Four Kitchens

How assessment planning secures a stable future for your organization’s website

5 Min. ReadDigital strategy

The discovery process is a vital first step for any organization working with an agency partner to implement website improvements. More than an early way to understand the scope of a project, discovery enables an agency to develop a document that outlines your project’s goals.

But that level of discovery should be just the beginning. When you’re working with the right agency partner, discovery reads between the lines to clarify the reasoning behind your website improvements: What should this project accomplish? How will it bring your organization closer to its goals?

Unless you’ve recently rebranded or you face a technological hurdle like a Drupal 7 migration, organizations often struggle to articulate goals for a project. However, discovery allows you and your stakeholders to examine your project with the experts and gain alignment about what your website needs.

But what if your organization’s needs aren’t so cut-and-dried? Without data to support a redesign or other digital enhancement, you’re unlikely to propose a capital expenditure like a website project to leadership. You need an outside perspective to assess where your site stands — and more importantly, where it needs to go.

A vital addition to website support: assessment planning

As you work to gather information to support site improvements, your website remains at a standstill — and so does your organization. Even if you already partner with an agency to provide website support, conventional bug fixes and security updates can’t uncover what you need. Your website needs an expanded definition of “support.”

Frankly, we couldn’t agree more. At Four Kitchens, our Continuous Care program is designed to provide a forward-thinking view of your digital needs that extends beyond resolving outages and other site issues. But Continuous Care didn’t always offer a way to gather data to clarify your next steps and align stakeholders toward those goals. Until now.

Assessment planning is a new, additional layer of service in our Continuous Care program. Instead of waiting to secure the budget for a project that will ask big-picture questions about your website, you can “pre-plan” a way forward through your website support subscription.

How assessment planning paves the way for digital advancement

Assessment planning enables you to make data-driven decisions about your website’s design, content strategy, and user experience. Previously only available through discovery or a standalone audit, the assessment service can be completed within your support subscription workflow.

The assessment incorporates qualitative and quantitative data through site metrics and user-centered research. The process includes the following approaches to gathering information:

  • Survey: A self-serve questionnaire for you to distribute to your organization’s key stakeholders. These questions focus on what you want to know most about your users, why you want to know it, and how to find the answers.
  • Stakeholder interviews: Encompasses three to five half-hour conversations with a UX strategist that will further explore the topics covered in the survey.
  • Workshop: A 90-minute group exercise that enables us to identify the most important questions as a group and create a plan to answer them.

Along with providing space to discuss and question your organization’s needs, the process generates documentation of the road ahead. The deliverables at the end of assessment planning include:

  • A plan for answering questions about your users
  • Areas of focus for site analytics
  • A proposal to build a dashboard to track those KPIs
  • User journey maps

The end goal is to clarify what your organization needs to do next and how to plan for it. Rather than looking into the near future of a conventional project timeline, we extend that runway to 18 or 24 months. That way, you can create a fiscally responsible roadmap.

Why assessment planning is always a good idea

Even if your organization doesn’t foresee an imminent website project, assessment planning provides a way to recalibrate your focus. The assessment takes a holistic view of your site and allows you to identify issues before they arise. And, at the same time, your organization gains the ability to capitalize on opportunities that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Plus, you should consistently assess how well your website delivers users to what they need. Unfortunately, user behavior changes rapidly on the web. If you haven’t revisited the user journey map for your website in more than a year, you should. Chances are, you’ll need to adjust your user experience, if not start all over again.

For example, for a number of our clients who have a rich catalog of content, we’ve implemented robust site search technologies. But we sometimes find that visitors aren’t searching for what they need that way. Instead, they go to a website, open a new tab, and ask Google to find the internal page they want.
The trend was borne out of organizations building websites with navigation structures that were so complex that users were turned off. Instead of clicking through multiple menus or searching your site, users took their chances with Google.

Consistently examining your site’s user journey map identifies roadblocks in its functionality, content, or some combination of both. Then, with an assessment plan in place, you can work toward removing them in a timely, strategic way.

Shift your support mindset with assessment planning

Our offering of discovery-level activities in a maintenance plan doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to website support. But it is a much-needed shift in thinking.

Even if you have the budget for a big, long-overdue website project, you shouldn’t view it as a finite thing. Projects have a start date and an end date, but websites and their audiences are always evolving. And they’re changing because of factors beyond your control, such as how user habits and expectations shift.

You should view your website as a product‌ — ‌not a project. You may expect support to include bug fixes, security patches, and site updates. But if your site is being assessed and enhanced steadily with an eye toward consistent improvement, support can mean so much more.

If this sounds like a partnership that will keep your website moving forward, we should talk.