Way Past Pretty: Building Blocks for a Successful Website Redesign
:: By John Kudos, kudos.nyc ::
Architects work with construction developers to build spaces. Graphic designers work with coders to build websites. The “brain” draws up a visionary blueprint and the “brawn” ensures that vision is realized to its fullest potential.
For architects, understanding the intricacies of laying bricks can greatly impact the outcome of a wall design. We consider bricks as modular building blocks, yet time and again we’ve seen beautiful, surprising and impactful end products made out of this simple baked clay.
The process of developing a website shares this sensibility. Even though every website is built in standard HTML codes, a visionary graphic designer working with a seasoned Web developer can create a one of a kind user experience that is equal parts beautiful, functional and sustainable for years to come.
Aligning your vision with a team of graphic designers and Web developers at the outset of a website revamp project is key to a successful collaboration.
Below are a few lessons learned to help plan your website makeover project.
Do I Need a New Website?
You need a new website if:
1. Your clients don’t award you projects because of what they’ve seen on your website.
2. You get complaints from people trying to get information or view your work on the website.
3. Your website is not responsive chances are your website is more than four years old. Instead of buying into “mobile optimization” projects, or “deflashing” your website, you may as well reimagine your website with today’s user behavior in mind. Call it a complete website revamp instead.
4. Your website loads slowly and images not very on today’s larger screens.
5. Updating the website feels like a big personal project due to a poor content management system (CMS) or the absence of one.
6. Your business model has changed and the website can’t be easily updated to reflect this.
Starting a Website Revamp Project
To start a website revamp project, first consider the following:
1. The primary stakeholders are on board usually partners or marketing director of your firm.
2. Someone in your company is ready and available to be the point contact person with the designers and Web developer.
3. You can allocate some time and resources to the website revamp, i.e. preparing images, proofing/editing texts, testing the website prototype, managing review and approval process internally.
Basic Technical Requirements
Your new website should fulfill the following technical requirements for today’s Web standards.
Don’t settle for anything less:
1. Responsive design. Your website must be fully optimized for tablets and mobile phones in addition to desktops.
2. Don’t use proprietary tools that require users to install special plugins to view your website (hint: don’t use flash) no one is patient enough to go through hoops just to access a website.
3. Search engine optimization (SEO). Make sure your website is ready for SEO. This usually takes time to nail depending on your business’ focus. Hiring an SEO specialist can greatly expedite increasing the rank of your website on popular search engines.
4. Content management system (CMS). Always ask for a CMS tool that allows you, or someone internal, to manage the website content on your own without having to contact the web developer for updates. The waiting game will cost you missed opportunities in no time.
5. Ongoing relationship. You may not need to work with the web developers regularly, but you want to make sure the company you’ve selected to work with has a good track record in responding to existing clients when they’re in need of technical help, regular maintenance, of feature updates.
Defining the Scope of Work
Answering these questions will help you define a project brief and begin conversations with web designers:
1. What are your business goals?
2. What are your aesthetic values?
3. Can you identify problems with the existing website, both technically and aesthetically?
4. Do you need new branding/logo? Are you open to ideas? If you are, be prepared for a longer process working with the graphic designer. It’s also a good idea to work with a web designer who understands branding.
5. Who will be involved in the decision making process for design and technical build? Can they be involved in the early design and planning steps?
6. Do you have login information to the existing web hosting, domain registrar, and the CMS?
7. What visual assets do you have? Is it worth photographing key projects for the revamp project? If no photography is available, will you be showcasing renderings, sketches, or drawn up plans?
8. Do you need to rewrite or edit descriptions and specifications for each project? If so, make sure to schedule this properly accounting for the internal review and approval process.
John Kudos, is the founder and creative director of KUDOS Design Collaboratory. His work embraces strategy, design, and technology. His practice focuses on collaboration and experimentation informed by diverse cultural backgrounds and technological resources.