Eating your own dog food: why internal projects are more challenging
There are few briefs more challenging to a digital agency than 'we need a new website' from colleagues that make... websites. Why are internal projects so much more challenging than external ones?
Why it's the hardest thing to do
It's often the case that companies in our field neglect their own websites due to the demands of client work. Something you do with great success for your clients isn't necessarily a priority for you. We've even put projects for clients in the same sector before ours. The old adage of the Cobblers children never having any shoes rings true.
That was the case for us for a number of years until the business case for changing our own website became difficult to ignore. It no longer reflected our offer and capabilities. It was built with long out-of-date techniques and we didn't feel comfortable referring prospective clients to it. It had to go and so we set about planning a new one.
Where do you begin?
When you work closely with experts in different fields within the same industry it's easy to get excited and carried away on different waves of ideas, disagreements and thoughts on best practise. It's even harder to get them all in the same room to plan it through when deadlines loom and phones ring. But we set off with best intentions and a well-worn plan.
We discussed our business objectives first. We did a brand health check workshop to make sure our offer, values, positioning, and tone of voice rang true. We researched our audience, we planned our content and decided on a mobile friendly, content first, collaborative design approach. Perfect.
Putting theory into practise
We couldn't wait to get stuck in and show the world why our company is the best thing since animated gifs. But even with the best of intentions, things don't always go to plan. Especially when you are too close to the business and eager to try untested territory.
Days slip and best practise falls foul to urgent need. But we managed to get it done, which was not an easy task for a busy company like us. It was difficult, but we got there. What we have built is essentially a prototype, and I think that's a good way to view what you put online. It's never finished, nor is it ever perfect, but a working progress.
We will continue to test, tweak and modify as we go and invest the time needed to improve it over time. We'll learn what works and what doesn't from our users. We'll use it to test new approaches, content and enhancements to avoid lapsing on our investment. After all, it's what we endeavour to do for our clients.
Where I think we succeeded
- We grasped the nettle, knuckled down and got it done
- We have a renewed focus on what matters to this business
- We got to know our audience better and what makes them tick
- We have a platform to voice the opinions of our team
- We have a site that better reflects our brand personality
Where I think we failed
- We didn't plan it like a client project
- Project work inevitably took priority, time was pressured
- We missed an internal deadline
- It's not as feature-rich as we wanted it
- It's not as polished as it could be
What we have learnt
- Getting consensus amongst colleagues is difficult, lemon difficult
- It's hard to look at your own business objectively
- Plan it like a client project, seriously
- Don't let perfectionism get in the way of progress
- Hiring a professional copywriter helps
- We are our harshest critics
- The audience that matters most isn't designers or developers
If we were to take one thing away from this process it would be...
Be kinder to your clients, working on projects to promote your own business is a lot harder than you think.
If you are an advertising, marketing or digital agency looking to improve your online presence but just don't have the time, hiring a competing agency to do it for you isn't as mad as it sounds.