When and how to approach a website redesign
Starting a website redesign or rebuild is exciting. It’s an opportunity to fix those annoying bugs that have been irking you for months; to freshen up the look and feel; to add new functionality you know you need.
But a new website is a big investment—both in time and money—and for it to make good business sense it needs to be undertaken with a strong strategic foundation that’s directly tied into your business goals and objectives. Sure; refreshing design and adding new functionality is fun and exciting, but how does it directly drive ROI?
We’ve found over the years that considering when and how you approach your website redesign is directly tied to its success. Here are five tips to consider to take the gamble out.
1. Before anything else, define WHY you need a new website
Understanding the key motivators for this new website sounds like a given but is often skipped over. Being really clear on why the site needs to be redesigned or rebuilt is the very first step. We’ve found in several client discoveries that key players on the marketing, brand and sales team had a totally different understanding of this important question. Align on the WHY before you move to step two. This will also help inform your goals.
2. Develop your goals and be clear on what success looks like
At Origin, we use a strategic planning framework commonly referred to as G.O.S.T (Goals, Objectives, Strategies and Tactics). One of the strengths of this framework is its adaptability— that it’s robust enough to be used to develop a three-year strategic plan for a business and tangible enough to apply to a specific project like a website redesign. See this in depth for advice on setting your goals: Rebuilding your website? Start with goals and objectives
3. If you’re going to RFP, ensure you build your RFP in a way that will allow you to compare apples to apples
Website RFP’s are a common way for organizations to select a partner to develop a new site. It’s a big investment for most brands and one that can’t be taken lightly. While we fully understand the need to take this step, we have strong opinions about how to build your RFP in a way that will actually yield you proposals that you can compare and allow you to make an informed decision.
- State your WHY
- State your goals
- Give an overview of your team and who will be responsible for the project on your site
- Give a budget range that you’re comfortable investing in
- Provide a desired start and launch date. And, please explain what the launch date represents. If it’s the start of your busiest selling season or Christmas Day, we’ll want to know why and under what circumstances that date can and should be different
- Share your wish list but confirm what is mandatory
For more details on how to write an RFP that doesn’t suck, click here
4. Pick a timeframe where you or your key marketing team member(s) will be available
A website redesign or rebuild is not handed off to an agency partner that will magically bring it to life. It’s a collaborative, and iterative process that requires time commitments on both sides. In our experience, you’ll want to have these key periods of time available:
To kick off the project we like to get ‘face-to-face with a three hour briefing session in which we get to know your team, your goals and get deep inside your business. Having key stakeholders available in this discovery ensures alignment on the goals and objectives but also ensures stakeholder buy in right from the very get go.
Feedback is required at every stage of the process. In that early strategy formulation, first drafts of designs and in the development of content should all be done in an iterative manner. Ensure all stakeholders who need to have a say in this are available for the agency presentation and hear the rationale behind all decisions that are made and then set aside time internally to regroup on everyone's feedback and gain alignment before sending this back to the agency. Good, cohesive feedback will set everyone up for success.
It might seem silly but vacation happens, so make sure you have a plan for this. If your project manager or key stakeholder is away for either business or pleasure. Make sure you have a plan to catch this person up, have approval to keep moving and don’t end up doing everything twice.
Read all of your site's content. There will be lots of new content mixed in with old content and it is important to set aside time to read the site ‘cover to cover’ to ensure a high quality product that feels on brand and accurate.
Q+A, testing and launch
This is when it's time to get your hands dirty. Test the site on every device possible, really ensure your team has the time to stress test the site and ensure no stone is left unturned.
5. Watch out for common traps
There are a handful of common traps that are easy to fall into when setting website goals and objectives. Be weary of these things when planning:
The “If we build it, they will come” fallacy
Unfortunately the Field of Dreams approach to building websites is a guaranteed way to fail. Rebuilding your website alone is unlikely to have an instantaneous effect on brand awareness that translates to more site visitors. There are strategies and tactics that can be employed during a rebuild to drive traffic (SEO, content marketing, and others) but if this is your goal, make sure you are willing to explore the marketing requirements above and beyond the website rebuild required to achieve it.
Shiny new object distractions
Most of us who work in marketing are guilty of being attracted to the next new app or a cool new map interface we saw on another website, but “integrate Google Earth into the website” is not a website goal, it’s a tactic. If you’ve got an idea for functionality or content don’t be afraid to share it - just be sure to connect it back to a website goal that drives a business result.
Rebranding within the scope of the website
It’s true that your website is a great opportunity to freshen up the look and feel of your brand, but a common mistake is to neglect to plan for the far-reaching implications of redefining your brand creative during a website redesign. Rebranding is a much larger scope than a website redesign can support, and while the website can often be a great catalyst to explore new brand creative, if that’s your goal ensure you’re ready to continue with the creative refresh across all your brand and marketing materials once the website project is complete.
Set it and forget it
The last, yet arguably most important point to make regarding website goals and objectives is that a website is an ever evolving platform. The reason we set measurable objectives is so that we can measure, analyze and evolve over time. The most important consideration here is to dedicate budget for monitoring and enhancement over the life of the website.