Website redesign projects all begin with similar motivations and goals:
The best thing about this story is the enthusiasm brought to the project. The worst thing is that after launch, the enthusiasm for the finished product dissipates.
When an organization takes on a website redesign, it generates hype and excitement, creating a sense of empowerment for the project owners. However, only by empowering the end-users of the site can the project owners achieve and sustain their long-term goals. While this is no small task, it is one that can be managed, systematically executed, and driven by reliable data.
Directing a data-driven website redesign starts with the appropriate mentality, based on the belief that it’s not about “us,” meaning your organization, it’s about “them,” meaning your constituency. In the last several years, we’ve observed an emphasis shift to considering, getting to know, and understanding the actual end-users of websites as opposed to the organization itself. This fundamental shift has further induced a change in the way a website redesign proceeds, creating new services and expectations of vendors and more attention to data regarding the organization’s constituency.
The Typical Website Redesign Process:
- Hire a vendor that excels in technical prowess and skill, that is, the team of .NET mavericks.
- Conduct internal stakeholder meetings.
- Define an information architecture based on the organization’s internal structure.
- Develop high-fidelity wireframes.
- Create pixel-perfect design comps that represent each page.
- Implement the website according to the recommendations of the vendor.
- Enter (or dynamically migrate) existing content; create some new content.
- Go through a level of QA.
- Launch the website.
- Bask in the glory of the completed project.
- Field requests for changes because the “website no longer meets our needs.”
- Get the leadership team together to ask, “Is it time to redesign the website?”
While this is a comically grim depiction of the redesign process, it’s a true one, especially of how the enthusiasm that characterized the website redesign story was lost very shortly after website launch. Now, however, disciplines such as user experience, information architecture, user testing, wireframing, prototyping, website analytics, and others have provided us maps for a new, data driven progression for website redesigns. These disciplines have built, in conjunction with and in response to each other, and through practices, tools, processes, and skills, a modern, future-friendly, maintainable website redesign process.
The New Website Redesign Process:
- Hire a vendor that is knowledgeable of and experienced with Creative Design, UX, Content Strategy, and technology, the team of holistic web mavericks.
- Conduct a kick-off meeting to define project priorities and a strategy for constituent engagement.
- Gather constituent data using various methods — surveys, focus groups, card sorts, and interviews.
- Document Personas and define constituent needs.
- Create and document a content strategy based on constituent feedback (that is, via a card sort).
- Develop page layouts (wireframes) and user stories based on the constituent data.
- Leverage creative design to bring the user stories to life through a design direction, prototypes, and HTML/CSS responsive web pages.
- Develop an implementation plan for your CMS including functional requirements for administrative needs and considerations for SEO and analytics.
- Implement the website according to data gathered from users, wireframes, and user stories based on the data, design that supports the content strategy, and functional requirements that meet administrative goals.
- Conduct QA from an administrative perspective (Can I effectively manage the website?) and from a user perspective (Does the website meet my needs?).
- Launch the website.
- Engage a model for continuous improvement and on-going updates based on data derived from analytics, continued user testing, and constituent feedback.
This modern approach to a website redesign is implicitly simpler and less daunting. It lays out a clear plan of action, considers all aspects of the web — content, analytics, user flows, design, and implementation — and offers a methodology for decision making through data. The metrics established from the data add structure to the website redesign and the evaluation process, and provide information to the decision makers (Measuring the User Experience, 2013). A data-driven website redesign process engages your website’s primary stakeholder — your constituents — first and throughout the process, bringing all decisions and next steps back to data provided by your users.
The best thing about the new 12 steps is not only the enthusiasm brought to the project, but the continuing enthusiasm for the launched website on the part of both the project owners and the organization’s constituents. They allow for an ongoing story of website redesign, enabling a happy continuing process rather than an unhappy ending.
For additional information on this topic, check out my full ebook: "Incorporating Data into Your Website Redesign."