With the right preparation and foresight, launching your new CMS, or relaunching your CMS in Drupal, can be a smooth process. Anticipating the future and looking at the big picture of your companies' goals is integral to the success of this process. Here are the top 5 mistakes that you should avoid:
1. Spending huge focus, time, and capital assuming only today's problems, instead of tomorrow's
Quick exercise: Look at your current digital endeavor and think back to July 2010. What were you focused on then? How much of it matters now? How much of what you did is still in effect on your current platform and providing ROI now? In my experience it's about half. If it's 60-80% you are an excellent and disciplined strategist. (If you say 100% you are probably suffering from selective memory loss.)
The way to correct this mistake is to embrace agility within the context of your big migration and launch, and (this is the kicker) throughout the lifespan of your new Drupal site. Regardless of your specific endeavor, you must cope with a digital landscape that shifts every three to six months. You must meet the challenges of digital, while simultaneously delivering digital products on-time, on-budget and on-scope. Fifty percent of your project should focus on assumptions of "now", and the other half should assume the unknown. Looking to the future also allows you to let go of some of the aging products or content on your site and not get mired in the minute of a digital product that should be left behind. You will likely be forced to kill/change/revamp/ignore half the site within two years. New challenges will emerge, even within the timeline of the project itself. You cannot prepare for everything so set yourself up for success by assuming iteration. Build solutions that can easily change. Don't lock yourself into solutions based on a set of assumptions about digital that are likely to change. It may sound crazy, but after five years of helping businesses and enterprises reach their digital goals I know you should weigh your investments carefully with this in mind: Don't build a thing you wouldn't be okay with breaking in six months. I'm not the first person to propose such an approach for dealing with an uncertain future. Not embracing agility in your build and your ongoing strategy, could leave you without a future to face.
2. Assuming a sign-off on designs means the work of designing is done
Seeing is [not] believing: there is a false security that comes with the almighty "design sign off" on mocks, PSDs or design comps. Once everyone works through comps and decides on "The Design We Want," teams tend to gather everyone in a room and throw a static image of your new homepage up on a projector. "This is our New Site." Everyone nods, ohs and ahas, but know that many steps remain between that moment and the end of the design process. That first exposure achieves something, but it's not your team's or your organization's full understanding and acceptance of the design. The team will return to design again and again. The greatest challenge is to retain the fundamental successes of the original design effort, but eliminate the mistakes that reveal themselves through incremental development. In order to leave space for this to happen you can't fall victim to mistake #2, and if you try to retain the original projector image with rigid enforcement your new site will suffer for it. See number #3 on how to handle the on-going changes to not only design but all other aspects of your site.
3. Listening to your Users Too much, or Too Little
There's a sweet spot with user feedback and how it can fit into your agile process. You need to 1. Create an efficient way for users to give you feedback and 2. Understand how your stakeholders - every stakeholder - will engage with the new site. Agile is grounded in a basic assumption that guides number one: your stakeholders will change their mind… a lot. To actually meet their needs you must listen to and keep a focus on all stakeholders but that can be challenging given their inevitably shifting requirements. How can you stay efficient while managing your project schedule with time-boxed iterations and listen to all your stakeholders who always change their mind? You must find a way to incorporate continuous user feedback into the process of building your new CMS - it's the agile way. Don't unintentionally ignore some users who aren't internal to your organization: customers/readers/audience. For them you should use proxies or people with in-depth user knowledge. Proxies can be anyone from technical service folks to site architects and UX specialists to the patient saint who fields phone calls and emails from users complaining they can't do "X" on your site. Also plan for the fact that a disconnect will always exist between what internal stakeholders *think* people come to the site for, and what they actually do. Check your analytics and present data to confirm/counter assumptions and make that check part of your iterative feedback process. This leads to my final point: understand your stakeholders. Do all your research before the project starts and work to create a definition of all stakeholders involved: roles, goals, tasks and create user stories. Then schedule check-ins against those definitions and user stories within your feedback cycles.
4. Trying to be an SEO expert overnight (or even within the lifespan of your rebuild)
You can achieve solid Search Engine Optimization with your new build, but you cannot know everything you will need to know when you launch. I've seen serious scope creep on projects with people who were convinced they could crack google's algorithm. They build requirements around their Master SEO Plan for their site's global dominance in all search ranking. You will make mistakes and miss things in how you optimize your site for search. Instead, build-in pre and post-launch check lists for search optimization best-practices for content, redirects and performance. Then move on to the rest of your new site. Also know about "the most powerful Drupal module that does nothing."
5. If we build it, they will come
It used to be a big deal to launch a website. It's not anymore. Simply launching a site isn't the traffic boost it used to be. You need a PR and social strategy in place before day one. If you want to leverage your site launch to make a big splash don't ignore PR. Craft your media blitz with nuance. Have a social strategy in place to refine messaging to your own users, including messaging in the first few hours, days and weeks after launch. Talk with your technologists about highlights of innovation. Don't depend solely on your traditional audience. Work with your partners in technology, business and content to promote the site in all sectors, not just your own. Everyone should get a space to brag. Make sure you build something worth bragging about.