So you hired a web firm for your business website redesign – now you can put your feet up and let them do all the work. Right? Wrong!
At LRS Web Solutions, we consider website development a team effort – and that makes you part of our team. Web developers can’t build a great website without you.
That said, we know a website redesign can be a tedious disruptor to your professional responsibilities. It’s the big elephant in your office now.
But with a solid team of experienced web professionals at your back, together we can wrangle that elephant, making your website redesign a manageable – and dare we say it – enjoyable project.
I asked our web team for their tips to speed up a website redesign.
Here’s their input for before, during, and after the process.
Before You Start:
Assemble the Team
Remember that old saying about too many cooks in the kitchen? Assemble a project team -- not a 20-person team -- but a small, tightly-knit group that works well together and completes tasks on time. Having one or two people with the authority to make decisions is critical to keeping the project moving on time and within budget, say Scott and Joe, LRS Web Solutions project managers.
Thanks to the great teamwork between ACEC Illinois and LRS Web Solutions, the ACEC Illinois site was built in just 2 weeks.
Know Your Goals
This is a crucial step. “Start with customer-focused business goals in mind and build your site around them,” says Jedd Jones, one of LRS’ web developers. Know what you want to do with your site before the web team starts. Here are some questions to get you thinking:
- Do you want more traffic? More revenue? Leads? Brand awareness?
- Are you more focused on content or are you selling a product/solution?
- Has your business model changed?
- Will you use existing content or do you need to write new content?
- Do you need new photography? Illustrations?
- Do you need an app or other custom-built features?
Understanding your goals helps the web team build effective navigation, good user experience and quality website design. The web company can help you understand how to shape content to help you reach your goals.
Do Some Research
Make a list of problems and issues with your current website. Know who your competitors are and review their websites. Pick out your likes and dislikes. Think about what those sites do well, and what they don’t do well.
Show your findings to the web company project managers. (Go ahead and vent: they’ll keep it on the down-low.)
Hanson Engineering's human resources office wanted to use the website as an internal recruiting tool. LRS built a customized portfolio to represent both the breadth of markets they serve along with examples of specific market segments.
Website development can be flexible. However, you need to figure out what is most important to you: scope, cost or timeline. Following these variables and understanding how tightly integrated they are will help keep your project within scope, budget and get it done on time.
“Expect the unexpected,” says Joe, LRS Web Solutions project manager. “Delays will come up and changes will be inevitable; the direction will change course from time to time.”
Understand the big-picture goal of the redesign and that some smaller, non-critical things may have to shift to a post-launch or phase two.
During a Website Redesign:
Make the Time:
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re the person in charge of the project. Kudos! You are in a great position to take credit for moving your company forward through effective web design. But hear this: It’s gonna take time – more time than you want it to take. You’ll give feedback, approve work, add content, gather images, and keep the Nosy Nellies at bay, etc. Make sure your supervisor knows that you will need to spend significant time on the website – probably at least half a day a week (or more). Be sure to carve out time in your calendar to allow for collaboration with the web team throughout the process. If the web company has a content strategist, he or she can help slice time off the content integration.
Make sure the website development team explains the process to you, that you know how to use the content management system, and that you understand what is expected of you. Don’t be afraid to ask the website design company questions. Make sure they have a responsive Helpdesk team or project managers who can help you minimize the speed bumps that inevitably happen with the project.
Finding it tough to make the website a top priority? We understand. It’s very easy to put the website at the bottom of your to-do list. After all, you have a job that may not include website maintenance. Create meetings with yourself to prepare content – and don’t cancel the meeting! Consider the website your most important stakeholder. It’s the nucleus of your marketing and likely how people will get to know you.
Communicate With Us – and Be Accountable
“Hello? Is this on?” Be sure to keep in touch with the web development team (We’re nice. Really, we are!).
Website companies have the website design process planned out to the Nth degree like architects plan the building of a house. Project managers make sure the web development team follows through on tasks on time. As part of the web design project, regular communication and task completion helps keep the project on schedule -- and within your budget.
Celeste from Chestnut Health Systems was always quick to respond to our questions, approve details, and finish tasks on time. Chestnut Health Systems Family Center website launched weeks ahead of schedule and well under budget.
Remember: It’s Not About You
We know, that statement hurts. But the reality is, a website is no longer supposed to be a copy of your company brochure. “The website isn’t for YOU; It’s for your prospective clients and customers,” says AJ, one of LRS Web Solutions’ developers. Know who your customers are and plan your site with them in mind. If you don’t have your web user/customer in mind, your website will fall flatter than a pancake under a steam roller. This was a common point among the LRS Web Solutions team.
A web company with a User Experience expert (UX) can make sure your website is laser-focused on the user experience. And don’t be afraid to ask your customers/clients what they think of your website.
Capitol News Illinois made the website a priority project. As a result, the site had a super-fast turnaround, launching in just over a month.
Content – The #1 Issue
It all boils down to content: Text. Forms. Documents. Photographs. Illustrations. Events. These are the heart and soul of your website. All of our developers, project managers and account reps agree: content is the number one issue that can bring a website redesign to a screeching halt. They all said the same thing: “Prepare your content ASAP and provide it to us as early as possible." “Inventory content.” “Waiting for content holds us up.”
I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: Great content takes time. A content strategist can work with your company to craft keyword-rich, readable, and relevant content.
With no existing digital presence, Rath Millwright Services gave LRS Web Solutions’ content strategist a pile of industry brochures to translate into simple, easy-to-read content for its brand-new website.
Celebrate! And Then…
It’s finally done! The website is live. Take some time to kick back and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. But then … keep going. A website isn’t “one-and-done” like a product assembly line. A website is part of a marketing strategy that is a growing, evolving thing. Our UX expert, Jamie, says organizations should think of its website as an ongoing cycle. “Make sure you have a good relationship with your web vendor and their team to keep the conversations going.”
Continue to Update and Analyze Content
Fresh content is critical to keep your brand relevant and search engines noticing. This includes new text, updated photos and other content added as often as makes sense for your company. Here’s the bonus: maintaining the website content over time will make the next iteration of your website even smoother than this one. Make sure you’re receiving regular reports to check your site’s technical performance and rankings.
Add the Extras
New content management system features and web trends pop up all the time. Make sure your company’s website stays current with today’s trends. Your CMS may offer new and updated features to keep your site relevant. Keep the conversation going. Keep a “wish list” for your website’s next phase and talk to your web company about how to get that list in the queue when the time is right. Little improvements along the way keep your site competitive.
Sacred Heart-Griffin High School quickly and easily added an Events module after its initial site launch with LRS Antilles CMS.
Think Cyclically and Budget for the Next Evolution
How often should you redesign your website? Mid- to large organizations should redesign a website approximately every 3 years. Smaller organizations should refresh every 5-6 years.
Once you get in the mindset and mark your calendars for updates and redesigns, stick with it. It’s a lot easier to set aside a website budget when it’s included in the strategic plan. Include website funds in the budget every year, even if it is just a little so you can always stay ahead of your competition. Plus, if you’re already making website maintenance part of your job, the next redesign will be oh so much easier – for all of us.