We’ve all heard them before, the accounts of seemingly ‘simple’ website projects that turned into nightmares.
Unsurprisingly, these stories don’t just come from one side of the project. From an agency perspective, I’ve heard them from both the clients as well as the project managers.
The projects start with an awesome proposal, clearly laid out.
‘Should be straightforward!’ they say. ‘This will be an easy one.’
Except that is very seldom the case.
Although most redesign projects follow much the same process of four phases (plan, preparation, build, launch), I’ve learned preparation to be key.
It is crucial to have a good understanding of precisely what your website redesign will encompass, 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 working with a web agency or a freelance designer/developer to build a new website, decide on these factors in the preparation phase. In doing so you will set your website up for a smoother and more successful launch.
Let’s take a look at a few pointers (and scenarios) to help make sure you don’t fall into the same pattern:
1. Execute a Discovery
Before you even contemplate a website project, you’ll want to complete a discovery. Take a careful look at your site and get real about what’s working and what isn’t.
Not sure where you should start? Think back to pain points you have heard from your users and customers. Take a thorough look at data you have available (Analytics, heat maps, visitor recordings, etc).
Then ask yourself these questions – Do you really need all of the functionality? Are your visitors continually dropping off at one point of the user journey? Have you spent the past year reconstructing together your website as your organisation has grown?
With the answers, these deep dive questions create a list of ’must have’ and another of ‘would be nice to have.’ Share this list with the project manager, agency or freelancer you are working with.
2. Pinpoint All Decision Makers
So, we get buried deep into the strategy and design process. Everyone is excited because timelines are being met, the strategy is spot on, and designs are bringing our concepts 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, collaborator, or participant that needs to approve the designs before development starts.
Not only does this unforeseen appearance of another step of approval slow things down but it has the potential to completely derail a project entirely and blow the agenda right out of the water!
Don’t let sudden participants take the project by surprise. Talk with your team to identify who(m) will be providing final approval throughout the entire project. This authorisation of approval includes consent of strategy, wireframes, designs, development, content, and ultimately the launch of the website.
It is imperative 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 organisation’s objectives, the authority to give approval on behalf of their organisation, as well as a strong desire to move your organisation forward.
3. Write Your Copy
During the planning stage, 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 the copy while the strategy and designing are 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.
Start re-working your copy early in the process, before design. The role of design in a website project is to strengthen the goal and presentation of the copy, not the other way around.
When a webpage is designed before the copy we then have to rework 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 has the ability to create a page that 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 writer to build strong copy to create a more effective and efficient redesign/design process.
4. Establish Tech Needs
As a project begins, the marketing squad 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 the actual website in the early stages.
The website project advances, 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 realising the current host provider 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 setback 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 the 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 colours aren’t right (the boss 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 constraint 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 a higher potential to move along with little to no delay.
It can become complicated if the 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 are building out the website, this is the opportunity to dig deep and finalise your copy and additional assets for the website.
This final preparation is most important in setting your launch up for even great success!
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? Learn more about the web design process and what it entails.