Congratulations on starting a website redesign process. If your business or organization is like most, your website is a critical marketing asset. If it’s been awhile since your last redesign I can imagine that expectations for this site are high, which can make your job managing the process stressful.
After over a decade of managing website redesigns we’ve seen that planning is the difference between a successful redesign and a problematic one. Simply put, the better informed you are going into the process the better the outcome.
We’ve assembled a website redesign checklist that outlines everything you need to know and decide before starting this process. It’s influenced by our 12+ years in business and the hundreds of successful website projects we’ve put together.
Read the synopsis below or download the checklist here.
- Logistics: Budget
- Logistics: Timing
- Logistics: Stakeholders
- Specifications: Minimum viable redesign
- Specifications: Design
- Iteration plan
Let’s go through each section one by one and discuss each item:
The most important step in planning any website is establishing goals. What you hope to get out of your investment informs every step of the design process. Goals are measurable, tangible outcomes of having a website such as:
- Generating online sales
- Generating sales leads
- Building brand awareness
All three of these common example can be measured in one way or another. How you’d design a site for brand awareness is very different from lead generation. If you fail to establish goals then the process will lack direction and you can easily find yourself with an under performing website.
- Develop a list of 1 – 5 goals and rank them by priority
- Assess if you can track your current websites performance regarding said goals
2. Logistics: Budget
You should put some thought into what you’d like to invest into your new website. Pricing on websites can range dramatically, in fact you could spend anywhere from $300 to $100,000+. Generally speaking there is a reason why some websites are more expensive than others. Features, size, and complexity all increase cost. Keep in mind that an effective website should not only recover the cost of investment but generate much more in terms of value.
To narrow your budget we recommend thinking about:
- Your total marketing budget over the next three years (average life cycle of a website)
- Potential revenue increase if your website was 10 – 50% more effective
- Business / organizational goals
The most important aspect of defining a budget is it allows you to work with a vendor to figure out how to get the most for your money. They can help you prioritize features and help you plan to add new features over time as more budget becomes available.
- Review your yearly marketing budget and project marketing budget over the next three years
- Review revenue generated from your current website and see what an increase in 10 – 50% more web generated revenue would mean
- Discuss your business and organizational goals and assess how important the website is in said goals
- Establish a budget for the initial redesign and ongoing improvements (consider monthly or quarterly improvements.)
3. Logistics: Timing
Much like budget you should put consideration into how quickly you need the new website online. The more complex the new site the longer it’s going to take. If you have a short time frame you might consider a simpler initial redesign and plan on adding sections over time. This allows you to take advantage of a new design right away and continually improve it over time.
Keep in mind the speed of projects is also your responsibility. If you have little time allocated to manage this project expect the process to take longer as you’ll frequently need to provide feedback, approvals, content, and other assets.
- Block out time every week to manage the project (if possible)
- Identify any upcoming events that require the redesign to be completed
- Establish a desired go-live time frame
4. Logistics: Stakeholders
All websites have stakeholders, who simply put are people who have a vested interest in the website. We typically separate stakeholders into two groups: internal and external. Internal stakeholders are people within your business or organization. External stakeholders aren’t part of the organization.We often find that internal stakeholders have different needs from the website. The marketing department will have different priorities than human resources. Both departments will want input in the process so best to plan to include them from the beginning. It’s valuable to create a “steering committee,” which is a group of people who’ve identified they want to help influence the direction of the redesign. One person (most likely you) should take the role of point person. The point person’s job is to collect and weigh all the feedback from the committee and communicate it to the design firm. Members of the steering comity will have opposing priorities but it’s the point persons final say. With external stakeholders you might have one group or many. A university might have five or more:
Each of these groups will arrive with different needs. By outlining these groups and their needs now you can enter the design process more informed. Better yet, if you can get contact information for people within the external stakeholder groups your design agency can interview them during the design discovery process.
- Identify internal stakeholders and create a “steering committee”
- Establish a project point person
- Identify external stakeholder groups and create an interview list
5. Specifications: Minimum Viable Redesign
Website redesigns can be quite the undertaking, probably larger than you imagine. For that reason we recommend identifying a “minimum viable redesign.” This is the minimum set of features and content to have a website that’s better than your current site. We’ve worked with organizations that have spent over a year working on creating content for their new site and meanwhile their old site was so antiquated they were embarrassed to show it to prospective clients.
- Rather than planning for twenty or more case studies, can you start with six really compelling ones?
- Do you need a blog on day one, or can that be added later?
- Can you post events such as blog posts to start and add an event calendar later?
- Do you need online courses to launch or can those be added over time?
The beauty of the web is how you can easily iterate and improve your website continuously over time. More on this later.
- Review your goals, establish what content and functionality is absolutely critical to accomplish said goals
- Create a list of “must have” and “nice to have” features for launch
- Create a list of “must have” and “nice to have” content for launch
6. Specifications: Design
The visual layer of your website plays one of the most important roles in the success of your site. It’s a very accessible and visual representation of your organization’s branding. Users will make hundreds of assumptions about you within thirty seconds of seeing it. It’s paramount that your website not only is aesthetically pleasing but that it communicates the right message. An affordable service that looks too high-end will turn away your ideal customer (and vice versa).
If you haven’t established your brand message, tone, or any visual language you’ll want to put some thought into it before starting the process. Your design agency will help you figure out what the visual tone should be.
- Write out a brief description of an ideal client / customer / visitor
- Write a 30 second snippet of what you’d tell an ideal client / customer about your organization
- Collect any previous design assets (business cards, logos, brochures, etc…)
- Document any brand guidelines such as typefaces, colors, logo guidelines, etc…
7. Iteration Plan
It used to be that you’d redesign your website every two or three years and have little activity in between. Your website was very much like a book in this regard–lots of work was put in every few years to create a new iteration. This approach is, in fact, the opposite of ideal.
Your website stagnates when left for long periods of time. It’s most effective the day of launch and becomes less and less effective over time (kind of like a car). Instead, think about your website like a magazine where you’re publishing a new issue every month. Regular improvements to your site ensure it’s relevant, uses the latest technologies, and fits current user-behavior patterns. It also extends the lifespan of the visual design, both saving and generating money in the long run.
If you’ve planned your minimum viable redesign iteration planning is simply prioritizing the features and content that didn’t make it to the “must have” list and spacing them out based on available resources.
- Create an iteration plan that groups features and content that didn’t make it into your minimum viable redesign list
- Establish a cadence for iterations (bi-monthly, monthly, quarterly, half-year, yearly)
If you’ve followed these action steps you should have a detailed outline to jump-start the website redesign process. You’re in an excellent position to successfully execute a website redesign project.
If you’d like to download our easy-to-use actionable checklist fill out the form below: