There are few moments in business more exciting than initiating a site redesign. We see all the aesthetics we could mold, the functionality we could have and the revenue we could generate. It's a moment when the prosperity we dream of suddenly seems within reach. But between the day of initiation and the day of site launch, we face a seemingly endless number of decisions. Building a website is no easy task.
There are, however, steps you can take to better ensure a successful site redesign. Having recently re-launched our website for Two Leaves and a Bud Tea Company, here are four suggestions from what we learned to help you navigate the intricate journey of a site redesign:
Before Asking, Figure Out What You Want
Take a look at Google - what's the first thing you see? A big, fat search bar. What's the first thing you'll do there? You guessed it: you're going to search. Google knew what they wanted the site to accomplish and gave their users a simple interface to do so.
Take a lesson from Google and focus up front. Map out a clear set of three basic objectives that define your site. Next, compile a list of the functionality you will build to make your site special. Now put your objectives and functionality lists side by side, and cross off every piece of functionality that does not directly help you reach your objectives.
The bottom line is, keep it simple. The more functionality you add to your site, the more budget and bandwidth your team will spend building something that only distracts your users from accomplishing what you want them to - make a purchase, sign up for a service or any other call-to-action.
Keep Communication Fluid
Everyone has limitations to their depth of knowledge. You don't know how color palette and typeface can enhance your user experience, while your designer doesn't know the capabilities of your out-of the-box software. Your developer doesn't get why your checkout process needs a different navigation layout from the rest of your site.
Keep your team on the same page, all the time. When communication falters, projects fail. Have every member of the team involved in every conversation; through CC'ing on emails, utilizing project management software like Basecamp or even locking your team in a room together. Constant dialogue between team members will make the transition from strategic planning to design and development as seamless as possible. Communication keeps your project in scope, on time and below budget.
Mind Your Manners
My designer recently sent me an article about creating custom error pages. There was one line in his email that would leave most clients wide-eyed: "This shouldn't be hard to do if I provide a design, which I would do at no cost, of course."
Did we happen to find an exceptionally talented, generous and passionate designer? Sure, we were lucky like that. But the reality is, our designer likes us and he treats our site like it's his own. He will do what it takes to see it succeed.
The relationship with your team is everything. If you keep your team happy and make your redesign a partnership, not a project, you will have an infinitely better product because your team wanted to work on your site-they never had to.
It can be as easy as saying "please" and "thank you," buying your team some drinks after hitting a critical milestone, and not beating a dead horse on arguments you can't win. Remembering your manners during a perpetually stressful redesign will produce much better work, and maybe even some free favors down the line.
In the End: Be Flexible
Despite doing all of the above, does our team run into problems and make mistakes during a redesign? Certainly. Be prepared for the worst - if you think your project is going to run perfectly, you're wrong. Hindsight may be 20:20, but try to see your mistakes as they are occurring and be willing to make compromises. Always have your finger on the pulse of your project and be ready to shift gears at any given moment.
Remember, it's not every day you get to redesign your site. Grab hold of the opportunity while you can, and create something of which you can be proud.
About the Author: Phil Edelstein is the marketing director for Two Leaves and a Bud Tea Company, where he oversees all online and offline strategic branding and marketing initiatives, while also managing ecommerce design, development and promotion for www.twoleavesandabud.com. His past experience includes interactive research, online user testing, strategic planning and architecture and content development for a variety of major brands including projects for Microsoft Windows Embedded, MSDN, GORE-TEX and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia."