Here’s what you should be looking for at a minimum in a website team.
BY: GENE BEDELL
Crafting a successful website is like building a house—it takes such a wide range of skill sets that if you want more than just a simple tree house-style structure, one person should not be building the whole thing. Sure, sole proprietor do-it-all types can make decent looking sites, especially if you’re open to templated, or pre-fabbed options. But if you’re looking for a website that looks like a successful business lives in it, you need a team.
If you’re a small to medium-sized business, you have to get the most bang for your marketing buck, but you can’t afford to hire a million people. Here’s what you should be looking for at a minimum in a website team.
Whether you have a minimal budget and you’re hiring freelancers yourself, or you’re hiring a company/agency, here are at least the three people you need:
- Programmer—Like the architect, this person makes sure your structure and foundation are firm. They’ll make sure data goes where it needs to go (and is safe), and that when you get the final product, everything works like it’s supposed to without having to fix expensive problems.
- Designer—This person doesn’t just make sure things are pretty. A good one also makes sure you’re hanging the right things (content, buttons, calls to action, etc.) in the right places to make sure they’re seen and useful to your visitors.
- Writer—Words and pictures are as different as flooring and drywall. If you get the same person to do both, you’re probably not getting the best quality in either.
There are lots of extra skill sets you might want—data analysts, information architects, user experience experts—and these all bring something valuable to the table if you have the budget (or the need) for them. But after the basic three, the next person you need to hire is someone to be in charge.
Who’s running the show? (And why we’re using fewer Creative Directors.)
Traditionally, in an agency like iostudio, a creative director would run big projects like website builds. But here we use a “triad” approach, with one client services rep, one creative, and one project manager. The project manager keeps the project on time and budget, and the client services rep monitors scope while advocating for the client. And increasingly for iostudio, the creative that we have steering projects like website or app builds is a content strategist.
In our house-building analogy, content strategists are like the general contractor. They’re generalists, familiar with enough of the different aspects of site creation to steer and contribute to individual lanes. But because they’re focused on strategy, they can avoid getting bogged down with minutiae and see big picture problems and opportunities that are often missed by those doing the heavy lifting of creation. In short, content strategists are experts at building things. They know how to put pieces of content together, and they let the individual experts (designer, programmer and writer) handle their own lane.
Increasingly, iostudio is finding that it’s the functional content piece—how to most efficiently produce the content, and how to best fit it together so that it works how it’s supposed to—that is missing in a lot of poorly performing sites. That connect-the-dots piece that turns visitor into buyer is what content strategists excel at, especially when combined with a data-first approach.
If you’re on a shoestring budget, it might be tempting to run your own project. But let’s complete the analogy: You know a pretty house when you see one, just like you know a pretty website when you see one. But what are the warning signs that a foundation might crack? How thick should the insulation be on a brick wall vs. concrete and siding? That’s the kind of specialty knowledge that you’re missing if you’re playing the boss role. And even if you can pick the prettiest house (or website) on the block, it’s even more important that it’s constructed right, because eventually you’re going to want it to sell.