The team at AIIM International recently re-designed their website and lived to tell about it. President/CEO Peggy Winton shared what they learned through-out the process in hopes of helping others who are about to begin (or who are putting it off). Her blog was originally posted on LinkedIn and she was kind enough to let Brightfind share it with our readers.
Once upon a time there was a small industry association ($6 million and 25 employees) in need of a website that met the demands of a changing demographic and new business model. The prospect of embarking on this project was met with trepidation by the skeptical staff still reeling from past web projects that, led by a former IT team, had largely failed to deliver on performance and promise.
If this story sounds familiar, you may be interested to learn that history doesn’t always repeat itself. Our team knew that we had to get serious about building a website that was worthy of our quality content and our growing community. While we’d shared this premise before, our renewed commitment was different in a few ways.
This time, we realized that we’d underinvested in the very tool that would enable us to scale; to do the heavy lifting for us. We vowed to devote the necessary resources of time and money to get it right. We also realized that it didn’t matter what WE thought the website should look/feel like; it was its relevance and utility to the community that really mattered. So, we used techniques like card sorting and consensus-building to involve our customers in the design process.
Our year-long project came to its first big rest stop (after all, it’s not the end of our journey since continual analysis, testing and tweaking will determine our onward route) a few months ago with the site’s public launch. Guess what happened when we flipped the switch? NOTHING. It all worked as planned, without the needed rollbacks or emergency fixes that had characterized our previous projects.
Here are five key elements that we believe, are responsible for our happy ending
- This is NOT about the pretty pictures. Don’t begin any website redesign project with a design discussion. Don’t begin with a technology discussion either. This is about the business and how your site can achieve your business objectives. You’ll be amazed how liberating this can be, even while forcing you to focus on strategic priorities.
- Determine your success metrics early on. What early indicators and results will let you know whether you are successful or not? Be sure to establish your baseline for gauges like site/page traffic, time on site/page and conversions. Without these, all your efforts are for naught.
- Let your BUSINESS/PROGRAMS take the lead, not your executives and not IT. Our project team was a blended one, with representative participation from the key program areas and shared services (marketing, sales, IT, and admin). Our project lead, Jessica took ownership for milestones, documentation, communication, and liaison. She also named a subgroup of the representatives to make the decisions. Somebody has to draw the line in the sand. I am extremely proud of the way that this project team came together in their “spare” time to accomplish this. This cross-departmental collaborative approach has since been extended to other projects.
- Get expert help from the right partner. We’d like to think that we are a talented and agile group of professionals with deep and varied skills in design, technology, marketing, product development, business development and operations. We are used to empowering ourselves to get things done. However, we realized that previous attempts to “home grow” solutions were not going to cut it in this case. We were fortunate to identify and partner with a services provider with deep domain expertise in all aspects of content management systems (CMS). While solution agnostic, their team was certified in the CMS we were upgrading and committed to. We were immediately impressed with the kickoff meeting that focused on everything but design and technology. Through analysis of our current site, our partner asked some really tough business questions that forced us to rethink the connection between web page real estate and the business outcomes we needed to effect.
- Allocate the appropriate resources for training and optimization post-launch. Most projects fail because teams don’t learn how to truly leverage the great tools they’ve just implemented. Our goal was to empower and enable the program owners to make their own content edits as needed, according to agreed templates and guidelines. Now, even yours truly can build and repurpose componentized widgets if I need to. We’ve created a tool that our folks want to play with.
We’ve captured our story in this short video. Take a few minutes to tune in for more insight, then reach out to me if I can be of any help to you and your planned redesign project.