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Redesign Pitfalls and Triumphs at Web Content Mavens

Emily Witt, Brightfind’s VP of Professional Services, recently spoke about Redesign Pitfalls and Triumphs on a panel at Web Content Mavens, a MeetUp Group in Washington, DC. The session was part of a larger mini-conference called Website Revamp – Options, Plans, and Roadmaps.

Moderating the panel was Digital Strategist Avi Kaplan, and co-presenting were Josh Korr, Senior Project Manager at Viget and Scott John Anderson, Director of Web Communications at Georgetown University.

Whether you would like to keep the conversation going or simply missed it, never fear, this blog post highlights the main topics of discussion to keep you updated on the latest and greatest industry conversations.

Four main questions dominated the discussion:

1. How do you recommend balancing real estate on the homepage? Specifically, how can we manage political battles of content that "has to be" there vs. a data-driven, user centric approach?

Listen to everyone. Create space to for all stakeholders to deliver feedback, no matter how big or small. The website is becoming even more valuable than it ever was before, so it’s essential that all essential components of the organization have input.

Your organization has a mission and a story, which do need to be conveyed on the homepage. However, the conversation must change from “real estate on the homepage” to believing and acting as though your whole website is valuable. An organization’s website has many entry points, making interior pages more important than ever because they are often the first digital interaction with your organization.

The website is not a series of pages that houses primary content; the website houses all of your organizational content. Providing an outstanding user experience means that you must make it easily findable. Instead of fitting every part of your organization on the homepage, focus on how you will direct users to the right content.

2. The word "redesign" intimidates my organization internally. What approach can a vendor take to ease our nerves?

The days of completing a website redesign without hiring a vendor are numbered. Some organizations still do, but that’s becoming less common. But “redesign” carries much angst and animosity from past experiences.

Don’t feel like you are stuck. Brightfind clients have found success in a continuous improvement model, which approaches a project step-by-step. Don’t think of it in terms of a redesign, think of it in terms of phases. For example, you may be in a user research phase, but next, you’ll be in a wireframing phase. It’s like building a house: first you investigate where you’ll live, then which lot to purchase, then what type of house you’ll put on the lot, etc.

The word “redesign” often carries a stigma of perfection. Thinking about a website project from start to finish can be paralyzing, but simply identifying a next step is more digestible. Our clients are successful when they talk about it in terms of creating a minimum viable product. In other words, they determine what they need to do in order to get to the next step. It’s an approach that emphasizes forward movement versus thinking about the end result. By definition, a minimum viable product is not perfect, but has the ability to change and become more perfect over time based on user research and feedback.

Lastly, you will have a much easier time pitching (and selling) a web project to your leadership team if you propose phases with provable value.

3. How can we validate that our new website is working?

You should prove the value proposition of your website by conducting user testing that aligns your goals. This also speaks to the need for a continuous improvement model that updates your website based on user feedback.

How should you test users? Here are a few ideas:

  • Conduct A/B testing if you launch a new product.
  • Set up Google Tag Manager and put event tracking in place.
  • Test how users would find and register for your annual conference.
  • Alternate where the register/donate/purchase button is on your website.
  • Change the color of important buttons.
  • If your organization has an annual conference, it’s an excellent place conduct live user testing.

How do you do that cheaply (or free?) There are lots of available tools: Optimizely, Google Tag Manager, or setting up a card sort with Post-it notes. Conduct paper prototype testing. You truthfully don’t always need a professional if you have time or resources internally.

4. How can I transition aspects of the project from the vendor to in-house while maintaining a positive relationship?

Organizations gain and lose talent as their organization experiences change, which typically means the amount and type of work an organization is able to conduct or contribute to a website project also changes with the ebb and flow of its talent pool. This happens all the time. Vendors are used to this. Open communication is the best method to handling this (and other issues).

Take on whatever components of the project you feel that your organization can handle internally, however big or small. Even if you only build a list of requirements for the website, it’s still less money you’ll spend with the vendor, time-saving, and creates a sense of camaraderie with your internal team. Perhaps your organization is able to create wireframes for your website – that’s great, too. Your vendor should be prepared to review them with you, ask questions, then start the website build process leveraging the wireframes your team created.

Do what feels right for your team(s) and always remember that everything is a learning experience.

Christie Gunden

Written by Christie Gunden