Redesigning a large corporate or law firm website is no simple task. Between multiple department heads, vendors and extensive service or practice listings, it’s difficult to keep things moving in the right direction. In an attempt to make your project run as smoothly as possible, here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the (hard) way:
- Emphasize the importance of your web presence. Get the whole company on board with how significant a well-written, well-designed website is to the success of your organization. You’re definitely going to need input along the way (see #6 below). Digital agency, Ironpaper, shares some key stats about web users that should help you get their attention:
- 48% list design as the number one factor in deciding credibility
- 94% cited web design as the reason they mistrusted or rejected a website
- 72% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (scary thought)
Be sure your new site incorporates responsive design. Obviously structure and functionality should be agreed upon before design begins. But mobile functionality is often an afterthought. This is a huge mistake because more than 17 percent of global web usage is via mobile, and this number is only increasing. Earlier this year, mobile devices accounted for more than half of all Internet usage in the U.S. for the first time. Google factors mobile-friendly and responsive design functionality into search results -- even for queries made on laptops and desktops. Instead of creating a separate (abridged) mobile site and a full site, create one that uses responsive design to accommodate the device it's being viewed on.
Nail down the site navigation before any design or writing begins. You'd be amazed how hard it is for all division leaders to agree on what the navigation should be, or even what to call each division. Let them hash this out prior to designing and writing content. An approved navigation is the roadmap for design and content development. Skip this step and there could be lots of twists and turns in your future.
Don’t wait for the site to be designed to think about content. As we explained in a previous post, content must come first in website design. This is especially important when your content agency is separate of your web design firm. We all need to be singing from the same song sheet from day one.
Over communicate with your content and design agency. Hiring experts is key to your success, but you still need to maintain constant communication to keep all pieces moving forward. Most people within your firm will not be responsive to outside requests for information (in their defense, they’re busy doing their jobs). An inside man or woman is needed to help manage approvals and harass key subject-matter experts until they respond.
Be prepared to enforce tough love. Assign deadlines for internal approvals and reviews by department heads and other key stakeholders. Lay out stiff penalties upfront. For example, if employees won't review their bios in a timely manner, threaten to go live with outdated versions or nothing at all, then edit only after the rest of the site is perfection.
Leave plenty of time for editing in layout. The content will feel differently on screen than in a Word document, no matter how many times it's been reviewed, revised or approved. Build a week or two into the timeline for optimizing the content in the CMS.
The best part about web redesigns? Most content can be updated pretty easily, and should be. Link to your company blog(s) and Twitter account, anything to keep traffic coming in and reward returning visitors with something new.
Need help revamping your company website? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.