So, where do you start?
Hopefully these tips will help alleviate some of the stress often associated with kicking off a website redesign project and set you up for success.
Assign a Point Person
This may sound obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less important. From the very outset, assign a point person for the project. That doesn’t mean this person will make all of the decisions or do all of the work. Having one central person running point will ensure the project rolls smoothly.
Figure Out the Team
Next, assemble the team. Determine who will be involved upfront in providing initial ideas, copy and access to social and technical accounts. If you’ll need input from multiple people, make sure they’re on board and committed to the project from the beginning. Explain the importance of their role and ensure they’ll have enough time to deliver high quality work within the time-frame you’ll need them to.
Timeline vs. Deadline
You have set a deadline. You can’t stress it enough that the website must launch by that specific date. Sounds great. However, we would like to emphasize that deadlines can only be met if there is commitment on both sides to keep communication open and sufficient. Before committing to a timeline for a website project, check it against your upcoming events. For example, if you have a major fundraising event, it’s likely unrealistic that your development team is going to be available to help with your project in the weeks leading up to it.
Revise the Content
You will need to make early decisions about the content: topics and pages that you would like to be migrated to the new website and the ones that should be discontinued. In addition to general page content, consider what content will require involvement from other people. For example: success stories, testimonials, or donor spotlights. Ideally, your team will go through the existing content before the project kicks off. However, you don’t necessarily need your site structure finalized before you start setting up donor interviews or asking for testimonials. Starting early can help you avoid delays down the road.
Start Gathering Files and Multimedia
Whenever possible, get started early. You may not use everything you gather, but having these things handy will give you the best options to choose from and ultimately lead to a stronger end product. This includes things like: images, videos, logo files, brand guidelines, annual reports, pieces of research, policies, press releases, and etc.
Track Down Usernames and Passwords for Technical & Social Media Accounts
This is a good place to start: domain name, hosting, email newsletter provider, payment processor, content management system (for your current site), donor management system, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and any other social media account your org. may have.
Once you are all set with the preparatory steps, it’s time to think through details. In fact, as a part of any project kick off, we set aside time for Project Planning and Information Gathering. These are some typical questions we encourage our clients to think through.
1. Define purpose and vision for the site
- What is the purpose of the site?
- What is your vision of what the site should do?
- How would you describe the site (from an organization’s and a user’s viewpoint)?
- What are the goals of the site?
- How would you define a successful website for your organization?
- What prompted the redesign?
- Are there any restraints, mandates, or guidelines for the site?
- Are there any sites you would like to model or a particular style that you prefer?
- What characteristics/attributes/attitude should the site convey to users?
2. Define audiences and goals
- Who are the users of the site? (or groups of users)
- Why will they come to the site?
- How will users access the site? (User computer settings, such as connection speed, resolution, etc.)
3. Determine accessibility requirements and needs
- Is the site currently accessible?
- What type of accessibility testing has been done?
- What types of accessibility tools are being used?
- Who is the key point of contact on accessibility issues?
4. Identify available resources and training needs
- What level of resources is available for site updating and maintenance?
- Do you have content writers skilled in writing for the Web?
- Are there graphic designers on staff?
- Who will be responsible for supporting and maintaining the site?
- Who is in charge of site marketing and promotion?
- Who will be responsible for analyzing your site analytics?
- Do you have a budget available for hiring or training staff?
5. Discuss initial technology needs
- What are your hosting needs?
- Do you currently have a domain name or do you need a new one? Do you have the budget to buy a new domain name?
- Are you currently using a content management system? If so, which one? If not, which systems are you currently looking at?
- Are you currently logging Web metrics? If so, what metrics are you currently capturing? If not, do you plan on adding them to your site?
- Do you currently have a search engine? If so, what type of search are you using?
- Do you have a budget for implementing new technology?
It’s More than Just a Website.
The final product may surprise you. Your organization’s website isn’t just a repository of connected information that happens to reside somewhere on the Internet. It’s the primary vehicle by which new audiences will find you, learn about your mission, and engage with your brand. Your journey may start as a “simple website redesign” and evolve into a totally re-imagined digital brand that included the new website.