May 13, 2019

by Brady Cohen

At Dix & Eaton, we design and build websites for clients across several industries. These tend to be complex, lengthy projects that require planning, open and frequent communication, collaboration and flexibility.

To help others understand the key process stages, we often find it helpful to compare building a website to building a house. Even if you’ve never built a house, the comparison illustrates the importance of following a process to achieve your desired outcome, stay on budget and deadline. While not intended to be a fully inclusive, step-by-step flow, let’s explore five ways that building a website is like building a house.

1 –  When building a house, you plan and define a budget first. The same is true with a website.

Building a HouseBuilding a Website
Research – look for inspiration, online research, tour homes, identify desired styles, location, size, number of bedrooms, bathrooms and other important features.Research – conduct a competitive review, look for inspiration in other leading websites, note cutting-edge user experiences, review your web analytics, conduct user research, create or update personas, determine what’s working and what’s not working on your current website.
Create a plan and set goals – determine whether you’re building an entirely custom home, create your specifications and requirements, create a blueprint, determine when you’ll complete your new house and establish a budget to work against.Create a plan and set goals – determine what you want to improve in the new website experience, define what functionality is desired and what is required, create a website architecture, develop a content plan, set your ideal go-live date and budget.

2 – Houses and websites both need to be designed.

HouseWebsite
Create layouts based on homeowner’s needs. These include floor plans, colors, flooring, cabinets, fixtures and architectural finishes. Revisions are almost inevitable, and are dependent on clear communication between the designer, architect, contractor and homeowner. It’s likely these discussions lead to budget updates and change orders, and that the timeline changes as well.Begin by creating wireframes, user experience design elements, page layouts including colors, images, and content including SEO components. Here too revisions are inevitable, and clear communication between the designer, project manager, content owner, developer and the client determines success. Each of these change requests has budget implications and the entire project could need re-scoped and the timeline revisited.

3 – Houses and websites take time to build.

HouseWebsite
Review your plans to be sure everything has been accounted for and that approvals are in place. If approvals and changes occur after this point, they can be significantly more costly than if you had made them earlier in the process.

Your construction team will excavate, lay the foundation, begin framing out the house, add walls, roofing, windows, then move to the interior including plumbing, electrical, HVAC and finishes such as flooring, paint and woodwork.

Like building a house, you’ll want to confirm your plans are final and approved. Changes beyond this point can require going back to the plan and drives up cost.

Your team will likely start by implementing a content management system, creating HTML, CSS and JavaScript code. Once built, content will be loaded including copy, images, graphics and data.

4 – Houses and websites both need finishing touches. You’ll sometimes notice things at this stage that were difficult, if not impossible to see earlier.

HouseWebsite
Before moving in, you’ll do a walkthrough and final inspection. Once complete, it’s time to move in and get settled. This will likely be when you begin noticing things you hadn’t considered until now when you’re living in your new space. You’ll discover ideas for changing decorations or notice features that don’t work well. You may make changes right away or more likely make a list of things you’d like to update in the future.It’s important to thoroughly review and test new websites. Check for functionality, formatting, imagery and copy. Before launching, confirm all elements are in order and ready for launch. Once you start using the website, you may notice opportunities for future updates. There are some changes you can make right away and others that need more planning or budget. You’ll find these opportunities through observation, feedback, analytics and other sources. Now, it’s time to launch!

5 – Both websites and homes require measurement and optimization. (Maybe more for a website, but hear me out…)

HouseWebsite
After you’re living in your house for some time, you’ll likely begin making updates. To do this, you’ll use data to help make decisions. You might find that a room is too small for its intended purpose. You’ll measure, plan and update to improve the space and use.You will receive feedback on your website. This could come from employees, customers, prospects, suppliers or others. You’ll want to listen to the feedback to determine where you invest in future updates and enhancements. Couple this information with data and insights by reviewing the website performance and/or doing further user research.

This comparison illustrates there’s a similar process for each project type that helps you plan, stay on budget and deadline. Following a defined process and keeping open lines of communication with your team will help your project run smoother, and keep your sanity. Contact me if you’d like to learn more about building a website or the process we follow at Dix & Eaton.