Imagine you're an academic department or program and you're starting on a project to revamp your web presence. The first thing you'll need to do is figure out who should be on your internal web team that will see the project from inception to launch. This might be some combination of your staff, faculty, and students. But who exactly?
Choosing the right web team is really important to the success of your project. To reach your launch in a timely fashion, you'll want detail-oriented and tech-savvy folks to get things moving and collaborate with your web developers, and regular check-ins with stakeholders to make sure you're aligned with their vision.
Stakeholders vs. web team
There are two primary groups of people that you need to keep in mind when embarking on a web project: stakeholders and your web team. Stakeholders are the primary people who will be viewing, represented by and/or effected by your new website. Your web team is the group of people in your program or department who will work hard to complete your project.
It's easy to accidentally conflate these two groups and think that your stakeholders are who should be on your web team. I've heard, "We are guaranteeing that everyone is involved so that no one can be unhappy at the end of our project!" But I'd like to assert that doing so can compromise the success of your project, especially once it's time to get to work.
- The site does everything I need and want it to.
- I like how my pages look.
- The general look and feel of the site represents us well.
- We are sufficiently on budget.
Web team goals
- All content has been ported and is consistently worded and formatted.
- Images are well chosen and properly formatted.
- The site looks good.
- The site has sufficient functionality for this phase of the project.
- There are no broken links anywhere in the content.
- Everything is tagged correctly, if relevant.
- We are on budget and focusing on highest priorities to maximize value.
- Stakeholders are happy with the end result.
As you can see, though there is some overlap between the goals of the two groups (the site looks good), they aren't aligned. Stakeholders are often more interested in making and prioritizing requests for functionality in a website. Whereas, the web team is primarily interested in getting the site to a successful and timely launch, and willing to do the work to make it happen. Both groups are critical to the success of a project, but each should be asked to do tasks that are aligned with their goals, to keep things moving forward smoothly.
Stakeholders in a web team-led project
Stakeholders should always be involved in the major decision-making for a project because they need to be really satisfied with the site after launch. However, stakeholders often aren't interested in the hard work piece of putting a site together, such as:
Web team tasks
- Quickly learning new technologies
- Regular meetings with web development team (often these happen weekly or even twice a week during peak development)
- Reviewing and revising existing site content
- Collecting, cropping, and uploading images
- Copying and pasting old profile information
- Gathering quotes, news articles, publications, etc.
- Creating categories for events, news, people, etc.
- Tagging imported content
- Checking every link on the site to make sure it isn't broken
- Communicating requirements and bugs to web development team
If stakeholders aren't the right people for the tasks above, how can you keep you keep them involved so that you deliver a site at the end of your project that is well-received? There are lots of great ways!
- Engage in stakeholder discovery to uncover website functionality requirements/needs before the project kickoff. This may take the form of a couple group meetings or individual "interviews" with your stakeholders.
- What are stakeholder expectations for the project?
- How would they define a successful outcome?
- Regular check-ins, especially at key junctures, which might include:
- Short presentations at monthly faculty meetings
- Welcoming direct feedback on design comps or wireframes at sign-off stage for these deliverables
- Inviting feedback a few weeks to a month before launch, especially in regards to content and wording
- Requesting feedback after the site has been live for a few months, to help you plan for future improvements
If you've been on a project, you've had to think about stakeholder involvement. How do you keep your stakeholders involved? Feel free to leave a comment below!