At some point in every business it becomes clear that the company website should be refreshed or fully revamped. Sometimes the reason is as simple as it being out of date and looking tired and old. Other times it's a bit more involved, such as needing to account for more strategic content marketing or improving lead generation. Whatever the reason, it's often not super clear what direction to take with the messaging or goals. You may know, from a high-level or abstract perspective, where you want to end up, but you’re not sure what that looks like or how to get there. That's where roadmapping comes in.
A short story
I worked on a road mapping project last month for a fellow web developer based out of New Mexico. We originally began talking about this because she was considering a redesign. After a bit of back and forth, it became clear that she wasn’t 100% sure of the direction her site should go in considering she was at the start of a change in her business. Aiming to go from a one-person shop to a boutique studio, the messaging was changing and thus the site needed to reflect that.
It could have been easy enough to just go down the path of the full redesign, but it would’ve been the wrong step forward. Instead, we needed to step back and zoom in closely on her business: her goals, her audience, her messaging, etc. While some of this is certainly done at the beginning of a web design project through a discovery phase, this was a bit different as it was hyper focused on her business and overall messaging, not the website. That’s a subtle but significant different. And one that means a much, much smaller investment to “get clear”, as opposed to a larger investment that may have ended up leading her down the wrong path.
That all sounds great, I’m sure, but you might still be scratching your head. So let me get into what roadmapping is exactly.
As explained previously, sometimes it’s difficult for a business owner to figure out how they want their site to work for them. They may have an idea of some loftier goals or what things may look like from a high-level business view, but they have a hard time translating that to their website. And to be fair, that’s not entirely up to them.
It’s this scenario that can lead down the path of disappointment if you just jump into a website redesign project. While contacting web designers for proposals is an easy enough step to make, they’re assuming they’re getting all the “right” info for the proposal. But in reality, they’re only getting a partial picture because the business isn’t even 100% sure of the how when it comes to the site. So the business owners runs the risk of ending up with a website they either aren’t 100% happy with or don’t get results from that line up with the business – or both.
Roadmapping helps bridge this gap between the big, lofty business goals and the website being a pathway (out of potentially many) to reaching those goals. It’s a smaller, more feasible and affordable way to match up your website’s purpose to your business goals. After all, your website is a tool to help your business.
A good roadmapping project brings an outside perspective about your business, the goals you have for it, how it stacks up against competition, who your audience is (hint: it isn’t you), and potentially a ton more. That information gets distilled and translated into website-specific concepts, approaches, and goals – a solid foundation that helps the larger picture that your web team (internal or external) can then build from.
Here’s an important piece: a solid roadmapping project will give you options, including the option to work with a different web design studio or agency to create your website. That’s right – you shouldn’t be locked into working with the same studio that you hired for the roadmapping project. Granted, 99% of the time that’s the best choice. But with a detailed roadmap of how your website should work for you, you can take that to virtually any web design studio to get an idea of costs and capabilities. In other words, you end up with a clearer scope of work that will get you a relatively more accurate proposal (assuming the proposals come from relatively similar web companies).
Not just for marketing websites
Another important thing to keep in mind is that roadmapping isn't just well suited for marketing focused websites. It works very well for web apps and mobile apps too.
Truth be told, there are all kinds of roadmapping projects, but the ones I'm most familiar with and have focused on here are the ones for the web, mobile or otherwise. So if you're wondering where to take your web app next, roadmapping might be a good first step.
Should I or shouldn't I?
So now the question is really about whether or not you're at a point where roadmapping makes sense. So here are a few scenarios where it'd be a good idea:
- you're unsure how to improve your site’s messaging
- your site needs an overhaul but you really want to make it work for your business this time
- you need your site to better line up with your high-level company goals
- you have no idea where to start with your website at all
If you fall within any of those, or similar spots as those I've listed, you really ought to consider a roadmapping project. It'll not only give you clear direction, but it could potentially help prepare you for the time and monetary investment a good website may take.
Even if you're not 100% sure if roadmapping is a good first step, get in touch for a short chat. I might be able to help you get closer to clarity.