Five crucial questions for your web development team

As
marketers, we can nod sagely as we drone on about this tip and that tactic: Add
a signup form, change the shopping cart, add a tracking pixel, change the title
tag.

But
in the end, much of the work falls to the development team. They have to get
all of this stuff done.

Development
is part of the marketing team. But internet marketing efforts grind to a halt
behind overworked programmers, overtasked producers and incompatible platforms.
In 18 years of internet marketing, I’ve seen more projects fail in execution
than succeed. It’s frustrating, and heartbreaking, when just the completion of a few
simple tasks could grow a client’s business.

So,
here are five questions you must ask
any development team, before you
launch your next round of CEO-mandated, death-from-above marketing initiatives:

Want to grab lunch?

Before you do
anything else, get development talking to marketing. The two teams must understand each
other. Developers and marketers seem to speak different languages because they
do: Marketers speak in terms of audience, conversions and revenue, and
everything is top priority. Developers speak in terms of hours available, work
queues and testing. Everything has to have a priority. If you want your
campaign to work, get each team to understand the language of the other.
Preferably with free food as the backdrop.

How do you prioritize
tasks?

 Once
you have them at lunch, ask them how they prioritize. What makes a task higher-
or lower-effort? More or less important? This isn’t so you can work the system.
It’s so that you can fit your needs into the larger needs of the organization.

Can we use your ticketing
system?

 Instead
of lobbing your change requests over the wall via e-mail or a terse question in
a meeting, get into the development team’s workflow. See if you can get
visibility to the entire workflow. Then you can prioritize in the context of
the entire development team workflow. More will get done.

How do changes get to production?

 If you know a code
rollout takes 1 hour and happens 3 times per week, you can plan your campaign
and site changes accordingly. Otherwise, you may toss a major change at your
development team at a time when they’re most stressed, least available, and
least amenable to discussions/meetings. Think about it: Would you interrupt any
other colleague with a new task if you knew they were trying to meet a
deadline? No. Why do it to the dev team?

What’s your team’s core
skillset?

 Ask
this one last, and delicately. A great programmer may
not be a great HTML
developer. If you find this out ahead of time, you can provide
recommendations with the appropriate level of detail. It’s a great way to avoid
the I-meant-you-should-do-that-everywhere-not-just-on-my-example-page problem.
If you want to, you can re-style this question and instead ask, “What
platform do you do most use in development?” or “Do we have HTML
specialists on the team?” But you need the answer. Otherwise, you end up
with landing pages that work perfectly but look awful.

A quick note

By
the way: This all applies whether your development team is in-house or out. The
development team is part of your team. Make it work.

The big wrapup

It
doesn’t matter what tactic you use: SEO, conversion rate optimization, landing
pages, video, ‘content marketing’ (whatever that is). You depend on the
development team to make it happen.

Web
development is a process, regardless of the method. If you know the process,
you’re a smarter participant. And that considerably improves your chances of
success.

Correction: When this article was initially posted on September 9, 2013, it was accidentally published under senior editor Omar Akhtar’s name, when in fact it was authored by Ian Lurie, CEO of Portent. We deeply regret the error and today, we’re reposting the article with its correct byline.

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