The first of five blog posts about what we learned while redesigning our own website.
Talk about pressure. We just got done working with the most demanding client ever.
Don’t feel sorry for us just yet: The client was Far Reach. And the project was redesigning our own website.
Designing a website is a big deal for any organization.
The stakes are even higher when you’re a web developer, who’s developing a website, whose purpose is to market website development.
You may be surprised to learn we faced many of the same challenges that you might with a website redesign:
- Tight deadlines – We needed a new website yesterday. Our biggest sales tool and lead generator—our website—was outdated.
- Limited resources – We needed to balance client needs with our own project.
- Differing opinions – We have five partners—each with his or her own unique point of view.
Despite all of this, the project went smoothly.
How did we do it? We treated ourselves like a client rather than coworkers.
That means we followed the same time-tested process we recommend to clients. We adhered to these six steps for planning a successful website redesign:
- Define your target audiences.
- Set goals and objectives.
- Create a sitemap.
- Request an estimate.
- Set a budget.
- Define roles and responsibilities.
Step 1. Define your target audiences.
First, you need to decide who you’re designing the website for.
We asked ourselves:
- Who uses our website?
- What do they do while there? (What pages do they visit? How long do they stay on each page? What path do they take to and from that page?)
- When do they visit? (What day and time?)
- Where do they visit from? (What is their physical location? What site or search engine led them to our website?)
- Why are they visiting? (What do they want to accomplish on our website?)
- How do they visit? (What device do they use—desktop, mobile, or tablet? What web browser did they use?)
- Who do we want to visit our website who isn’t already? (How would they find us? What would they be looking for?)
Many different types of people view our website: prospective clients, current clients, job seekers, students interested in internships, employees, vendors, media, competitors, and industry folks who read our blog to stay up-to-date on best practices.
We chose to focus our website on those most critical to our bottom-line:
- Prospective clients who may need our services
- Current clients who use some of our services but aren’t aware of everything we have to offer
Step 2. Set goals and objectives.
Our goal—what we wanted to accomplish—was simple: to generate new leads.
Our objectives—how we planned to accomplish it—fell into three categories:
- Communicating – Sharing our services, including our new focus on end-to-end solutions, and examples of our work
- Educating – Positioning ourselves as experts through free resources and “how-to” blog posts
- Motivating – Making it easy for visitors to take the next step by putting a call-to-action button on every page
Step 3. Create a sitemap.
Before we could estimate how many hours it would take to develop the website, we needed to know what the website might include.
So our web team created a new sitemap using the following steps:
- We used the sitemap from our current website as a starting point.
- We made sure all of our current services were covered.
- We renamed some of the sections so their titles were clearer. For instance, “Downloads” became “Resources.” The top-level navigation didn’t change much, but the sub-navigation changed a lot.
You can view our new sitemap here.
Step 4. Request an estimate.
Just like we would for a client project, we asked our staff to estimate their hours for:
- Writing and SEO
- Project management
- Quality assurance testing
Estimates were based on the newly developed sitemap.
Step 5. Set a budget.
You might think a tech company would have an unlimited number of hours to develop its own website.
Not so—even we had to set a budget for ourselves. After all, we needed to balance working on our own website with working on projects for paying clients.
The estimate was presented to the partners, the partners set the budget—the number of hours we would devote to the project—and we planned to stick to it.
The budget determined how many bells and whistles the website could have. So while there was room in the budget for a cool HTML 5 video on the homepage, we had to skip some extra features on the blog.
Step 6. Define roles and responsibilities.
It’s easy to get too many cooks in the kitchen.
So it was important to define roles and responsibilities—specifically, choosing a point person and a decision-maker.
The marketing strategist, Megan, was assigned to be the point person. If there were any questions, she provided the answers. That streamlined the process and helped us avoid any confusion.
One of the partners, Kate, was empowered to be the decision-maker. She was responsible for getting the other partners to approve each part of the project, i.e., signing off on the sitemap, design, and final website. If there was any disagreement, she weighed varied opinions and made the final call.
That completed the planning phase. Next up—content strategy and design.