7 Best Practices to Follow to Prepare for a Website Redesign Project

Is your website ready for a facelift? Have you been thinking about the need to redesign your current website, but just don’t have any idea how to go about it or where to begin? Depending on the size and complexity of your website, preparing for a website redesign can be a daunting task. Fortunately, there are some best practices that you can follow to ensure that you setup your website redesign project for success. I am going to cover 7 best practices that will help you prepare for your next website redesign project.

Website Effectiveness Audit

It is important to take time upfront to determine whether or not there is a real need to redesign your website. What are the issues or reasons you think your organization needs to redesign it’s website? Before you can obtain a budget and approval to get your project underway, you should conduct a website effectiveness audit to build a case for the project.

This first component includes 3 key steps. First, evaluate your internal web capabilities by conducting a SWOT analysis. This is where you determine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Next, conduct an analysis of the industry you are in. What are the general website design and development trends in your industry? Are your competitors redesigning their sites? It is important to take the time to analyze and document what your competitors and other businesses in your industry are doing with regards to their websites. It is also extremely important to focus on your customers. Ask yourself if your customers needs are being met through your current website. Lastly, perform a competitive website analysis of your top direct competitors. This will help you to find and focus in on opportunities and key areas to improve your website.

Gain Approval from Your Key Stakeholders

Before you’ll be able to assemble a team and get the project underway, you’ll need to gain approval from the key stakeholders in your organization. Start this process by determining the key success factors for your website redesign project. As you are doing this, be sure to list any risks or contingencies that could affect the outcome of the project. Another key step, and one that is often overlooked, is to develop a website program charter. The program charter should document the purpose of the project, scope, and overall plan. In the plan, be sure to document a start date and anticipated end date for the project, project team, communication plan, project deliverables, and key milestones. Once this is done, you should document a business case for the project that outlines the quantitative and qualitative benefits compared to the costs and risks of the project. You can then utilize the overall business case you have developed to sell your idea to senior management internally and achieve approval for your project.

Define Website Requirements

After gaining approval, it is time to dig in and kickoff the project. With your team assembled define the high-level objectives, target audiences, initiatives, and key performance indicators for your program. Next, gather functional requirements from each of the separate departments within your organization. It is important to include all departments to ensure that everyone has a say and is on the same page. After gathering requirements, take time to prioritize them. Work with your project team to come to a consensus.

After prioritizing the overall requirements, it is time to look at your infrastructure requirements. Website infrastructure is composed of people, processes, and technology. This is an important step to help determine if there are any gaps in the existing infrastructure. From this step you should perform a GAP analysis to evaluate the requirements and then determine the feasibility of closing each gap. Be sure to adjust your overall requirements document accordingly.

The final step is to perform a buy versus build analysis to determine if you should outsource the development or handle the project internally.

Create a Website Program Action Plan

Once you’ve determined the project requirements, it is time to develop an action plan for your website redesign project. The program action plan should document all of the internal, external, and GAP analyses that you’ve completed so far. This document will outline the gaps that need to be filled in order to move the project forward to completion.

Develop Your New Website

Now it’s finally time for the fun to begin, at least the part that I like best, production. However, before you begin developing your website, be sure you have done a little research and understand what it takes to create and build a successful and engaging website. After you have, you can begin developing your site. Start by defining your target audience and the purpose of your website. Once you have done that you should organize the content and determine the site structure. This is a crucial step to ensuring that your site is highly usable for its target audience. A focus should be placed on organizing your content in such a way as to minimize the number of clicks visitors will have to use to find the content they are looking for. It is also important when building your website to establish your privacy policy and terms of use. This will help to protect your organization from litigation resulting from the usage of your website. You should also plan to integrate analytics and reporting tools during the development phase. At this point, it is time to hand off the project to your technical staff for development. Your technical web team will handle the construction, testing, and ultimate launch of your website.

Drive Traffic to Your New Website

After the launch of your new site, it is important to have a strategy in place for how you will promote and drive traffic to your website. Here are a few best practices to follow as part of this strategy. Develop an external linking plan. Do you have clients who would happily post a link back to your website? Having many links to your website from external sites will help your website rank better in search engines. Another best practice is to resubmit your website to search engines after you’ve completed your redesign. Also, be sure to conduct search engine optimization (SEO). This should really be part of the development process, however, this is also something that you should monitor on an ongoing basis. In addition to SEO, you should think about pursuing pay per click search engine marketing as part of your online advertising program. This is especially helpful in the beginning as it may take a while for you to see the results from your SEO efforts. Integrate your website address in your other marketing materials. The web has really become the main channel for marketing. So, you should be using other marketing tactics to drive to your website. Blogs are also a great way to drive quality traffic to your website. The bottom line is that you need to develop an ongoing marketing strategy that includes multiple tactics to help drive consistent traffic to your website.

Proactively Maintain Your Website

Even though the hard work is over and your site has launched, it doesn’t mean your job is finished. Maintaining a website is extremely important. Fresh content is what keeps your targeted visitors coming back to your site. You should develop a maintenance schedule to ensure that you are providing fresh and valuable content on an ongoing basis for your visitors. It is also important to monitor your website for broken links as these can reflect poorly on your business over time. As your site grows with new content, you may need to re-organize the content. It’s important to maintain easy navigation for the end user. Lastly, you should evaluate your overall website program on an annual basis. As your business changes, new needs may arise for your web presence. It is important to stay on top of these changes.

What Are Your Thoughts?

The devil really is in the details. So, in future posts I will dig deeper into each of these. In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Am I missing any key best practices? I’d love to hear your thoughts? What has worked best for you when taking on a website redesign project?

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