On being a bad client: 3 lessons learned

Our latest ecentricarts.com redesign taught us a lot about our own shortfalls, but most importantly, it showed us how to work better and smarter.

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By Stephanie Allen, Director, Project Management

November 11, 2015

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Confession: we’re a terrible client. Okay, so maybe not terrible, but definitely guilty of some bad behaviour. Case in point: Our website redesign, which we proudly launched last week, took us over a year to launch.

Why? Like any busy agency, we sometimes find it challenging to manage internal projects as well as we manage our clients’. Our redesign was no exception. Luckily, we learned a lot along the way, which we’re looking forward to sharing with you.

Lesson One: Treat Yourself Like a Client

We kicked off the redesign project in September 2014, with an intended launch of February 2015 for ecentricarts’ 15th anniversary. Five months seemed more than doable. Trouble was, we didn’t plan for it from either a team or resourcing perspective. So while we had a lot of willing participants, we only had so many hours in a day — most of which were already resourced to client work.

Needless to say our February deadline came and went. We knew our window of opportunity was going to slam shut if we didn’t change our approach to the project.

So we decided to hire ourselves.

As soon as we decided to treat ourselves as a client, we started to see real progress. We replaced our ad hoc team with a dedicated project team (@sarahpengelly, @kaptonkaos, and @mjclaessens). We brought on @torontoniann to define and execute the content strategy. We got a budget of real working hours. We got a project owner (me) who got us organized and kept the ball moving.

Lesson Two: You Can’t Start With a Solution

In the beginning, we didn’t think our redesign was a redesign; we thought it was a re-skin of our old site. Add a few case studies, freshen up the content, and we’re done.

Simple, right?

Since we thought we had the solution in hand, we didn’t go through a thorough strategy phase. As we got into our requirements gathering and early concepting, however, it became clear that the re-skin was putting lipstick on a pig. And the pig, as much as we loved it, wasn’t going to be able to fulfill our business and communications goals.

So we started again, and together with @keith_durrant and @skozey created a clearer picture of our goals: 1). Showcasing our work 2). Highlighting our team and capabilities and 3) Helping people get to know us. Once we had this established, we knew we would be doing a full redesign of ecentricarts.com.

Lesson Three: Define the MVP

Everyone was excited about the redesign, and we all had big ideas. Cool animations and hover states. A beautiful 404 page (see below). Storybook-like case studies. We found ourselves getting caught up in the bells and whistles — sometimes to the point of total distraction. In other words, total scope creep.

404 Page 1

The Cadillac version of our 404 page

404 Page 2

The 404 page that we went with

Did I mention that while all this was happening, we were also transitioning from waterfall to agile methodology?

As it turns out, it’s a good thing we were. Agile’s MVP concept was a momentum changer for us. It allowed us to stop using perfection as a measure of “doneness.” Instead of trying to pack everything into v1.0 — something we knew we wouldn’t be able to do anyway — we prioritized content and features, knowing we would continue to evolve the site in future releases.

Moving Forward

Now here we are, with our site launched. And we know it’s just the beginning. We have big plans to evolve our site, and we’ll probably learn a few more lessons along the way, which no doubt we’ll be sharing here.

As always, we’d love to hear about your own experiences. What’s been your greatest learning from running an internal project or doing a website redesign?