Posted 18th August 2015 | By ExtraMile

Over the past few years, I've been planning and building my own house (I didn't actually physically build the house, although I did do a fair bit of manual labour towards it!). We've eventually moved in, although it's still not fully decorated!

Although building a house is a far stretch from building a website, there are a few important lessons that I've learnt from my journey that I believe can be applied to many types of projects, including the design and development of a website:

Over the past few years, I've been planning and building my own house (I didn't actually physically build the house, although I did do a fair bit of manual labour towards it!). We've eventually moved in, although it's still not fully decorated!

Although building a house is a far stretch from building a website, there are a few important lessons that I've learnt from my journey that I believe can be applied to many types of projects, including the design and development of a website:

Experts know best
Admittedly, we didn't ever think that we knew more than the people that built our house on the practical building elements, but we didn't realise how useful the builders could be in terms of the design of the house. This only came to light with the finer details really, for example our electrician was able to suggest a workaround solution for installing some lights that we wanted in an alcove - there wasn't room for a standard downlight to be installed so he suggested installing a cabinet light (the ones that you usually see underneath kitchen cupboards). This solution meant that we could still have what we wanted, for half of the price of our original idea.

In terms of building a website, you may be reluctant to trust a website company with this as they are unlikely to be specialists in your marketplace, however, at ExtraMile we put a lot of effort into getting to know our clients and the market in which they operate, each employee is enthusiastic about their specialism, and we all want the best for you and your company.

Planning, planning and more planning
The importance of this one cannot be underestimated! It's so important to plan ahead to try and pre-empt the next steps, to ensure that you are prepared for it. When building a house, this meant that we needed to ensure tiles were ready to be laid once the plumber had finished installing the bath, yet having the tiles delivered too soon would have meant that they would have been in the way!

With the website process, planning comes in a similar form, with it always being a better idea to think ahead- for example it's always a good idea to start considering keywords, user experience, content, images and videos for the website in advance of the website being at the content stage. This means that, when the website is ready for content, all content has been written, distributed around your company, and agreed on, and it ready to be put straight into the website! From our experience, the content phase is the stage where delays can occur. It often surprises clients how long we suggest this process will take on their side but when we explain they need to factor in creation, validation, editing and approval from all the relevant people within the company (and one of those people has the "black hole desk", things land on their desk and never see light again!) they often wonder if they'll ever get it done!

The key is in the detail
The subtle details are, in my eyes, just as important as the major ones. When we have shown people around the house, we have received more comments on the furniture and décor, than we have on the actual structure and layout of the house, yet we spent a lot more time considering the "structural" aspects of the building.

For websites, it's important to get the structure in place (considering the user experience along the way), but the little details, for example those listed below, really help to "make or break" the user experience on a website:

  • Effects or animations when you hover over items on the website
  • The loading times on the site
  • Pixel-perfect alignment
  • Consistency (with font styles, colours, headers and footers)

Be open minded
It's important to be able to find the balance between "sticking to your guns" and changing things that need change- it is unproductive to keep changing your mind about things (as we found out when we moved the position of one doorway about 4 times to be able to fit the TV unit and sofa in!), but at the same time, if something isn't working in practice, or won't offer the best experience for the users, changes may be necessary.

Throughout the whole of your project, the user experience needs to be at the forefront of your mind- with building a house this means that there needs to be room between the sofa and the TV unit, for building a website, this may mean a "contact us" page should be visible on all pages in order to help users interact with the company. Here at ExtraMile, we like to use our experience to offer suggestions for your website- if we think there is a better way to do something, we will let you know.

User experience
We learned this one the hard way- we originally looked at the plans, asked a few questions, and then gave our permission to proceed. At this time, we had looked at what we had been given, as opposed to actually considering what we needed in practical terms. This meant that we hadn't properly considered the positioning of plugs and light switches, and so we needed the electrician to move a few sockets by the time it came to us furnishing the house.

A similar situation may occur when it comes to websites- it's important to consider the user experience before committing to any decisions. It's a lot easier to make something work well from the start (even if it may cause delays initially), than it is to adjust things once they have already been implemented.

Trust
It is extremely hard to trust someone to take control over the future of your business (or your home!). During the build, we had to keep reminding ourselves that, while this may be a one-off event for us (we will probably not be jumping at the next opportunity to build a house!), for the people working on the house, it is something they do day in, day out. They know how to do it, and they only really require us to make decisions (or give permission) in time for them to be acted upon. We learnt that they are also very useful in helping our decision making, they can often see things that we can not- for example we wanted some snazzy lights on the staircases, and our electricians, carpenters and architect worked together to design a set of stairs that could accommodate this, with little input from us.

In regard to working on websites, it's important to trust the designer to design what works for you- by giving them a good brief, with room for some free control, the designer will be able to use their creativity to come up with the best designs for your business. Of course you will be able to make any changes in order to make it suit the companies style, but designers tend to enjoy being given a fairly "blank canvas".

Written by Emma Bourne, Business Coordinator at ExtraMile Communications.

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A digital marketing agency with international capabilities