Your website should fuel your business. It should be easy to use, both for you and the visitors you want to attract. If your website is clunky and disorganized, it’s definitely time for a makeover. But where do you even start? What should the new site have that your current site lacks?
A website redesign can feel like a daunting endeavor. But a little bit of planning can take a lot of pain out of a long process. Let’s get started.
Get Your Priorities in Order
Before your project begins, take some time to map out your goals. What problems are you experiencing with your current website? Which aspects actually work well? Maybe your company is rebranding and your project is mainly design focused, or you want to work on developing a specific feature, like a small online shop. Be sure to separate the must-haves from the nice-to-haves. This will ensure that you can launch on time with most of the features completed. You can continue to improve the site with additional features post-launch.
Create a document that lists your top priorities for your website redesign. Include the business goals that each item will accomplish. For example, you may want to do a design overhaul with the goal of establishing brand consistency with your target audience. Or maybe you want to improve the information architecture with the goal of increasing page views and conversion rates. You should also consider your ideal customer and the features they would find most useful and intuitive when they visit your site.
This planning document will serve as a foundation for discussion when you reach out to potential vendors. You’ll provide the “what” and “why” and the vendor will establish the “how.” Specific priorities will set your project on the right track and ensure that all of your goals are accomplished when your website is complete.
Set a Realistic Budget and Timeline
You probably already know the importance of setting a budget and timeline when embarking on a large project like a website redesign. A strict budget will prevent spending from skyrocketing while a timeline ensures that goals are met efficiently.
If your budget is small and you have significantly complicated items on your priority list, you may need to scale back your expectations for this phase of the project. If your must-haves are non-negotiable, you may want to increase your budget, or hold off on starting the project until you have more wiggle room.
A redesign always requires a balance between what you want and how much you can spend. Your vendor can help you pick and choose which of your priorities can be accomplished in the scope of the first phase, and which could wait until a second phase.
Choose a Vendor that Understands Your Needs
Now that you have specific goals and a realistic budget, it’s time to find a partner for your project. You should choose a vendor whose strengths align perfectly with your goals. Review their previous work to see if they’ve tackled any projects that are similar to your own. You may be looking for a certain design aesthetic or complicated functionality. If you need help with something specific, like content, be sure to choose a vendor that has a few specialists on deck.
Once conversations begin, you should get a clear feeling that the vendor understands your needs. They shouldn’t immediately agree to take on the project before they ask important questions about your business and what your goals are.
Establish a Product Owner
Choose a key stakeholder that can serve as your internal point person throughout the duration of the project. A product owner is an invaluable asset for digital projects. This person should have a clear understanding of the project’s goals and what steps are necessary to get there.
Your product owner should communicate regularly with your vendor point of contact, most commonly a project manager. She should have the power to make executive project decisions along the way without having to defer to someone else. This prevents development from stalling.
The product owner should also stay involved in the quality assurance process. She should review changes and report back to the project manager on whether or not they look and function as they should. She should also verify that each feature satisfies pre-established user acceptance criteria.
Keep Things in Scope
It’s common for new ideas to sprout after a project has already started. You may think, “Hey, the online store looks great! You know what else would be really cool? One-click checkouts!” Some of these ideas might seem like small changes, but they can start to add up and really throw a project off track.
New feature ideas or more complicated design elements should be added to your project’s backlog. These items can be discussed with the team and re-prioritized for the next sprint, or tackled in a future phase with a separate budget plan.
Get Reliable Long-term Support
Your project isn’t exactly complete when it launches. You’ll need a vendor to continue to support your website as part of a long-term agreement. A support contract ensures that you won’t be left high and dry if something breaks or doesn't perform at its full potential. This is also the time to add some of the nice-to-haves that didn’t quite make it into the first phase of the project.
A long-term partnership also allows you to continue to grow and develop your website as your business grows. As your company changes over time, add new features, new editors or permissions, or content and marketing support. Long-term support is the final step to make your project a success.