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How to Turn Your Website Wishes into an Actionable Plan

Dec, 2021

Creating Accurate Specifications, Timelines, and Budgets—Quickly

The first step in ensuring your company’s website overhaul is a success is to create a plan, which includes both people and strategy. Corporate websites are not built by individuals. They are complex projects requiring multiple skill sets. And, you need to have a clear strategy in place, so the project doesn’t go off the rails.

People in the Room

To start, make sure that design and development are included from the beginning. The sooner they are involved in the process, the better to ensure they understand all of the moving pieces. Design will look at the experience and emotional appeal of the site while development will consider performance, complexities in responsive web applications. It’s important that the people turning your goals into reality be part of the planning process. This avoids the biggest time killer: communications cycles.

The Right Dots

Next, make sure the key steps in the process are front of mind, so they understand how each step leads to the next. Needs to functionality to resource estimates to execution plans and budgets to ROI.


Start with a Site Map. The site map is the visualization of the user journey by pages they hit and the actions they take. A simple site map will show all of the site branches and highlight anything that was missed.

Business Requirements. Business requirements are the explanations of the steps in the sitemap and the dependencies in the organization.

Here is an example:


  1. For customers, your chatbot should automate the FAQs as well as the top five support request journeys and allow a manual handoff to support at admin defined points in the communication.
  2. For visitors, your chatbot should pop up if the user has been on the page more than 30 seconds without making a selection.


  1. There are an average of 1,000 customer support requests that come in per day and 120,000 website visitors per month.
  2. The customer support team has a team of five that work from 7am to 7 pm PST.
  3. The visitor success team has a team of seven that work from 6am to 8 pm PST.
  4. The average time to complete a customer support request is 7:34
  5. The average time to complete a visitor support session is 3:40

The importance of the dependencies is recognizing whether the team manning the tools can handle the work flow or volume that the tools will enable. Prioritize what the organization can handle.


User Experience. Wireframes Only

Wireframes (the blueprint for the website) are the first step in creating the actual experience. Creating wireframes is more than just lines on a page where content goes. Wireframes are created from a deep knowledge of user psychology and behaviors by persona and platform.

Where a button should be, the color of a title, the number of fields in a form, the number of steps before gated content… all of these are steps in a user journey that have an exponential impact on website and business KPIs such as conversion rates. Wireframes also help to identify any potential gaps in the user journeys and give you better insights into the value of tools you may be interested in licensing or buying.


Functional requirements are the technical explanations of how the needs will be met. This includes API or third party product integrations required, platform, and browser requirements (native mobile, responsive web, etc.), and the additional custom development required including the necessary languages such as Java, React.js, Node.js or ReactNative.

The functional requirements are the biggest impacts on the resource and execution plans. Changing languages, requiring complex integrations, fully responsive web applications—each of these add value and time to the website investment. Value and time that will be clear in the final step of this process, ROI.

The next phases in resource estimates, execution plans & budgets, and ROI should be looked at under 3 lenses:

  1. What can we do = Resource estimates & alignment
  2. How will we do it = Execution plans & budgets
  3. What should we do = ROI

Resource Estimates & Alignment


If you don’t have a solid resource utilization plan, now’s the time to create one. You can use google sheets to analyze time spent by function and department, average response times to support tickets and the total number of available hours by function such as UX, UI, front end UI, database design, and iOS. Human resource estimates should focus on what it will take to execute each aspect of the build.

The rules and process I follow to ensure proper planning and budgeting are as follows:

  1. In the estimation process get ½ person day estimates for each feature/function.
  2. Add a complexity and a comfort level weight to each feature/function on a scale of 1 to 5. Add a percentage to the total time estimated based upon the total weight x 10%, so if a feature had a complexity of two a comfort level of three and an initial estimate of 10 hours the total time for the estimate would be 15 hours = ((2×10%) + (3×10%) + 100%) x 10

An additional benefit of the weighted estimate model is that you can look at comfort level weights to determine if a skillset or experience level is missing from your team that could save 10-50% of the project time and costs.


What tools does your company use (CMS, CRM, ESP) that will help or impede progress for the next version of the site? What platforms exist that could help meet business requirements with minimum development or design time or cost? This includes external platforms such as chatbots, video plugins.

Execution Plans & Budgets

Now it’s time to model out the options. At this point your planning sheet should show the features and functions to be implemented with a total time required. Mapping that against the available skill-sets and bandwidth you can now understand the gaps—if any—that need to be bridged. If you need to add headcount then there’s an additional step to understand how additional headcount—by option—will impact cost and release timelines.

If the team needed to be expanded, what tools and processes are in place, how long would they take and what would they cost?

Here are the three main options for expanding the team and the data needed to make a decision on the optimal path:

  1. Direct hire (FT)
    1. Time to hire
    2. Cost
    3. Speed to completion (from today)
  2. Direct hire (Contract)
    1. Time to hire
    2. Cost
    3. Speed to completion (from today)
  3. Agency
    1. Time to hire
    2. Cost
    3. Speed to completion (from today)
    4. Time for contracting for new vendors
    5. Approved vendors that meet needs

Add any external options to license, partner or buy tools that could increase speed to market. When comparing options against time based KPIs it’s important to have each option compared against the same units of measurement. Those units of measurement are cost, time to commercialization, and percentage of need fulfilled.

Now comes the final and most important step: ROI.


The business case is based upon the ROI. To accurately get to an ROI you need to understand stakeholder needs and KPIs against the time and cost of the options to meet those needs. This allows executives to make time vs. cost decisions. Remember, the website is one puzzle piece of the total business—even if it’s the most important piece. When senior leadership allocates budget, it is for the growth of the company, and it’s your job as the site owner to demonstrate how the site will have the greatest ROI for the company.

It’s ok if you’re wondering, “how do I get to an ROI on something that hasn’t been built yet?” Think about it this way, you’re going to get a loan for a new restaurant, how much do you need and why? When do you run out of money? When are you making enough money to support all expenses? How much do you need to spend to get to that breakeven point? These are basic questions that apply to the business value of the website, and unlike many other businesses, like a restaurant, a website can be updated or launched in pieces that create incremental value along the way.

Remember that the goal is to deliver time-based value. One option may cost more but save 180 days in ramp time providing speed to break even. Another option may provide reduced functionality but start providing incremental improvements within a week.

Now that you know what you are going to build and how it’s time to set up the project and team for success. In the next post we will run through tools and best practices for efficiency and team morale through any size project.

Also read: Digital Content Strategy: How to Make the Most of Your Website’s Assets

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