As my saying goes, “Amazon wasn’t built in a day”. When Amazon first came out, it was an online bookstore. That’s it, just books. Looking at Amazon now, it’s hard to fathom. You can buy literally anything. They have streaming music, movies, clothing, electronics, you name it. Amazon has it all. As they grew, so did their services, so did their website. And now, all of the parts work together harmoniously.
Often, we encounter clients who have a one and done mentality around their website. They want an eCommerce store or website with all of the bells and whistles that exist on Amazon or Facebook. They think they’ll get everything right in one go. Then time goes by and now the website isn’t performing as well as they’d like. Or they don’t understand how to actually use all of the features. Or some features aren’t really vital to the business. So a couple of years later, they will shell out a lot of money redoing their website, hoping it’ll work better. However, if they added new features slowly, they would be able to scale better and faster and provide greater customer satisfaction and retention. When you view your website as an ongoing investment, it grows naturally with your company and in many cases, improves it.
The Iterative Approach
Iterative development, aka Agile development, is generally used in app development. The idea is to split up a large fully fleshed-out application into smaller more manageable chunks which are then tested and sent out. As with most things, start with the basics, and then add on from there. There are a number of benefits to this:
- Launch a usable website much quicker
- Make decisions and add new features based on real customer data
- Address unforeseen issues with greater flexibility
- You and your team can actually scale and train with the website
- You save money in both the short term and the long term
Let’s walk through each of these using a plumbing business as an example. Lorne the Plumber, has been successfully running his own store – Poops!… I Did It Again – for years but needs to compete in the online market. He wants a new website where customers can book appointments, buy products, get plumbing advice, and get a quote. Lorne also wants everything to be streamlined with his supply chain and in house inventory. He wants to be the Amazon of plumbing. Let’s work through how.
1) Launch a Usable Website Much Quicker
We call this the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The idea behind it is to get your site up with beautiful branding and a clear message so that you can begin to build SEO, get found on the internet, and start taking in business. On a brand new website, this may look like creating a 1-3 page website: homepage, an about page, and a contact page.
Lorne decides to launch a simple 3 page, mobile-responsive website. His website lists his services and phone number has a clear contact form that goes to his email, has solid on-page SEO, and is branded beautifully with his logo and colors. He is online with everything he needs to get found and start taking in work. Further, it is in line with his current business model of booking appointments via phone and email. Even better, it was launched within a couple of weeks and was within budget.
2) Make Decisions and Add New Features Based on Actual Customer Data
Many times, clients will ask for and have ideas for features that are great in theory, but may not actually be in line with how their customers want to use their website. By iterating through, you can get actionable feedback and data from your customers. Rather than launching after months and months only to discover that clients aren’t using it, iterative development allows you to be in line with what the customer needs.
Lorne is getting emails from his website and a lot of them aren’t able to find the information they need from the services pages. Many customers are also asking for the ability to book an appointment directly on the website. Now that he’s been online and starting to see an increase in business, his budget has a bit more wiggle room for a new feature. So, he reaches out to his web partner and gets a booking platform and landing pages for each of his services added to his website. Soon after these additions, he is starting to get positive feedback from his online customers.
3) Address Unforeseen Issues with Greater Flexibility
A lot of the time, the initial build of a website is just the beginning. While your customers may see new features that they like, there may be additional changes that can help. Working with your agency and using some analytics tools, you can discover where customers may be falling off and where you can improve things like the layout of your website.
Lorne is reviewing his analytics and realizing that people aren’t completing his booking form and quickly leave the page without any other interaction. He realizes that he may need to add further instructions to make the process clearer. As well as put additional checks on his forms to ensure that they fill it out correctly. He also realizes that he’s not quite ready to roll out a fully integrated store with products as he wants to now focus on making sure his online customers are able to book the type of appointment they need. By not having paid for this upfront, he has saved a lot of money and his website edits to ensure that the customer experience is top-notch. With these changes in place, he gains more conversions.
4) Scale and Train with the Website
This often goes unnoticed but it’s a major piece. Many times, clients’ actual businesses aren’t ready to handle what they want their website to automate. They want an online membership system, but their accounting isn’t ready for it. They want to launch a store, but don’t have their inventory yet or don’t have product images. Sometimes they don’t have the staff to dedicate time to the shipping and handling and customer service.
Another issue that arises is that launching any new software requires training. Many of our clients haven’t even logged into a WordPress site before. So when all of the metrics and orders and issues arise, they aren’t prepared to actually use the website to its full potential. When you iterate, the website can grow organically with your business and your team. You have time to train on each feature, allowing your business to take advantage of all that your website can offer.
Lorne has worked with his web agency to train on the website from the beginning. His team is now capable of updating the content and imagery on the site, responding to contact forms, and ensuring that bookings are occurring properly. His booking platform has now replaced his need to manually take down new appointments, freeing up time and money for additional features.
5) Save Money in Both the Short Term and the Long Term
Have you ever bought too much at the grocery store? Everything you bought was what you wanted, however, not necessarily what you could use. So you end up throwing away food and also money. When you pay for a website iteratively, it can seem scary because time and budget can be fluid. They change as the priorities change. However, the beauty of it is that your end product tends to be much stronger and much more representative of what your business needs as well as what your customers want. Additionally, smaller iterations tend to be easier on the budget.
“Poops!…I did it again” is now the top-ranked plumbing website in Lorne’s area. It is known that for all plumbing needs, visiting this website will give you an easy ability to book your appointments and purchase any plumbing needs. His website has been built within the time that his business and his budget support it. Due to the success of the website, Lorne is now considering adding in HVAC/AC services. His site is crisp, clean, and customer-first.
Iterative development is a win-win in nearly every case. A smart web agency will incorporate this style as it offers much better value for, not only the client but for the agency. You can take much greater risks with far less weight on your wallet. When you know exactly what you pay for, you’re much more likely to get exactly what you want. Your investment saves you time and effort on the things that will have the best impact on your bottom line.
Ready to Start Building Your Website?
We can help you start the journey from start to finish and on a timeline that makes the most sense for your business and your budget. Reach out to us for a consultation today!