Delivering a successful Webflow project is a complex task. By dedicating time to understand the project we can orchestrate our effort beforehand instead of "acting like a chicken without its head"* throughout the entire process.
* "Acting like a chicken without its head" is a Spanish way of saying you are running around not knowing why, neither where you're going.
As Webflowers, there are times when we believe that having the final designs is all what we need to deliver a successful Webflow build. That is far from being true and is our job to uncover all the underlaying variables that operate during the Webflow phase.
The story goes as follows. The client or our colleague hands off the design. With the quality of the material delivered, you envision the Webflow site being a masterpiece. You are full of excitement and want to transmit this to the team and client. You jump straight into a blank Webflow canvas and start placing divs. In little time you will have a first version that will impress the people involved.
Yes. That's the magic of Webflow. Being able to build something in hours, sometimes minutes. But we need to balance that magic with what is expected from us and from the project. And we can't gather this information by solely looking at the designs.
On this article we are going to make a deep dive into comprehending a Webflow project and its stakeholders. The main idea is to surface any insights that could impact the way we understand the project and the client before we start producing. There are two key reasons for doing this. First. Reduce to a minimum expensive unexpected changes during development. Two. Making the final result a triumph by managing stakeholders expectation early on in the process.
I want to be clear here. Webflow strategy has nothing to do with user or buyer personas, user journeys nor brand values. Those have all been all address on earlier stages. We are now on the Webflow phase and the user we are creating for is our client, not our client's client. Our aim is to create a Webflow site that is usable and maintainable for the people that has hired us. This means the discussion should revolve around CMS powered systems, interconnectivity of the Webflow site with our client's marketing stack, maintainability and scalability, launch schedule and everything related to creating a tool that addresses the problems that made our client reach us out on the first place.
The ideas on this article are not targeted to five pages builds where the greater complexity is setting the email address where the form submissions will be sent. The ideas here are aimed towards big projects where is not only the amount of pages what increases, but the people, tools and decisions to be made.
Webflow Strategy is knowledge transfer. When faced with a new Webflow project, there is a lot of information to be digested from the client before committing to a deliverable. That's why Webflow Strategy has the most impact on Webflow-only project, where you need to catch-up with the decisions made up to this point and what the client expects moving forward.
If you are coming from a longer process with the client that includes design or even brand strategy, the questions and concerns Webflow Strategy addresses might be resolved, making it less relevant on this cases.
We are in the industry where we build custom Webflow sites for our clients. And by custom I do not only mean the sites we build, but the relationships we create, the proposals we sent, the terms our clients agree on. With this scenario, I do not believe in a one-size-fits-all, step-by-step tutorial. Instead, what you will find on this article, is a series of organized ideas for you to understand, digest and evaluate to which extent apply them into your current way of working.
Webflow Strategy is the exercise of gathering, organizing and presenting relevant information about a given Webflow project and its stakeholders. The aim is to root the course of the project on the insights discovered through this process.
Information gathering consists on understanding the project's requirements and what the people involved expects. Organizing is filtering the relevant pieces that will define how to approach the project. And presenting is confirming with the client the alignment in the conclusions drawn.
I know this might sound abstract but be mindful you're doing this on the sales process.
Webflow strategy is taking this process a few steps further and get a clearer picture right out in the beginning before production starts.
Here are true experiences that help visualize the importance of understanding a project and its circumstances beforehand.
As you get better at Webflow and closing deals, bigger projects come to your door. With bigger projects, there are more pieces and people involved. The chances of something going wrong increases. Combining this with the eagerness of jumping straight into the Webflow Designer, crucial decisions and conversations are normally left to "when the time comes". Meaning we don't face a problem or decision until we have it right in our face.
Let's illustrate it with an example.
During the initial calls, the client mention they want a way of building new pages once the site is ready. This is not a trivial request but we treat it as it is, don't giving it the attention needed. We want to start building, leaving this request to "when the time comes". Days goes by and the site is getting to a good shape. The client assumes they are going to be able to create new pages. 2 days for launch. We almost forgot about the request of building new pages when the client mentions it on a call. The panic starts flowing. What type of pages want the client to be able to create? Should we use a CMS-powered system? Or a symbol-based one? How many new pages are expected to be build in the following months?
As you can see, there are multiple variables that operate under a given request and we cannot take them lightly
By moving multiple conversations and decisions that happen throughout the process to the initial part of the engagement, we commit to understanding what it is required to take a Webflow project to a successful state.
Is important to say that Webflow strategy is not the panacea —something that will solve all your problems— but, by explicitly creating time to uncover possible uncertainties and plan ahead, you are committing to better deliver.
