In this post, we discuss . . .
- Challenges faced during a website redesign
- What it takes to prepare your content for a redesign
- How to plan a website redesign
Challenges We Face Before, During, And After Website Redesign
The saying, “ignorance is bliss” is so true. My first website redesign was a wonderful experience because I didn’t know everything that could go wrong. I knew it would be challenging in general, but the constant worry wasn’t dancing in my head, giving me the freedom to successfully migrate 8,000 pages to a new content management system. The outcome? We launched on time and received praise for all of the amazing content we created. (The praise was from IT, too, which was a huge win).
Twelve years later, and a few dozen website redesigns under my belt, I’m grateful to have the wherewithal to anticipate the common and new challenges. More importantly, having the knowledge to solve the challenges before they ruin the project is key.
In my experience with website redesign projects, I have found that clients lack 5 common things:
- Internal governance and alignment
- Resources to assess and clean up content that exists
- An understanding of how much time and effort it takes to revise current content and/or develop new content.
- An understanding of what should happen after launch
- Success metrics
What It Takes To Prepare For A Website Redesign
I’ll run through the 6 steps below, but first, let’s talk about the behavior needs to achieve success:
- True Grit: A website redesign is not an easy task. You will face setbacks and roadblocks, but you must persevere and have the passion to find solutions.
- Optimism: You must believe that your leadership and your team will work together to drive success.
- Constant Communication: When people know what’s happening, and why, it’s easier to get the job done.
- Constant Improvement: While you have a plan, there is always potential for improving your plan as you go. Always think about how you can do something better.
- Supportive Leadership: When you know someone has your back, you’re more willing to take risks and do the work to make it happen.
- Sense of Humor: At the end of the day, we need a sense of humor. It will make the project less stressful, increase creativity, and improve productivity. In the immortal words of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde:
The Step-By-Step Plan To Start Your Website Redesign
The following steps are tried and true. The more effort you put into planning, the better your outcomes will be.
STEP 1: IDENTIFY KEY STAFF
A governance plan helps you align all players and standards.
Governance is the people, processes, and systems that help create and manage content through all stages of the content lifecycle. The two key components of a governance plan is to identify roles, responsibilities and required skills and define policies and procedures.
What are the roles, responsibilities, and required skills?
In hockey, every new season starts with determining which roles need to be filled with players who have the skills to help the team win. It’s the same when putting together a website redesign team. This is your chance to identify who on your team can help you win, and who you need to hire.
- Roles: What’s the reason they are on the team?
- Responsibilities: What tasks and decisions should they take ownership of?
- Required Skills: What do they need to master to fulfill their responsibilities?
What are the policies and procedures?
My personal favorite task as a content strategist is to outline policies and procedures. This is what will make your team a well-oiled machine. It helps everyone, from IT to content producers to stakeholders know how to get things done. From both a content and technology perspective, policies and procedures provide standards and guidelines for keeping the site up-to-date, such as:
- Adding new pages
- Adding new content owners and permissions
- Auditing content
- Updating IT systems
STEP 2: DEFINE GOALS & REQUIREMENTS
Setting goals and requirements will help you define success.
If you’ve ever signed up for a marathon or a 5k race, the first thing you probably did (after shaking your head wondering what you had just done) was set a goal and define what it takes to achieve the goal. This is the same idea. Setting website goals and requirements will help you across the finish line with the intent of winning. When working on a website redesign, I like to set goals and requirements for:
- Strategic priorities and revenue
- Voice and tone
- Online-to-offline experience
- Visual design
- Key performance indicators
STEP 3: INVENTORY & ASSESS
Conducting a content inventory will make your life easier.
While listing every piece of content may sound tedious and time-consuming (oh, it is), it’s the step that will help you determine what content you have that will work in the new redesign and what content you’re missing, aka content gaps. This inventory will be used to help you audit your content based on your new goals and it will help with listing URL redirects. When you see the list of the pages you have on your website, trust me, you will be amazed.
A qualitative assessment will help you keep your brand and message inline.
Sure, you have content on your current site. But does it fit your brand? Is the right information available? Is there too much or too little information? You need to assess the quality of the content so you know how much will need to be revised to fit your brand message.
STEP 4: DEFINE & DESIGN THE EXPERIENCE
Defining a content strategy is the foundation of the user experience.
I may be biased, but your content strategy is the heart of your website redesign. It is a comprehensive plan for developing the right information, sharing it at the right time and presenting it for the right audience. Your content strategy is a documented approach that outlines what and how to make your digital experience a success. A typical content strategy outlines (there’s more than three, but this post is long enough):
- Content Vision & Goals: A definition of the goals your content needs to achieve for your business and customer success. This is the crux for planning and developing the right content throughout your content ecosystem.
- Content Structure (Information Architecture & Site Navigation): This determines how your content is going to be organized in the CMS and the public-facing site.
- Brand Message, Voice & Tone: Stating your brand message, voice, and tone makes sure your message is consistent throughout the website. This is especially helpful when multiple authors throughout your organization are writing and sharing information.
Content guidelines ensure all content is standardized.
Your most important document is your content guidelines, used to explain standards for copy and visual design throughout the site. It is used to ensure the brand integrity is not lost when several people are developing content on the site. Everyone needs to see this document. Everyone.
Designing the user experience will make your site a delight.
The user experience (UX) shows how content is placed within specific templates to ensure a positive user interaction. Because of your due diligence of focusing on your goals, content needs and expectations, you made the UX process go so much smoother and more likely to get it right the first time (reiterations are time and budget killers).
Your visual design will make your brand come alive.
The visual design makes your brand come to life. Again, because you have a content strategy and guidelines, your visual designer has the knowledge he/she needs to create an amazing design.
STEP 5: AUDIT CONTENT & MAP
A content audit will weed out the content you don’t need.
Soapbox moment. It drives me nuts when people say, “we need to do a content audit” at the beginning of the project. An audit means to determine what you have based on your needs, goals. So, until you’ve inventoried the site, defined your goals and outlined your content structure, you can’t do your audit. Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox.
The audit is the step you take to determine what you want to keep, delete, revise.
Mapping content to the new information architecture will make the migration process easier.
Once you’ve finished your audit, you take all the pages you’re keeping and organize it to fit the new IA. Boom, you have your site content. Now, this is an extremely valuable document. It’s what you use to project manage content revisions, development, reviews and migration. You’ll love it.
STEP 6: DEVELOP THE IMPLEMENTATION PLAN
Define a content development and migration plan so you stay on track with your timeline.
Because there are several players involved with migration– IT, content developers, stakeholders, etc. you need a documented plan to share with everyone on the team about how this is going to go down. Your IT team will love you for this.
Define the technical build plan to stay on budget.
This is simple. Now that you know how much content you have, how you want it to function and any specific needs, you can let the content management system builders know what’s involved and they can give you an accurate estimate for the build cost and timing.
There you go. Your step-by-step plan to creating a successful website redesign. It may feel overwhelming, but it’s actually a seamless plan that will prevent you from having a constant headache throughout the redesign process.