Built to last

As we're now deep into November it can be difficult to find a location for a Saturday outing with the kids. So after a recommendation from a friend we decided to try the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge. This also afforded us the opportunity for the excitement of a train ride from Hitchin and with the weather on our side, we set off on the 30min ride (and mile long walk) to see what it had on offer.

We were pleasantly surprised with what we found with every significant console from 1977 onwards plugged in and ready to play. The working Big Track and Oculus were big favourites too. The hands on nature of the museum definitely meant we had plenty to keep us occupied as I lost three rounds of Street Fighter 2 Turbo against my daughter!

I was particularly struck with how these old machines were all still in perfect working order. Some of them were around forty years old yet were in perfect working order. they certainly don't make them like they used to!

The importance of building something with the focus being on longevity also struck me when I visited the Mersey Gateway project last week. The marketing team there rolled out the red carpet for me. I even went up the forty or so stories to get a view from the pylon (not recommended for those with a fear of heights!) The work being carried out there is awe inspiring and the team and I managed to share some good practice as well.

So, how does all this relate to the world of digital marketing? Well, the message for me is that when designing new web services longevity is key. Too often companies design a website and leave it to rot only to completely redevelop it and to then start the cycle again.

This is not a sustainable work ethic as it means having to continually budget for a large scale revamp. More importantly it means the website is not allowed to develop based on the behaviours of the users. It's not 'future-proof'.

With this in mind we need to look beyond simple, fixed scope projects and instead focus on continual testing and iteration. This method is the ethos of all big B2C companies where they look to evolve their web services rather than to redesign them.

Lean UX explained which aims
for the delivery of the product first
Generally the ethos there is to begin with a Minimum Viable Product. Essentially starting small with few features then relying on gathering insights to advocate/prioritise features. This is particularly useful in campaigns where starting small and learning in stages ensures the best hit rate and value for money. These basic principles are the basis of an excellent new book entitled 'Lean UX' which contains various case studies as an alternative to agile project management.

Of course, the hard bit is selling this approach into senior management. if you're unveiling a new website then they expect to see it with all the bells and whistles attached. By educating them that delivering a staged approach is due to be more cost effective with the developments dictated by users you can reference other agile approaches. For example, we use this method for our social media content planning. Our three month content calendar contains all our important milestones but otherwise a lot of our content is penciled in.

This means we can then reassess and priortise content which is likely to achieve a greater level of engagement. This works in a similar way to an ongoing snagging list when buying a new build home. Our colleagues at Kier Living have this part of the process written in their contracts- without them they would be walking away from their commitments. No-one gets it right first time.

In digital marketing the most important thing will always be the ability to test and learn. This can also relate back to the retro-gaming experience offered at the Computing Centre in Cambridge. If you lose one round of Street Fighter 2 to your seven year old daughter then there's always the chance to learn for your mistakes for round two...!
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