We don't always know straight-away how we would handle a specific request from a client. We know it is possible, we read about it or heard someone doing something similar. But haven't done it yet. The ability to research possible solutions to a problem or requirement and present them to the client is part of Webflow Strategy.
New projects normally come with a long list of requests and/or requirements. The majority are coherent straight-away but there are others we need to dig deeper to understand them.
Webflow strategy allows us time to communicate the implications and effort a certain request needs. With the correct information at the front, the client can decide if they want to move forward or change the way a specific request is going to be implemented. There will be cases where a requirement is removed after knowing its strong implications versus the low impact it will have on the site.
As a whole, contextualizing the client about a specific request helps resolve questions or considerations in the beginning of the process rather than in the middle of it. Or even worse, one day before the launch.
Investing time to explain things to the client means, we are taking care of them. This immediately brings a feeling of involvement. As a plus, explaining thing up front gives context about the small decisions we make throughout the process —those that don't need a specific meeting to be addressed— .
By having a clear picture from the beginning, we narrow down the uncertainties that may arise. This help us as a team to have clear view of what's next.
Allocating our time efficiently and having all the important conversations at the beginning, allows us to create a better flow state while producing. No important decisions to be discussed while we are doing our magic in the Webflow Designer.
Here are guidelines on how to conduct Webflow Strategy with your clients. In the end, it is about letting the client know we will set time at the beginning of the engagement to plan the project.
Define how long Webflow Strategy will take. Depending on how big the client's team is, this initial process can fit between one or two weeks. The main variables impacting here are response times to our questions sent over email and availability to schedule a meeting.
Create a mini timeline for Webflow Strategy to give clarity on what is expected from the client during this phase, including emails to be sent, calls to be made and who is expected to participate on each of these.
It is important to identify the people who have a voice about the project and what their expectations are. Depending on the type of project and client, the people involved vary. Here is a list of people that might be involved in the production and launch of a marketing site from the client side.
This person holds a title such as CMO, head of marketing... They oversee the entire project and must be included on every Webflow Strategy conversation. The marketing lead will help us contextualize the project on our client's growth strategy. The information provided by the marketing lead might not be directly related to the way we build the site in Webflow. But, it will establish a solid ground to absorb the information that is shared by other people in the client's team. Here is information we can obtain from the marketing lead:
One last role of the marketing lead is to be the connector between the CEO and us. Normally CEOs are not involved on this type projects but their final approval is crucial for launch. More on this on the last item of the list.
The content marketer will be the person who was a close relationship with the site once is launched. Apart from giving us practical information around SEO-related topics (custom meta tags, URL structure, redirections), we need to craft the Webflow experience with this role in mind. The normal process is for content marketers take control of the Webflow project once the site is launched. Our aim is to create a tool that allows them to scale their online presence.
This person or team can be in-house or outsourced by the client. Either way, our goal is understand the logic behind their designs so we can build systems in Webflow. Grid, spacing, typographic scales, colors and components will be the main actors of this conversation. We need to make sure that the design work is respected throughout the whole process.
Sometimes, there are specific requests that need the help from an internal engineer. I love this type of collaborations for two reasons
These people can push back weeks of work on a blink of an eye. You want to make sure that you understand their expectations talking directly with them or through the marketing lead.
Be mindful that a single person con hold different roles. There might be other people outside this roles that are close to the project. Make sure that no one with a strong connection with the project is left behind.
Now is time to initiate separate conversations on this four areas: SEO, CMS, design & custom functionalities. A good way of approaching information gathering is as follow:
If the project is multi-language, I recommend opening a specific conversation on this topic.
If the project is a migration from a different platform, special care on SEO must be taken. When it comes to migrating a site into Webflow, there are times clients expect to keep working the same way they were doing in their old platform. Make sure to have a focused conversation on "old way of doing things" vs "new way".
Here are ideas on elaborating your predefined question sets. Remember, the following should not be seen as sets of close questions. These will help prepare the stage for a comprehensive live conversation around each of the topics and should be tailored on a per-project basis.
The aim is to use CMS-powered system as much as possible. This will give the power to content marketers to scale their site with no friction.
On this step is where you makes sense of all the information gathered. Important pieces are filtered over the non-relevant ones. We give ourselves time to research possible solutions to features we aren't clear on. We schedule second calls to validate points left unclear. And we confirm with the client on a per-area basis how thing will be handled.
A last call is schedule with everyone involved to present our findings and how we will proceed. This call serves as a starting point of the Webflow work and to make sure that everyone knows where we are at and where are we getting to.
At this point we will have a clear path to a complete Webflow site that works for everyone in the client's team. Now is time to jump into our favorite tool and have fun, knowing that all the pieces fit together.