10 mistakes that are hindering your digital projects

Delivering digital comes with a range of challenges that need to be considered so they don’t derail your projects. If your digital department is fully in-house, working alongside a digital partner or with freelancers and contractors, the many moving parts of a digital project is always challenging to harmonise. 

As a company who specialises in digital project delivery alongside agencies in-house teams, at We Are Star, we’re experts in making your digital delivery altogether better. We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to projects, so what better thing to do than highlight some of the most common mistakes we see when helping agencies deliver digital. 

Here are 10 of the most commonly made mistakes that might be hindering your digital projects.

1.  Asking the wrong questions….and getting the wrong answers

When it comes to scoping out what the client wants, they might come to you telling you exactly what solution they want, or you may have suggested one to them. Instead of starting with the solution itself, ask the right questions about exactly what the user needs or the outcome they are trying to achieve. People love to dive straight into the “how” before asking the “what” and “why.”

Rather than having a long specification outlining exactly what should be built, the appropriateness of the outcome needs to be based on the needs of the user. Being flexible with the solution, if it’s based on the right questions, will get you the best possible results.

Key Point: Start with a business outcome and keep your solution focused on that outcome.

2. Only focussing on design

Having something that looks good but doesn’t function is one of the worst outcomes for a digital project. Requirements don’t stop at just the designs. Instead, make sure you are covering content management, security of the digital tool, product performance and the integration requirements. These are often overlooked so you are left with something that doesn’t function in the way it was supposed to in the brief.

Furthermore, pretty much every project gets delayed because teams spend so long perfecting designs and then hoping it can be ‘caught up’ in development. It can’t. Normally trying to ‘rush’ development causes mistakes and ultimately takes longer.

Key Point: Design is important, but so is everything else.

3. Poor expectation management

Setting expectations with your client is crucial. Too many times, when lots of different people are involved in project delivery, things can get lost in translation and confusion can often occur. Therefore aligning everyone involved through tools, technology and process is the absolute key to success. Solid tools for prototyping, digital asset management, project management and code management make the machine function a lot more smoothly.

That said, no amount of tools, technology or process can replace honest dialogue. Sometimes we just need to set the right expectations, even if that news isn’t what a client wants to hear. It’s not going to change if we leave it later.

Key Point: Set expectations as early as possible. Delaying bad news makes it even worse.

4. Not spending time to research

With tight deadlines and a constant pressure to deliver quickly, the most common phase of development that is overlooked is the discovery stage. It might feel like a luxurious use of time but in fact, taking the time to thoroughly understand business requirements, user needs and the competitor landscape will save a lot more time (and expensive mistakes and changes) down the line. Rather than building something really quickly that isn’t what the client wants and derailing the timeline, focus on the exact requirements and feedback initial ideas to the client. Even the shortest of discovery phases won’t be a waste of time.

Key Point: An investment in discovery is rarely a bad investment.

5. Overlooking User Testing

So you’ve made something that looks beautiful and functions beautifully, but has anyone actually tried using it yet? Never forget to build in time for user testing because that is the true test of your digital product. Even if you have factored in time, it nearly always takes longer than expected and needs as much attention as the build itself. 

User testing doesn’t always need to be complex or expensive. Sometimes, you can give a product to someone and just watch. See where they get stuck or confused. See what they start clicking on. You can learn a lot. As a rule, testing with as few as 5 people can help you spot trends and problems. And don’t pass problems off as user error, take what you learn seriously.

Key point: Don’t forget to test the product with real users, no matter how simple it might be.

6. Forgetting about the “Unhappy Path”

The “unhappy” paths are perhaps the most important when it comes to testing. Yes, you’ve spent time getting the happy path perfect. After months of development, understanding and rectifying the “unhappy” path will make your product stand out with users. Remember that a scenario in user testing that is not what you want to happen doesn’t mean it’s not important. There are of course some unhappy paths that can be eliminated, but more often than not, they are important learnings that shouldn’t be neglected.

You can’t stop users inputting an invalid credit card number, selecting invalid product combinations, etc but slick validation, clever error messaging or simple instructions make the journey far nicer for your users.

Key point: Think of all the things that a user could get wrong – and test them. 

7. Overloading on too many simultaneous projects

When working on multiple digital projects, prioritising can be a real challenge for agencies. With core clients and extra ones, working on them all at the same time can hinder quality of output and can dilute working efforts. Some teams avoid the problem of prioritising by attempting to work on all projects at the same time. To pacify some bigger projects can mean the smaller ones fall by the wayside so know when to outsource or get an extra pair of hands.

As a digital partner to many agencies’ departments, We Are Star often sees what it’s like when a department has too many projects for their capabilities. To make sure every one of your projects gets the right amount of attention it needs, know when to smartly outsource some things to a recurring partner.

Key point: Don’t overstretch yourself because everything will suffer. Help is out there if you need it!

8. Not balancing user and business needs

User and business needs during your project are both equally important. Your user needs to have the best experience as much as the business needs to see the return on investment. In the end, the two go hand in hand; if the user is happy, they are more likely to part with their cash. When building your digital product, don’t make the mistake of thinking user requirements are the same as the business requirements. Your business objectives need to align to the goals of the business – growth, new geographies, better revenue, new customers. Your user objectives are likely to be task-based. Find some information, buy something, contact someone.

Key point: The best websites perfectly balance business objectives and user needs. Take time to get this balance right.

9. Coding in live

Whilst coding in live might often be the quickest route to fixing a problem, it often causes more longer term problems. For a start, there’s a good chance that your change might be overwritten when a new build is pushed. Secondly, fixing in live invalidates your whole configuration management process. You build something in dev, test it and it works. You then send to UAT and it seems to work okay, you deploy it to live and there’s a code clash. 

Fixing in live is the ultimate papering of the cracks. A short term fix that is only going to expose you later on.

Key Point: Good configuration management is the cornerstone of development. Take the time to do it right. 

10. Lack of role clarification

Finally, when managing any team or project, there needs to be a clear decision maker. Too many times, projects have suffered from “too many cooks” syndrome or “Design by committee” so make sure the project manager knows what they are talking about and make sure the client knows too. Another incredibly important role in a digital project is making sure the client knows who they have to speak to, and keep it consistent. 

Make sure the client’s hand is held throughout the process as this helps with expectation management and a feeling that everything is under control. 

If the CEO is the person signing off on the designs, make sure the CEO is included in the process. Make sure the agency is asking the CEO the questions. Not a proxy. Not someone pretending they have a level of authority but needs to wait for the CEO.

At We Are Star, we always offer a consistent Digital Consultant on all engagements, this means a single point of contact for each project.

Key Point: Make sure roles and responsibilities are clear.and who is the decision maker and push back on the answer that it’s ‘everyone’ or ‘the group’

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