions.

This is a much different ballgame than trying to make everything perfect right off the bat. Such a change isn’t easy to grasp, let alone execute.

Nevertheless, we want to argue Agile is your chance to develop products faster and boost business outcomes. You can not only survive, but also thrive in a rapidly- changing environment.

Here’s how to pull it off.

Winds of Change

Teams and companies that champion Agile are better equipped to take on complex business challenges of today. They can excel in a landscape that’s always on the move, changing and evolving.

To make the transition, however, you have a lot of ground to cover. It all starts with the right mindset.

Agile project management is both a philosophy and a methodology. It introduces profound changes and ditches many of the outdated, Waterfall-style techniques. What is more, the approach contains a wide array of tools and methods that deviate from the conventional wisdom.

So, you want to get familiar with the basic principles proclaimed in the Agile Manifesto. They lay the foundations for smooth Agile transformation. Most notably, check out how the framework defines iteration, collaboration, planning, and adaptability.

Also, you want to keep in mind the following four basic rules:

  • Primacy of individuals and interactions
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration rather than contract negotiation
  • Responding to change trumps sticking to a plan

As you can see, Agile actually streamlines the workflow and aims to eliminate resource-sapping tasks. It enables you to spend time on activities and tasks that add value to the project and your brand.

You have to work smarter, not harder.

A Brand New Project Roadmap

Like it or not, there’s no magic formula for success, just steps that take you closer to the goal. A major piece of news is that with Agile, we no longer have to follow a predefined sequence of must-follow stages with clear start and end.

For example, user feedback is not solely restricted to the discovery phase. Agile framework is lightweight, user-centric, and flexible— it revolves around building, designing, testing, and shipping the product in short cycles.

Since launching a website is not purely a technical endeavor, design and development are intertwined with activities such as user testing and measurement. This means that Agile steps are ongoing and simultaneous: you can think of them as positive feedback loops.

You iterate and then repeat the process as many times as necessary.  Challenges are addressed as they arise and you adapt according to practical findings on the fly.

Moving on, Agile also does away with extensive planning before the project starts. It’s been shown this approach is too rigid and wasteful.

Change is inevitable and unforeseen bugs and technical issues can send even a well-planned project off the rails, demanding backtracking, which is wasteful both in terms of time and money. Agile allows you to avoid this disastrous scenario, while also keeping scope creep and budget overrun at bay. It minimizes the likelihood of investing in a site nobody wants to use.

Of course, you can have certain expectations and predictions to begin with. But, they should serve as general guidelines, not strict rules.

Thus, one of the most important things is to recognize what the purpose of your website is.

It can be anything from educating people to driving sales. At the same time, you need to set your business requirements and align the project of website launching with core business strategies (branding, marketing, sales, etc.).

This is essential because you need to make sure you prioritize your entire website launch in a way that delivers as much business value as possible. Moreover, all of your subsequent activity will revolve around adding more value to your website with less important work taking a back seat.

Through it all, you cannot lose sight of what users want and need either. In fact, would be wise to create user personas.  There are multiple options for doing this: focus groups, interviews, questionnaires, etc.

The Crux of the Matter

This brings us to another point: launch a version of the site as early as possible.

In other words, you have to develop a functional build through the process of iterative development. The website doesn’t need to have all the features and functionalities you indented for the final release.

The logic behind this approach is simple. Getting everything right from the onset is borderline impossible and you shouldn’t even bother. Not only that, but you’re better off making mistakes in the early stages than later on.

That’s to say that you move forward in small iterative steps called Sprints. Every iteration should produce a small increment of a product and generate new valuable information. These cycles typically last between one and four weeks.

In our case, the product is the website and increments can be pieces of content, as well as navigation and design elements. Your main task is to identify the high-priority items that support your brand and business goals.

You’re going to build them into the version of the site you will showcase to the audience. For instance, if you’re creating an e-commerce site, it’s a good idea to first make sure checkout and payment processes are working like a charm.  Start with the pages that will bring in business value and then build on those pages, adding value as you go along.

Beyond that, you can gather invaluable user feedback on any potential issue. To do it, monitor how people interact with the digital environment: Heatmaps are a great tool to discover this. An alternative is to ask them directly what features they like and what’s missing.

In any event, close collaboration with customers is one of the mainstays of Agile project management.

In addition to finding out what your customers think, you should also keep track of your own work and gather agile metrics that will help you adapt your way of work and become even more productive. This is where you will have to be 100% honest and transparent with yourself and your team.

Keeping Everyone on the Same Page

Another crucial pillar of successful implementation is having a strong team.

In Agile, teams are self-organizing and share ownership over the product. Here, it’s essential to refrain from imposing the methodology on them. Instead, you must educate and instruct members on how to implement Agile principles in practice.

Start by having an open conversation with everyone. Confirm that your team is willing and capable of undergoing an Agile transformation. They will require certain skills and competencies that Waterfall overlooks.

Provide training and coaching in order to empower your workforce.

Furthermore, instead of comprehensive documentation, puts an emphasis on various events such as Daily Stand-up meetings. These meetings usually last up to 15 minutes, during which all team members come together and discuss anything of relevance to the project.

Therefore, meetings status checks, as well as review and planning sessions.

One of the crucial aspects of collaboration exists between web designers and developers. They have to learn to work hand in hand toward shared goals. So, let them frequently meet to reorganize and re-prioritize to-do lists.

They are closest to the work process, which means they should know what’s best for your website. There’s no need to micromanage and control them too much.

This may seem like a lot to do, but your efforts will pay dividends.

Agile adoption minimizes the amount of wasted effort and unnecessary do-overs. It substantially improves project predictability and eliminates the guesswork. You will also get better as time goes by, making your website truly future-proof.

Agile For Good Measure

Done right, Agile elevates business performance and results.

The only problem is there are a lot of components that have to fall together seamlessly.

The best way to proceed is with the general idea of what you want to accomplish. Take into account the business side of the equation. Research your target audience and then present a working version of a website.

Your next task is to gather feedback and use it as a building block for your overall strategy. After a few Sprints, you’re likely to find the optimal cadence of work. At that point, you can also maximize coordination and collaboration across the board.

Conclusion

Just remember that job is never truly done. You need to engage in ongoing optimization, reviewing your work and making necessary improvements.

Finally, bear in mind you don’t have to use all of the Agile moving parts all the time. Feel free to start small and gradually scale the framework for the whole organization.

If you play it smart, you will be able to strike a chord with the customers and beat the competition.

Author Bio:

Jug Babic is a marketer at VivifyScrum, a company behind the eponymous project management software.

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