We’ve all heard them before, the tales of a seemingly “simple” website projects that turned into nightmares.
These stories don’t just come from one side of the project though. From an agency perspective, I have heard them from both the clients as well as the project managers.
The projects start with an amazing proposal, clearly laid out.
“Should be a breeze!” they say. “This will be an easy one.”
Except that is very rarely the case.
While most redesign projects follow a similar process of four phases (plan, prep, build, launch), I’ve learned preparation tends to be the most crucial.
It is important to have a good understanding of exactly what your website redesign will entail, the amount of time needed to set aside and who will need to be involved in the process from start to finish.
Whether you are a working with an agency or a designer/developer to build a new website, flushing through these things in the Prep phase internally BEFORE working with an agency will set your project up for a smoother and more successful launch.
Let’s take a look at a few tips (and scenarios) to help make sure you don’t fall into the same pattern:
1. Complete a Discovery
Before you even consider a website project internally or with an agency, you’ll want to complete a discovery. Take a look at your site and get real about what is working and what isn’t.
Not sure where to start? Think back to pain points you have heard from your users and take a good look at the data (analytics, heat maps, visitor recordings, etc).
Do you really need all of the functionality? Are your visitors constantly dropping off at one point of the user journey? Have you spent the past year patching together your website as your organization has grown?
With the answers these deep dive questions create a list of “must haves” and another of “would be nice to have.” Share this list with the project manager or strategist you are working with.
2. Identify All Decision Makers
So, we get deep into the strategy and design process. Everyone is excited because timelines are being met, strategy is spot on, and designs are bringing our ideas to life.
It’s exciting and everyone can’t wait to move the designs into a fully-functioning website -- and then it happens. There is suddenly another team, stakeholder, or board that needs to approve the designs before development starts.
Not only does this sudden appearance of another step of approval slow things down but it has potential to completely derail a project entirely and blow the timeline out of the water!
Don’t let sudden stakeholders take the project by surprise. Talk with your team to identify who(m) will be providing final approval throughout the entire project.
This seal of approval includes approval of strategy, wireframes, designs, development, content, and ultimately the launch of the website.
It is important to keep in mind that the larger the group of decision-makers, the longer it may take to get everyone on board with a decision.
With that said, aim to keep the number of decision makers low but comprised of impactful individuals who have a clear understanding of the organization's objectives, the authority to give approval on behalf of their organization, as well as a strong desire to move your organization forward.
3. Write Your Copy
During the planning process, you and your project manager have decided the copy on the current site could use a refresh.
The idea of this is exciting but daunting at the same time. It’s common to feel there is a little time to spare waiting for copy while the strategy, wireframing, and designing is happening. However, this is the exact trap we can often fall into.
With a redesign, it’s likely your entire page structure will change and the text on the page on your old site simply won’t work.
When a webpage is designed before the copy we then have to mold the copy to fit within the design. While this is not an uncommon practice it is not the more effective. When copy is created prior to the design, the designer as the ability to create a page the accurately navigates the user through the page and to the overall objective, whether that be clicking a call-to-action or completing a form.
Work with your project manager or a content strategist to and build out a strong copy to create a more effective and efficient redesign/design process.
4. Identify Tech Needs
As a project begins, the marketing team and project manager kickoff anxious and ready to deep dive into the prep and planning of the new website.
Perhaps access to the portal or content management system of the current website is given to the project manager but little needs to be done to t the actual website in the early stages.
The website project progresses, smooth sailing, and then we hit a block.
The block could be as small as needing full admin access to the website or as large as realizing the current host just won’t handle the size of website planned.
Without identifying these little hiccups from the beginning of the project, they can turn into a lengthy timeline delay for launch.
In order to identify these issues, it is important for project managers and developers to have full access and credentials to the current website, hosting, and DNS from the onset of the project.
5. Gather Branding Requirements & Assets
So, last, but not least, picture this. The project has moved along through planning and into design without a blip. The strategy has been established, copy is moving along smoothly, and possibly a general branding guide was provided containing logo variations, maybe a font or two but then the designs are presented.
Suddenly the colors aren’t right (CEO doesn’t like red). There is too much whitespace and square corners will only be accepted.
Receiving feedback such as that, while helpful, should be addressed up front in the planning process.
It is important to provide project managers and designers with the specific branding and design preference up front.
By no means does this constrain a designer but instead helps provide direction and allows both the client and designer to be in alignment going forward.
These scenarios really do happen and they illustrate the importance of proper prep in the redesign process.
By addressing each before you even enter the project process, the potential success and efficiency of your website redesign will greatly increase and allow the next steps to move forward with little hitch.
With a successful plan and prep phase behind you, the build phase has higher potential to move along with little to no delay.
It can become complicated if functionality is not as clear as it should have been or technical issues that are out of your control arise, but with the plan and prep foundations established these issues will become few and far between.
While the designers and developers and building out the website, this is the opportunity to dig deep and finalize your copy and additional assets for the website.
While each phase of the website redesign project can present its own set of issues, proper preparation can set your project on track for a successful outcome more than any other.
We’ve been in the trenches, experienced the roadblocks, managed through the launch delays and from all of these experiences, the tips above will surely help you from having to do the same. Need a little extra help staying on track?
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A Designer at IMPACT, Ashleigh has been creating and developing innovative web design solutions for clients for over the last five years. Outside of IMPACT, you’re most likely to find Ashleigh cheering on her kids at a hockey rink or a swimming pool, teaching a Pilates class, or walking her energetic pitbull, Hershey.