- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On February 11, 2015
Websites don’t last forever. More like a few years. Then it’s time for a redesign. And from my experience those redesigns can sure be challenging.
Here’s a checklist of items to consider when redesigning your website.
If you’re part of a larger organization, like a hospital, the planning stage can be long but it’s critical to the success of the project Here are some areas you need to consider in your planning.
1. Know your goals
This ones pretty much a given. What’s the point of this redesign? What are your key goals? What do you want to be different after the site is redesigned? How do you define success for this project? Do you have numeric goals you need to hit? What are they?
You’re about to spend many (many) hours working on your website. You should know what you’re trying to achieve on the other side of this.
2. Manage your stakeholders
If you’ve ever built a website before, you know this one. If not, here’s a huge tip: The hardest part of a website project is not the technology, it’s the people.
The reality is that a website is a “hub” for how the outside world sees your whole organization. As such, there are a lot of people internally that are going to want to have a say.
Getting major stakeholders to agree on what goes on the site and how it looks can take a lot of work. But it’s a fact of life when in the website building business.
3. Know your assets
Take stock of what you have on your current website. Take a look at your website analytics and see what pages have garnered the most traffic. If you have conversion mechanisms in place, like forms visitors fill out, see which pages have historically converted best. If you’re publishing content, like a blog, look back to see which stories have been the most popular. Use these numbers to drive your decisions for the redesign.
4. Connect with your brand
What is your brand? What does your organization stand for? How are you different to your competitors? What is your unique value proposition? If you have this documented, then review it. If not, time to come up with a few answers. Your branding will drive your messaging and aesthetic choices (fonts, color palette etc.)
5. Listen to your personas
Think about the personas that will be coming to your website. (Here’s a post we wrote on personas if you need a refresh.) How can you best help each persona type when they arrive at your site? You want to design your site for your visitors rather than structure it by your departments, offerings etc. The site will be most useful when it’s set up the way your user wants not how you think about yourselves internally.
6. Plan to be found
Building a website today means considering search engines. You want to make it search engine friendly. You need to think about the keywords that matter the most to you and work these into key pages on your site. You may want to take into account local SEO factors like having your address and phone number consistently on every page. (Here’s a post we wrote about keyword research.)
7. “Thrash” early
This is a concept from Seth Godin’s Linchpin book. When you’re dealing with a complex project like a website redesign it’s critical to “thrash early”. “Thrashing” is the practice of showing what you have to others (like your boss and other senior managers) and having them change things.
If you “thrash early” you will come to agreement on the key decisions before embarking into the stages of the project that require a lot of labor (such as coding a website.) If you wait too long, you can find that a senior stakeholder insists on something being changed that could take weeks to fix and could be very expensive.
Once you’ve gotten past all the planning stages you can actually get the new site built. This is the fun part. Here are the typical stages in building out your site.
8. Map things out
Your website needs an architecture. What are the major pages of the site? What are the pages under that? Where does all your content live? A site map gives a good overview of all this.
9. Frame it
Your website designers will next create “wireframes” of critical web pages on your site. These wireframes do not have any design elements, such as colors and fonts. They are purely functional. The goal is to show you what functional elements will go on the main pages in your site and to get you to sign off on these.
10. Pretty things up
A little trick web developers play at this stage to ask you for a few websites you like. The reason for this is to understand the aesthetics that appeal to you. Everybody has different design tastes.
Several mock ups of some of the main pages on your site are generated in a program such as Photoshop. These are not functioning web pages but drawings of web pages. The goal here is to get the pages looking the way you want.
11. Stand back! Coding in progress
Now that you’ve singed off on the function and design of the key pages in your site, building can finally begin. Web pages are coded with HTML, filled with content and other more advanced features are built depending on the site’s needs.
12. Try to break things
Once the site is actually built you should try to break it! Test it that is. Look for things like dead links, broken pages and thoroughly test all more advanced features on the site.
13. Count to 10
Once the site is thoroughly tested (and you’ve signed off on it) it’s time to launch. The launch process includes getting the site hosted on its permanent server and getting all your analytics/tracking set up.
14. One more thing
Even though you may have “thrashed early”, people will find things they want to change on the finished site. Be ready for some changes.