Ministry leaders like yourself–about to begin a new web or app project–often feel immense pressure. After all, the success or failure of your product significantly impacts your ministry’s growth, reach, and reputation. Moreover, the resources you invest in the project give you little room for error. Rebuilding the product isn’t generally an option, even if it falls short of users’ (and your own) high expectations. You’re already squeezing everything you can from your budget to stand up the product the first time.
Despite these understandable concerns, developing up-to-date digital products is essential for engaging your constituents in your mission. Today’s end users expect pleasant and seamless user experiences from their digital interactions.
To put your ministry in the best possible position for success, it’s crucial to avoid common project blunders that will derail your efforts. Below, we’ll discuss five missteps you can skirt to ensure your ministry’s app or website meets the needs of your constituents—and, ultimately, further spreads your mission.
1. Building Your Ministry’s Digital Product for the Wrong Audience
One of the most critical mistakes you can make when starting a new project is planning and building your ministry’s app or website for the wrong audience.
It’s not uncommon for internal stakeholders to create an app or website as if they’re the primary ones who will be using it. While their input can be invaluable (more on this later), you must develop your product with the people who will genuinely be using it—your constituents—at the forefront.
Remember, the primary purpose of your app or website is to spread your ministry’s mission—and Christ’s teachings—as far and wide as possible. A product that resonates with the greatest number of your constituents (not simply with the personal preferences of individuals) is the best way to encourage its widespread adoption.
2. Setting Aside User Research as Your Project Takes Off
An essential aspect of any successful app or website project is gathering robust user research and feedback to inform the plans for your product. To truly understand your constituents’ needs, you must engage with them directly, conducting interviews, surveys, and focus groups to glean valuable insights.
Sidenote: When you conduct user research, be sure you’re not only interviewing your organization’s “super fans.” These folks will likely use any product you create because they’re wonderfully loyal to your ministry. The real opportunity lies in converting more passive constituents into super fans because of your awesome new app or website.
Consider taking a decidedly analog approach to keep user research findings at the heart of your development process. Posting physical sticky notes—or even poster boards—with user personas around your workspace serve as tangible reminders of who you’re building your product for. Maintaining consistent focus on your intended users will ensure your end result truly meets their needs.
3. Involving Stakeholders at the Incorrect Times
Finding the right balance of stakeholder involvement is another critical-yet-difficult aspect of avoiding project blunders. Ensuring key stakeholders—including leadership, development, UI/UX, and finance team members—are involved in the early stages of your project, particularly during the discovery phase, is vital to aligning your team’s vision and creating a clear roadmap for success.
That said, all stakeholders do not need to be involved in the entire process. In fact, involving too many stakeholders can quickly lead to a focus on their perspectives rather than your users’ needs.
Ensuring a balanced approach throughout your project keeps your efforts streamlined and focused on that ultimate goal: creating a successful app or website for your ministry’s constituents that furthers your mission.
4. Failing to Pivot on Your Ministry’s Path to the Final Product
App and website projects are complex and ever-evolving. It’s important to maintain an agile approach, allowing your team to pivot and adjust based on new insights and learnings. While some planning is necessary—we love a good on-site discovery session!—attempting to hash out every detail from the outset can hinder your project’s adaptability.
You and your team will uncover new insights as you journey through your project. You need to be adept enough to incorporate these insights—without throwing off the whole timeline. Similar to managing stakeholder involvement, it’s another balancing act.
Examples of necessary pivots include altering your target audience or implementing new features based on user feedback. Case in point: our client, EveryCampus, had to shift their tone from speaking to college students to speaking to the pastors and professional staff serving them. We could only pivot once we realized students weren’t using the app like we thought they would. And if we hadn’t pivoted? The app would never have appealed to the correct user group.
At the end of the day, it’s about remembering that change and adjustment are inevitable—and essential to ensuring your project’s success.
5. Spending Your Entire Project Budget Pre-Launch
While it’s necessary to have adequate funds for your ministry’s project from the get-go, it’s just as imperative not to overspend before your product even launches.
A good rule of thumb is to reserve approximately one-third of your budget for post-launch expenses. That might include latent adjustments based on user feedback and other enhancements you want to add to your app down the line.
A Successful Project Is a Step in the Right Direction for Your Ministry
Taking on a new app or website project for your ministry is challenging, given the high stakes and visibility of such an endeavor. By avoiding these five common blunders, you will significantly increase the likelihood of your project’s success, delivering a digital product that effectively satisfies the needs of your constituents while further spreading your mission.
Remember to keep your audience’s needs and preferences at the forefront of your efforts, maintain a balanced approach to stakeholder involvement, and allow for flexibility and adaptability as you navigate the sometimes complicated landscape of app and website development.