How To Plan A Successful Website Redesign
Giovanni Calabro, CEO of Vindicati, is a noted expert and speaker in the areas of customer engagement, design, and technology, and is frequently cited in business and trade publications such as EContent, Ecommerce Times and UX Magazine. He writes on these topics and trends in mobile and digital experience design in FastCompany.
There’s a little more to a website redesign than you might think
Often times redesigns of a website or application come into business practices as often as you repaint the interior of your home. And unfortunately, many times it’s for the same reasons, you can use a change or you simply want to update your appearance.
Consider these thoughts prior to moving forward.
If you don’t plan, it’s nothing but lipstick on the pig
If you don’t have an incredibly solid handle on what’s driving your business, go work on that before you telegraph how much you don’t know, via a bad redesign. No website or app should be tweaked or redesigned before knowing:
- What your differentiating factors are as a business
- What do you want to improve as a business
- Who your targeted audiences are and why
- Where your audiences reach you most
- How your service or product improves their lives
- How your competitors reach their audiences
- At what frequency you’ll connect with your audience
- Who is responsible for staying on top of these relationships at your company
- What your target audience thinks of you and your product or service.
Know what goes into a redesign
A redesign can include discovery (research), design & development, implementation, testing, hosting and maintenance. The proportion of these costs can vary greatly based on the complexity of your needs. Working backward here are some considerations:
- Maintenance – How will you manage your website or application when it’s complete? Do you have a team of designers and writers? Are you outsourcing this?
- Hosting – Are you hosting this or paying a vendor to host? Tied to that, what are the maintenance costs of internal teams or vendors you hire for hosting.
- Testing – a critical yet overlooked step of web and app product design. How will testing work and to what degree will you test your product?
- Implementation – Your new website will be designed and you’ll be thrilled. However, the designs must be tied to systems that manage them. (For instance, you’ll use a content management system to enter content and publish to the website. Or you’ll have a purchasing system where you add product inventory and information.) Make sure your vendor(s) is involved with the creation of the redesigned screens. Having them involved early ensures communication and expectations are set early, and no surprises happen later in the process (I didn’t know the design did this, the cost went up 200% if you need that feature).
- Design & Development – What business and user needs are you solving? What will the experience of this website or app be? Ensure you are clear with your designers and developers. Land in the middle of being too prescriptive and saying nothing at all. Presume your designers are experienced in your line of business, know your business plan and convey it. Expect intelligent options and continual planned conversation regarding the progress of work. Remember design is highly subjective and if you’re not an expert in branding, your opinion still should be grounded in clearly communicated thought (“I don’t like blue” – translates to “I’m incapable of articulating anything of use, beyond vague thoughts”). Don’t be afraid of change. Changing designs are much cheaper at this early stage of the process than when you’re implementing completed design
- Discovery (Research) – Do you know your target audiences? What do your analytics say? (If you don’t have analytics on your website or app, stop reading and make this happen now) What content do you currently have on your website or app. Is it correct? Will you need to migrate, rewrite or plan for change? How will your website/app be structured? How will your audience find information or complete tasks? With all of these questions you can conduct sophisticated research and ask. Or, you can go guerilla and ask people directly. Either way, understanding your audiences, content you have and need and how people will react to your product will act as a beacon for the rest of your redesign engagement.
- All of these things can happen in tandem – Yes some of these logically fall after the other. However, there’s no reason you can’t test throughout a project. Likewise there’s no reason you can’t begin your hosting plans earlier in the project.
Take the time to create a plan up front that sets direction for why you need a redesign. Include financials, a marketing plan and competitive evaluation. If you go through this rigor, hiring and working with any vendor will be a heck of a lot simpler for everyone. Clarity and direction always results in a strong website or app for your business.