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three 18 three

Where I currently work (a fast expanding museum in downtown San Francisco) we’re building a lot of new things. There’s a multitude of initiatives across SFMOMA and, amongst all of those, my team is working on a new website, a new app, new onsite digital experiences and the new systems to support them. Over the last few months we’ve moved from the planning phase for many of these projects into the doing phase. I much prefer to be doing than planning, but doing without planning is seldom successful.

During all this planning, and especially budgeting, a strategy for scoping digital projects has emerged that I’m calling three 18 three. Put simply, when you are planning and budgeting a new digital initiative, don’t treat the launch date as the end date. The launch date is the beginning of three 18 three:


spend the 3 months after launch testing, iterating and updating the experience

at 18 months, plan to replace (or at least refresh) the content of the experience – this will take money and time

at 3 years it’s time to replace (or at least refresh) the hardware, the infrastructure or possibly the whole thing

demo image

Obviously you’ll be doing user testing before you launch, but nothing compares to having real users engaging with the “finished” product. What this also means is that if you’re preparing a project budget and timeline that stops at launch, you’ve got a problem. I believe that it’s always preferable to do fewer things, better. That might mean shrinking the scope, or amount, of digital projects your organization is planning in order to support the evaluation, improvement and updating of the things you do focus on. This may mean killing sacred cows and pet projects.

We’ve been using this approach at SFMOMA and, in doing so, have put on hold or totally walked away from a number of projects that we couldn’t do to the standard we expect of ourselves – when taking this longer term view.

I’m sure you can think a few projects you’re currently part of that don’t have a post-launch strategy, nor the ongoing staffing or funding support they need. If you can, now is the time to make a change.


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