When you are looking to hire a a consultant to build you a WordPress business website, you may get suggested to build the site in “phases”. Is this a real thing? Or is this just a trick for a consultant to do less work for the same amount of money?
Building in Phases is Good for Business
We are big fans of building business websites in phases. It is important to understand that our approach focuses on your business objectives and goals. We don’t want to build you a website that you can’t afford to market, or one that will just hurt your business. We know before you contact us you have already done some research on what your business “needs” in a website. You want to have your customers do certain things with your website that your current website (if your business has one) doesn’t allow them to do. Whether it be logging in to view invoices, pay their invoices, or even just have an area that is for customers only to view certain products.
Phase I – The Minimally Viable Product (MVP)
When it comes to phased approaches, we liked to call “Phase I” the MVP, or the most minimally viable product. This is the product (website) that is going to be the least feature rich, but still can meet all of your immediate business goals. If your goal is to get more customers in your door, then maybe Phase I doesn’t need to have the ability for them to log in. We’d rather take the money you would spend on those extra features and use it for social media marketing. This way your main business objective is met.
If you are building a new site, or a site for a new business, your first concern should always be getting new customers. Phase I should reflect those needs and only those needs.
Phase II – Moving Forward & Service
As your site and business grow, revisiting the wish list of features is going to dictate which of them is going to meet your next set of business goals. As an example, you may no longer need customers to log in to pay invoices, but you would like them to log in to see special deals only. This was part of your initial ask, however you see that with your new customers that they want to see your special deals prior to making contact or purchase.
As your business grows, not just will your business objectives change (that is normal) but the original features you said you needed will shift in priority and importance. It is only once you have a good foundation for your business to get new customers should you be thinking of features that require custom development.
Another thing to consider when moving into the next phases of your business website, is how your current customers are not just finding your business, but interacting with your business. Having features to keep your existing customers satisfaction high means you have a higher chance of re-selling them or up-selling them on things later. Giving them new features that they ask for is a great way to make sure that your existing customers are going to stick around for a long time. So while phases II and onwards can focus on how to get new customers, they should also focus on the service and satisfaction of the existing customers.
Organic Business Objectives
Another thing to consider is that as your business grows, you may see a shift in what your paying customers actually want. This happens all the time in business, we look at what we are trying to sell and compare it to what is actually selling, then figure out how to sell more. This even works with WordPress consultants. Even we have tried other areas of business, but come back to building business websites because we are good at it, and have requests for them.
As your business grows, and your business objectives shift, your website should follow to support those shifts. Using a phased business website build means that in between phases you may not just re-prioritize, but also add new features that become more important. Hindsight is 20/20, unfortunately without the power of time travel, we don’t know what our business needs for the future.
When Phases are Bad for Business
There aren’t too many cases where building a business website in phases is bad. However, we have a few examples.
While you may be focused on getting new customers, a (good) problem might be that working too well. When customer demand becomes too much and you don’t have the full application in place, it could turn some customers off to your business. Taking the same example, if a potential customer wanted to see the deals prior to contacting, but weren’t able to, they may turn away and opt to go to another business instead. This is a weird example, but the fundamental point is that the customer may expect something that you don’t have available yet. While this is a good problem to have because of the high demand, it puts strain on customer service and sales to make sure to keep potential customers happy with incentives, which could eat into profit margins.
MVP is too “Miniminal”
This is similar to the first example, and we’ve seen it happen a few times. We are all for building a MVP, but deciding what to cut out of the original feature request is a gamble. If you are creating something larger like a web based application for your business, one feature could be the difference between something worthy of buying into, and something that isn’t. Think of all the apps you have on your phone right now, Each one probably has a number of features you don’t use, but at least one that you do. That one feature if not executed in the MVP of the app means you wouldn’t have downloaded it and kept it on your phone.
Deciding which features go into an MVP is another post for another day, but it is something we are happy to discuss with you and your business.
Overall we are big fans of phased approaches to building business websites. They allow you to save money up front for more important things (like marketing) and allow your website or application to grow organically with your business. Putting too many features into your business website right at launch locks you in.