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I used to use 8-Track cassettes as a training prop - illustrating how obsolete technology impacts our businesses and organizations (here's the -->wiki on 8-track in case you've never seen one). I'd almost always get a laugh just by holding one of these bulky music storage devices up to the crowd. If the inventors and marketers of the 8-track, and so many other technologies, knew how short lived their strategy might be, maybe they would have made different decisions.  Building an obsolete website is a real pitfall in growth marketing, especially given the pace of technology change.

Websites born obsolete are an obvious risk in the fast moving world of technology.  No one intentionally invests in anything that will be obsolete before it even reaches its first year of use, but that is what is happening in today's website strategies.

Changes, like last years' "mobilegeddon" (penalizing non-mobile ready websites), the move to natural language in search  (Google using for the words that people speak into their mobile device, rather than type), the "Google answer boxes" in which Google answers searches directly in the top of the search bar, the practical separation between audio and video use online, as well as the emergence of specialized demands for mobile devices and website content quality.  All these many changes can leave any marketing manager dizzy with the list of new requirements.

Building obsolete websites.

If a website takes 6 months to build from start to launch, and it is being built with last year's assumptions, it will start out way behind the curve and require substantial updates almost immediately. The more complex the website, the greater the cost of revision. You might be tempted to ask, "does that really matter?"  Here is why it does:

Sales people and in-person interaction used to be primary in the buying process with websites supplementing that interaction.  Now, web searches and self-directed consumer research makes up 50 to 80% of the buyer's journey - all before any live discussion occurs.   Consumers also want to deal with customer service issues online, without talking to anyone - they expect self help opportunities.

Your website is now your #1 Salesperson and your #1 Customer Service Agent.

All of this adds up to big risks.  The risk that your investment won't pay off, and the risk that you will miss growth opportunities during an extended web build.  Even when your marketing team and your web builder use their best assumptions, their is no guarantee that after 6 months your customers will respond the way you had hoped.  There needs to be a better approach that removes risks and optimizes for measurable marketing growth.

Reversing the Trend: agile and collaborative.

The answer comes from two key approaches - collaboration and "agile development."  Collaboration requires that we have to get the right people involved in the project - that perspectives from inside our organization, from our customers, and from technologists, have to be embedded in the process.  Agile development offers an approach to development that is by nature more inquisitive, more cooperative, faster, cost effective and cyclical in nature.  That means that we need to launch websites more quickly and then plan to make changes in an intentional process on a regular basis.

Learn more about websites that are built with an -->agile approach.

While there is more to share about this approach, these two characteristics - agile and collaborative - should be the essentials when you are considering a web redesign.  And this approach isn't just for the really large custom websites, it is the better choice for businesses of all sizes.

How can you know what kind of project your starting?  If the word "agile" doesn't come up in the conversation, or if a traditional waterfall project plan is pulled out on the table, you may be headed for some built in obsolescence, and an investment that could have been more impactful.  What's most important is that the website you build serves your business goals.

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David Mills

Written by David Mills

David is one of the founders of Story Collaborative and serves as the Chief Growth Officer. He is passionate about finding the right strategy for each client and helping them move into sustainable growth. He is a veteran of organizational development and communications and has worked with thousands of businesses and nonprofits across the country.