Chapter 1: Creating a website plan and requirements

Your business website is the center of your marketing universe

The conversation about redesigning a company website usually begins when someone points out that traffic is down, conversions are weak, or just that the design looks outdated. You aren’t attracting customers, prospects, students, donors, or whichever constituencies you need to be successful, and your team agrees it’s time for a change.

Because redesigns can be so expensive, complex, and time-consuming, building a case and getting a budget is often challenging. They also involve much more than just design work; there’s SEO, navigation, and content creation.

Adding to the difficulty, design seems so subjective and personal, that sometimes a high level stakeholder liking or not liking the website is reason enough to start or nix a project. What’s worse, after the new website is live and the bill has been paid, it’s not always clear whether the project was a success by any metric other than “we like the new one better.”

Fortunately, there are plenty of good reasons to start the website redesign process, and identifying them early will help you build a bulletproof case for a serious overhaul. If any of these seven are true for your website, it’s time to get started.

1. Your website is not responsive

Your website should look great on every device. It’s not that all your prospective customers are on the go, but with mobile Internet usage overtaking PC traffic for the first time in 2014, their online habits have changed. Having no mobile-specific web presence, or building a mobile-only site, is an outdated approach that leaves you with two sites to manage at best, and zero mobile customers at worst.

2. Your website doesn’t showcase your content

Just putting up a website is not enough. It’s not a static brochure that can stay the same for all time. To keep your site ranking well in search, you have to continue creating fresh content to keep Google crawling back. If your website was designed using Flash, or works best as a series of content light tableaus, it’s time for a change.

3. You look exactly like your competition

Prevailing trends in web design, and sometimes within a specific industry, lend themselves to websites that look so similar that none of them are memorable. As your primary digital outpost, your website needs to communicate your brand in a strong, distinct way. If your website looks too much like competitor websites, it’s not helping you stand out, and might even inadvertently repeat some of their worst practices. Break away from the pack and offer potential customers a website experience that feels like a breath of fresh air.

4. Visitors can’t tell what you do, sell, or where you are

Even savvy marketers and web designers occasionally go for “shiny” instead of “useful.” Above all, your website should make it absolutely clear what your company or organization does, what you offer, and where and how customers can get it.

5. Your staff don’t use your website because they can’t find any information

If your team isn’t impressed with your website, how do you expect to win over someone who doesn’t have a relationship with you? Someone who works in your company at least knows to walk over to the accounting office to ask a question, but what will a brand new visitor with zero information do if unable to find critical information? Leave.

6. You’re sending people to your Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel, email newsletter, Pinterest Board—anywhere but your website

If you’re embarrassed to send people to your website, that’s a red flag. Your social channels are critical to amplifying your signal past your website, but your website is the core of your content marketing and digital business strategy. It’s where potential customers can request more information or complete a transaction. If it doesn’t hold up to your other online channels, it’s time to upgrade. There’s different ways to communicate to your audience using social media. We explain social media channels and how-to use these platforms to speak to your audience.

7. You can’t connect website activity to business outcomes

This is indicative of a bigger problem than just your website design, but site effectiveness is a major contributing factor to your overall marketing success. If you don’t have the ability to measure the impact your website has on driving leads or closing sales, you will need to establish the right KPIs and measure accordingly. If you do have metrics in place and they show zero net effect from your web efforts, that’s a good indicator the breakdown is happening in your web presence, and it’s time to redesign your website.

Setting Business Goals for a Website Redesign

If you’ve successfully made the case for a website redesign, now there are a million things you could do to get it up to date. So where do you start? How do you act based on what is most important to your business or institution? It all starts with goals.

Setting goals is a critical part of building any successful organization. You do this at the strategic and mission level, at the department or team level, and at the individual level. As a tool responsible for business and revenue growth, your website deserves the same level of focus and attention.

Choosing the Right Goals for Your Website

There are a variety of business goals for most websites that you use. Typical goals for a website might include focusing on:

Brand identity
Demand or lead generation
Content flow requirements
Customer satisfaction
Sharing product information
Employee retention and satisfaction
Customer portals (for example, banking or financial services)

Although you can have multiple business goals for your website, prioritizing a limited number will help focus the redesign process on achieving your desired outcomes.

