When building a website, it is important to have top talent, the latest technology, expertise, and necessary techniques to conduct unbiased evaluations of a website. A traditional website discovery approach includes a kickoff meeting with a client where an agency will define goals and objectives, conduct stakeholder research and interviews, and perform technical evaluations where the developer will review the client’s current website and consider limitations. The user experience team will then create a wireframe or blue-print visualization of the new website.

Pitfalls of Website Discovery

Due to the complexity of the discovery phase and the number of team members involved, there are several pitfalls that need to be identified ahead of time.

  1. The client’s goals and objectives may not be clearly defined. If the team does not fully understand the client’s vision and expectations, they will not be happy with the completed product.
  2. A developer must anticipate technical limitations and make sure what is being proposed is feasible and within the scope of work established.
  3. Miscommunication can cause problems. Project managers (PMs) and developers need to make sure that their interpretations of the project are the same, they have the necessary resources, and their expectations are aligned.

PMs and developers need to work cohesively with one another and take an integrated approach to the discovery process rather than a siloed one as this will ensure collaboration, efficiency, and minimize risk.

PM’s Perspective on a Successful Collaboration

During the discovery phase of the website, the project management team considers different project components than the developer. They are analyzing communication styles with a client, such as will the communication be strictly email, weekly meetings, or phone calls. Client personalities and roles are also important to understand in order to know who to address and how best to get a point across. Project managers listen to a client’s “non negotiables” and “must haves” for a website. They gather specifications that will support their internal team and nurture the agency and client relationship.  The discovery phase is often the clients first impression of the agency so it’s critical that the PM and the technical team members collaborate and communicate.

A PM can ensure a collaborative partnership by encouraging open communication. The utilization of project management systems like Trello or Teamwork are crucial to stay on track with timelines and make sure important steps aren’t missed. Regular internal checks-ins with the development team are vital as technical team members can voice risks and blockers as they come up.

Developer’s Perspective of a Successful Collaboration

During the discovery phase of a website, the development team is considering the technical implications of a website. They are evaluating existing integrations and platforms necessary for their business to function properly. During this phase, developers are gathering as much information as possible and identifying anything that might present an issue for the project. While this portion remains mostly technical, it is important for the development team to convey what is being discussed to the PM. A PM’s job can be difficult if they feel completely removed from the conversation, so it is necessary to include them in all conversations and communicate the information in a way they can easily understand. Ultimately, it is best to arm your PM with an arsenal of high-level knowledge so they can be a more active participant during this phase. Clients need to establish trust with both the technical team and the project management team.

Additionally, developers rely on PMs to ensure that this discovery phase is consistent with the overall objective. A website is just one element of an overarching marketing strategy, and the PM has a broader point of view than a developer. For example, a PM may have insight into the media or marketing automation strategy and how that can tie into the website. Before the discovery phase, technical team members rely on PMs to relay this information to the team so they can ask the appropriate questions to make sure all aspects of the integration are accounted for and seamless.

Outside of technical knowledge, there is general context a PM can provide to set developers up for success when it comes to building a relationship with a client. These might be more subtle nuances such as preferred communication styles, client dynamics with their own team and “sticky” areas for the client. It’s important for the development team to ensure that every touchpoint with the client is handled appropriately. A website is an investment and beyond the deliverable, the overall experience with the team can make or break a relationship.

Communication is Key

The discovery phase is where the teams collaborate to gain perspective from all those involved. Learnings can be used to ensure the project stays on track and expectations are met. It is important for the teams to continue to communicate and regroup weekly to discuss project progress, potential issues, and next steps. Developers will vocalize what is needed from the client while the PM will articulate any concerns or questions that the client has. As a result of continued collaboration, all parties remain unified and empowered throughout the project.