Don’t split design and CMS – lessons learned from a web relaunch

My organization is currently working on a major web relaunch: we are moving our public facing website and our two extranets to a CMS and will give them a new, similar look and feel. In a series of articles  I will describe what I have learned during the process. This is the first part.

Lesson learned: Don’t split the contracts for the design-part and the technical implementation!

If I could go back in time and do one thing differently, this would be it.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the CMS we bought, I think the design company has done a great job and I think the company that is implementing the CMS is also doing their part wonderfully.

However, I totally underestimated the amount of time and coordination needed on our side for the design company and the implementation partner to work together effectively.

Even though both partners have been trying to do their best to overcome all problems, we still lost a lot of time, energy and ultimately some money because the process was much more difficult, than if it had all been done by the same company.

Different interpretations

The main problem was that the two companies frequently had very different interpretations and expectations regarding what each side’s responsibilities were.

Sometimes, when A heard that B was going to do X, there were very different definitions of X. And in the end, we as a client were stuck in the middle. This is not the fault of either party, it’s just one of the things that happen. Or maybe it’s our fault for not spending more time on defining exactly what each little thing means. Then again, if you wanna define every little detail then you will spend a year writing the contract.

However, my point is that if both design and technical implementation were done by the same company, then this wouldn’t even be an issue. In that case we could simply say “We don’t care who inside your company is responsible for this detail. It is your responsibility.”

The original rationale – find the best for each part

The original decision to give each part of the project to a different partner sounded good at that time:

We wanted to find the best design company independently from their technical skills and the best technical solution independently from their design skills. And while it should be possible to implement any (not too extravagant) design in any modern CMS, it would have been extremely helpful for everyone if the design company had been familiar with the product.

Thus, the next time I’m doing this kind of project, I’ll make sure to get it all from one source.

Have you had similar experiences when relaunching existing or creating new websites?


  1. Gerald Czech September 30, 2009
  2. KamranRazvan October 6, 2009
  3. Timoluege October 6, 2009