You’ve had the same website for a few years. You’ve been making it work, modifying it piece-by-piece to match your new strategy, new ideas, and new communication needs. But you’re starting to feel as though your squeezed in, mashed together website isn’t working for you as well as it could.
If this sounds familiar, it might be time to embark on a website redesign.
There are as many ways to redesign a website as there are websites to redesign. Each organization has unique needs and strategies when it comes to their web presence and those unique qualities should drive the website redesign process. But, by-and-large, a website redesign should move through these five phases.
Resist the temptation to dive right into the pictures or words and take the time to understand what you need from your website, how the current one is working (or not), and what the new one needs to include.
Discovery is often the most overlooked step of the process but it can be the most important. William Colgrove, Founder and COO of Threespot, an interactive agency in Washington DC that works with organizations creating positive change in the world, said that, “Discovery allows the time to dig in and look at your business (even for non-profits and government) with fresh eyes. To not do discovery or research is like shooting blind.”
While in this Discovery mode, take a closer look at your users and make sure you understand who they are, what they need, and how they consume information. Guide your discovery process with questions such as:
- What is the goal of my website?
- What do I need to do that my current website won’t allow?
- What goals, initiatives, or strategies are on the horizon that will affect how we use our website?
- Who do we want to reach with our website?
- Where, how, when, and why do our target audiences consume information?
Once you have all of the research in place from your Discovery, you are ready to Define your new website with an information architecture (essentially a site map) and a set of wireframes (page structures for the key pages of your site). Think of this Definition as the time to create the blueprints for your digital home. When complete, they will tell you where the essential elements of your site live and what each room looks like.
During this phase you’ll also want to Define your technology—determine whether you need to move to a new content management system, wish to integrate a new customer relationship management system, or would like to incorporate social media differently.
Now it’s time to begin making things real. Using your information architecture and wireframes as a foundation, it’s time to apply a design.
Remember that website redesign isn’t just about colors that work and great photography (although, it is those things too). Every element of your website design should support the work you do and the goals you plan to achieve. And it should resonate with the people you intend to reach. As Colgrove puts it, “An organization’s site needs to be consistent with every other touch point it has with its constituents or supporters. The best judge of a site’s consistency with your brand is your audience.”
“Every element of your website design should support the work you do and the goals you plan to achieve…” tweet this
If you feel uncertain during the Design phase, remember to look back at the materials you gathered during Discovery. That research can and should guide you from beginning to end.
Often the longest part of any redesign, Development is when the coding happens to make the Designs and Definitions of your website come to life. It’s when the technology comes together. It’s also when the testing happens.
Remember that Develop doesn’t just refer to technology. If you have content to write, marketing to create, or images to produce, now is the time for all of that work as well.
The web moves fast and changes constantly. So traditional marketing, such as press releases or direct mail, for your website redesign will seem out of place and awkward. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t promote your new look. In fact, a web redesign is a great opportunity to get in front of your audiences. Send an email welcoming them to your fresh new space. Thank your teams or partners on social media for their great work or help during the redesign. Use your promotional materials to tell the story about why you chose to redesign and make the most of the time you spent to improve your look, feel, and communication.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.