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Need for speed: when and how to build a website at pace

Striking the perfect balance between speed and effectiveness

Need for speed: when and how to build a website at pace

More and more organisations are choosing to build websites at speed. On the face of it, this is surprising: why rush the process? A website is arguably the single most important asset any company will possess.

 

The reasons are diverse, of course. Sometimes a new leader brings a fresh strategy that demands an update. Other times, it’s a new brand that prompts the rethink. We’ve seen companies abandon conventional timelines mid-process to time a launch with a big event in the calendar. Increasingly, the need for speed is driven by something more existential: a company competing in a fast-moving space, where moving slowly is the same as standing still.

 

Whatever the rationale however, building a website quickly presents a specific range of challenges. It should be no less beautiful, intuitive, informative, or inspiring for being built at speed, and make no compromise on security or performance either.

 

So, if a standard process is impossible, how should it be done? How can you strike a perfect balance between speed and effectiveness?

 

Embrace the long-term

It may sound counter-intuitive, but building a website quickly - and well - actually requires a long-term mindset: a mindset that focuses less on a build process as a one-off, moment-in-time job, and more as an ongoing enterprise.

 

Too often, organisations find themselves trapped in an inefficient cycle: an exhaustive, drawn-out build phase followed by a period of neglect and, ultimately, a rush to update an obsolete site. To break this pattern, it's helpful to view site updates as frequent, more manageable 'refreshes' as part of a constant push for improvement. This 'always on' strategy does promote speed at crucial points, but also places practical testing and relevancy at the forefront - making sure the site remains effective and up-to-date.

 

In this context, choosing a fast build process can be a sign of an enlightened approach rather than a rushed one - but it does depend on key people in a business being on the same page.

 

Understand your MVP (or MLP)

Building a site quickly shouldn’t be about reducing quality. It is about reaching a state that will meet the most fundamental user needs.

 

We dislike the term Minimum Viable Product (MVP). It feels negative. It’s cheesy, but we prefer MLP: Minimum Loveable Product. It suggests an entirely different and more positive start point: what does a site have to do to facilitate users and meet the needs of the business?

 

When we built Connected Kerb’s new site in just 12 weeks, we knew the focus had to be conveying the spirit of company’s proposition through an experience worthy of a leader in that sector. Our ‘minimum’ was clear: inspiration was a must; enhanced functionality could follow.

 

So, prioritise ruthlessly. Craft a clear brief, with clear objectives, that defines what really matters for launch and responds to what’s possible in the timeframe (large-scale integrations can’t be done quickly, for example). Make sure all stakeholders are signed-up to it: this will be your collective reference point for decisions.

 

Prioritise the user

When building at speed, it might be tempting to skimp on user experience (UX) design. Of all the things to deprioritise, this isn’t it. Your website will evolve and grow after launch - you need to build and maintain relationships in the meantime and deliver an experience authentic to your brand. Invest time in understanding your audience's preferences and build these into your site's design early.

 

Invest time in understanding your audience's preferences, behaviours, and expectations, and build these into your site's design early. Prioritising the user experience is not just about making your site user-friendly: it's about making sure every interaction a user has with your website is meaningful, enjoyable, and reflective of your brand's unique identity.

 

Fail fast, improve faster. Embrace agile

There is one true prerequisite for rapid web builds: everyone involved must embrace Agile. The Agile approach encourages quick iterations, allowing for early identification of issues and prompt improvements. The aim is to fail fast and improve faster rather than shoot for perfection and leave yourself with no time to refine and fix problems.

 

Website builds require the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders, many of whom won't be familiar with Agile or the notion of 'work in progress'. Such a shift in perspective, particularly under tight deadlines, necessitates a high level of trust and understanding within the team.

 

It's essential to establish clarity on the approach from the very beginning and maintain consistent communication throughout. Make sure everyone understands what’s happening, why, and what’s expected of them, at every stage.

 

Contain chaos in a sensible process

Building a site at speed demands embracing a certain amount of ‘creative chaos’. There’ll be change, complexity, and competing demands from stakeholders. To maintain positive forward momentum, these projects need the right framework - and the right project managers to drive it.

 

To harness this chaos effectively, the process should revolve around a series of time-bound sprints with milestones scheduled at the end of each to propel progress.

 

A core project team should attend daily check-ins and participate in fortnightly ‘retrospective critiquing’ (progress review) sessions. These are designed not just to assess progress but also to embrace and incorporate change, continually realigning the project to best meet its objectives and deliver maximum value.

 

Assemble and empower the right team

Your team should be cross-functional from the off. There should be one product-owner to make the key calls but, critically, it should be flat and collaborative by design. Specialists in different fields need to work together throughout the process rather than ‘handing over’ complete thinking from one group to the next (e.g. strategists to UX consultants to designers). Encourage a positive, open and transparent working environment.

 

Think creatively about stakeholder engagement, too. Any website build project needs to manage the involvement of key stakeholders carefully, but a swift build process demands a certain kind of buy-in. Keep things simple for them at all times - including the language you use to describe proposals, problems and solutions.

 

Consider Umbraco

In the vast landscape of CMS (Content Management System) choices, Umbraco is an exceptional option for expedited website builds.

 

Its simplicity streamlines both initial construction and ongoing development. Integrating with other tech is much more straightforward with Umbraco than other enterprise solutions such as Drupal or Sitecore. Critically, it has robust, future-proof security built-in as standard.

 

Being open-source, Umbraco benefits from a large and active open-source community. This offers users rapid access to solutions for emerging challenges and fosters an environment of continuous improvement.

 

Crucially, Umbraco's key strength lies in its user-friendly interface. This makes it an ideal choice for teams regardless of their technical prowess as it empowers users with easy content updating and site maintenance capabilities, reducing the reliance on technical experts.

 

In conclusion…

There’s beauty in speed. Early in an Agile process the whole team will have something to look at. It won’t be polished, but it’ll work, and the tone will be set: everyone is invited to play their part in shaping something with a tangible (and crucial) outcome. These processes can push people, but our clients find them exciting and often career-defining.

 

But the key thing is this: building a website quickly doesn't mean settling for less. Instead, it should signal a shift in approach from linear, one-off projects to Agile, user-centred, iterative methods. With the right team, mindset and tools, companies can establish their online presence rapidly and embrace a more dynamic digital future.