6 Priorities for Your Website Redesign Project
01 December 2014
→ Jason Smith, Managing Director, OHO Interactive
Redesigning and relaunching a website is a daunting project, one that usually takes 9 to 12 months from start to launch. Borrowing from our 15 years of experience as well as the latest industry trends, here are the top 6 priorities to consider as you plan your next website.
1. User Research: Find Out What’s Actually Important
For large product sites that showcase an education company’s range of offers, the most valuable investment you can make before starting a redesign is watching users complete simple tasks—find a product, login, contact customer service—on your current website. You’ll develop empathy for your customers, gain new insights into their needs, and understand how small things like image choice can lose your customers. Plus, you’ll learn how customers view your products and services and how they want to engage with your company (or why they don’t).
2. Mobile: Consider a Responsive Website
Responsive design is the current best practice for mobile websites. A responsive design means that the website layout changes or “responds” based on the device—desktop, tablet, and phone. This is superior to a dedicated mobile site because responsive sites are easier to maintain, better for search engine optimization, and device agnostic, meaning that when the next best phone is released, you won’t need to redesign your site. A mobile site does require removing Adobe Flash from your site, presenting a challenge for many education companies that have relied on Flash to deliver curriculum content.
3. Start Content Creation Early
Content development can be the biggest delay in website relaunches; therefore, we strongly recommend companies begin the project with a content inventory. This simple catalog of all the pages on the site is paired with a content audit that assesses the quality of existing web content by tagging pages for removal, editing, or rewriting. Think of it like cleaning out the garage: pull everything out to the driveway; then determine what goes back in on new shelves and what stays out on the curb. Writing web content takes a lot of time and effort. Expect about one day per page.
4. Define Ownership
Gone are the days of the Webmaster—the one person in your organization “making updates” to your website. In fact, it’s rare to find websites owned by the IT organization as they are now owned and managed by individuals or teams of digital natives with good marketing instincts. Today’s successful relaunches for education companies are marked by a closer tie between marketing and sales organizations as well as increased reliance on data that demonstrates results and drives leads and sales.
5. What Happens After Launch?
Building a website is a labor-intensive project and just getting it live is an accomplishment. But the launch is just the start. You need a plan in place for content publishing, social strategy, and governance. It’s also time to fine-tune the site for lead generation, search engine optimization, analytics, and other marketing activities. We compare the development process to building a car. We labor to get it off the assembly line, but the more important question is, Who is going to drive the car? Make sure you have goals and a plan for post-launch success.
6. Think About Social Media
Simply put, don’t produce “social media content,” produce “social content.” Think about the type of content you share with friends or colleagues. It’s probably not your product sheet. A content strategy that features a section of your site in which high-value, relevant content is published for your audience or customers is your best bet. This section serves as a publishing hub for your social media activity, leveraging a long-tail content and marketing approach that positions your company as an expert.
To guide companies through this process, we’ve put together a helpful planning document: 62 Questions To Ask Before Writing Your RFP.
Jason Smith is Managing Director at OHO Interactive (www.oho.com) in Boston, Massachusetts. He conducts strategy workshops to help clients in education, healthcare, and travel build and execute a cohesive digital strategy. Find him at @jason_smith or firstname.lastname@example.org.