Companies and developers frequently treat websites as one-off developments. They are built, tested, launched and then forgotten. Even security updates are often ignored until a site is hacked. Over time many sites fall into neglect, neither meeting current technology standards nor user expectations. For example, not being designed for use on mobile devices. Continuous development solves many of these problems. And offers many other benefits too!
Continuous development: spread your budget
It is still common nowadays that companies make a budget available for a one-time website development. They only budget hosting as a recurring cost. But what about adopting Agile principles? Creating a minimum viable product (MVP) that they can improve as part of a continuous development process? A successful website needs a management team committed to their online presence. A website managed as a living entity that this team needs to nurture over time. A neglected website will eventually die, even if you started with a great site.
Keep it simple
Clients often choose to invest their budget in a complex web application with a wealth of features. But it’s better to start with just the features that are needed to go live (the aforementioned MVP). In this case, a substantial part of the budget remains available. This lowers the overall risk when something goes wrong. It also ensures that funds are available for incrementally improving the site in response to user feedback. An approach often referred to as continuous development.
There are many advantages to this approach:
- Clients can minimize uncertainties and risks, with a lower risk of failure;
- Clients face little or no risk of budget overruns;
- Web developers can gain user experience from the first release. They can use this feedback when designing subsequent releases;
- A partnership between the client and web developer can grow, without the pressure inherent in highly complex developments;
- Initial delivery will be faster.
Not only the client gains from this approach. Website users will enjoy the benefits too. A simple-to-use website without bells and whistles is less daunting. The website will also evolve and change over time, keeping the user experience fresh.
Continuous development, incremental releases
Basically, it comes down to dividing new web development projects into multiple releases. That you can extend over time. Spreading the budget out over incremental releases. So improving the quality and scope of your site.
Web developers also need to adopt this approach. Instead of simply focusing on a one-off development project, they should focus on building a relationship with clients that extends over a longer period of time. This makes it easier for both parties to learn about each other’s needs. It allows a partnership to develop, with shared goals. A continuous development plan brings regular improvements. It will lower the long-term maintenance costs too. Web developers should work account (client) based, not product/project based. It might be better if they see themselves as a consultant rather than an agency. Because that puts greater emphasis on the client relationship. Not just on their skills as suppliers of technology.
Find out more
We would like to talk to you about your web development. Get in touch, and we’ll discuss how we think our approach can help with your next project.
Next week we will be publishing the second part of this blog, where we focus on the partnership between client and developer, as well as a few tips that will help to produce a successful site.
This blog post is written by guest author Martin Postma [lolandese] with contributions from Martyn Simpson.
Martin usually writes technical documentation on Drupal.org.