Stop chasing so many rabbits

There’s an old proverb about chasing two rabbits at a time, and catching neither. A similar rule applies to your goals. In general, leading with the goals that drive new and recurring revenue should be your first concern. Everything else is secondary, and should ultimately support the main goals.

It’s also important to remember that even an outstanding website redesign is not a magic bullet, nor the best strategy for meeting all your goals. A bold design, clear calls to action, and strong communication of product benefits, company culture, and engaging, valuable content seem like nobrainers to add to the redesign project list. Attracting new customers and talent can benefit from a similar approach on the web, but that approach is not sufficient every for audience.

To see which goals should be your top priority, answer these three questions:
1. What business are you in?
2. What are the main business and strategic goals for your organization?
3. What does your website need to do to support your business?
This should help you articulate your highest priorities, and focus on no more than three big ones to address with the project.

Ultimately, being able to connect a redesign or any undertaking to your business goals is the best way to justify the investment and get your leadership team on board.

Building Your Websites Budget

The good news about budgeting for a website redesign is that there is a solution for every budget size. The bad news about budgeting for a website redesign is that there is a solution for every budget size.

You know you could get a new website for $500,000 or for $50,000, or your boss’s nephew who’s in college could do it for $500. Deciding how much to spend depends on available capital, expectations of the outcome, and many other factors.

There’s a design project truism you might be familiar with: fast, good, and cheap—pick two. Depending on your timeline, goals, and available resources, the right size budget will differ. To simplify this complex part of the process, it helps to get a better understanding of what could be included in the project price tag, and all the items that carry their own costs.

This will include a thorough review of your website, its goals, primary audience, and a comparison against your competition, as well as websites you might want to emulate. This only goes as far as visuals and doesn’t always include coding.

2. Image Library

Don’t take for granted that your design firm will supply the imagery you will use throughout your website. If you have a lot of product photography that needs to be showcased on your site, consider how those images will be collected, organized, and prepared to be featured

Development is the portion of the project where a web developer actually writes the code for your website to properly render in a web browser. Depending on the skill set you have in house, or how much you want to control project costs, development can be executed by agency staff or members of your team. When making this decision, bear in mind how much time you can afford from your in-house developer’s daily tasks in order to write code for new pages.

4. Implementation

The implementation of your designs is the process of converting the developed code to templates within your content management system that any content contributor can use to create and update pages without being able to alter the design.

Your team will need the ability to manage and update website content on an ongoing basis, long after the site launches. A web CMS is the best way to make that easy. Content management systems are usually proprietary software with their own license costs. Some open source solutions have no immediate price tag, but will require additional custom development and implementation from a design partner, and that means incurring more cost. The latter often means the initial cost of redesigning and launching a site is lower, but the ongoing cost is much higher. Do your research to understand your options.

A website needs somewhere to live, as does the CMS it runs on. That place is a server. Some businesses have the resources to do their own hosting, but there are many hosting and cloud solutions than can manage servers and software for you. These could carry additional costs and should figure into the project budget.

7. Content creation and editing

Without content, your website is not worth much. Just as a bad design can make great content irrelevant, poorly written and organized content can undermine the power of a great design. This is another part of the project you can take on with your inhouse team, with the understanding that it will consume a lot of time, or decide to outsource at least in part.

If you’re ready to make a major investment in your website by redesigning it, there’s no better time to engage the services of an SEO firm, but this of course introduces added cost. Read the search engine optimization section in the Pre-Launch chapter to decide whether to include SEO in your project budget.

Website SEO Audit Report

The redesign project might be complete once your website is live, but the website itself is never really “finished.” You will continue to update content, modify design, test performance, and optimize for conversions. Whether you can take on these functions internally or want to outsource them to a third party is going to affect the ongoing cost of keeping it running.

Continue reading…

Chapter 2 “Preparing”

A good portion of your website redesign project is just ensuring you have the right tools, resources, and people in place to get the job done. Think of it as project mise-en-place: you’re preparing and arranging all the ingredients to make the cooking process smooth and pleasant, and ensure delicious results.