How to Manage a Comprehensive Website Redesign
Published: February 5, 2016
Author: Joe Stanton
As you may have noticed, 3Q Digital has a shiny new website! As the project manager for the redesign, I was responsible for keeping things moving along as smoothly as possible. Don’t applaud yet: I made some mistakes along with my triumphs. Here are a number of tips to keep in mind for your redesign, derived both from setbacks and successes.
Budget Way More Time Than You Need
Here’s the thing: projects like this need to be treated like construction work. Nobody likes to admit it, but it’s best to budget 1.5 x longer than you think the project will last, at least! For reference, our original goal was to have the site done at the end of September. A number of factors colluded to cause us to delay until early December.
Set Firm Deadlines for Your Team
One way to mitigate the possibility of running a never-ending project is to set firm deadlines. Once we overran our imposed September deadline, we failed to bounce back and set another deadline. Clearly we wanted the project finished, but without a deadline to shoot for, it’s hard to motivate a team to push forward.
Always budget time for buy-in from the boss.
Bosses are busy. The head of our marketing department here at 3Q Digital often has meetings stacked on meetings all day. If you need input to proceed, it’s best to understand that others’ priorities often differ from your own. Make sure to budget extra time to get approval if needed.
Choose Your Designer Based on Their Worst Work
It might be weird to bring up tattoos in a post about website design, but bear with me here. There really are a number of strong parallels. In both cases, you’re paying someone a fair amount of money to create something that will (semi-) permanently represent you (or your company). It’s best in both cases to check through your designer’s portfolio and judge them based on the worst work in the portfolio. Remember: these are a collection of what the artist is most proud of. If their best doesn’t jell with you (or worse yet, isn’t technically well executed), consider moving on. This is the lens through which I examined our design team’s previous work, and I couldn’t be happier with our current site.
Have a Plan to Keep Things Organized
We used Google Sheets to try to keep everything organized. Maybe for a personal list, Google Sheets is a good choice; it serves well to crunch numbers in a pinch. For a comprehensive project involving multiple people? It was woefully inadequate. If I were to go through the whole process a second time, I’d use a dedicated task management system like MeisterTask or Asana.
Keep Your Team Small
If you have too many cooks in the kitchen, you might end up with a cohesive meal, but everyone’s going to have a headache after you finally settle on the menu. Keeping the team that makes approvals small means you can be lighter and push forward with the project without having too many opinions hampering progress.
Always Test in Staging
The digital marketing mantra applies here: test test test EVERYTHING. You’ll find spelling errors, things that don’t function the way they should, incorrect images, weird spacing, and more. Dedicate at least a week to immerse yourself in the completed site before launch. Make sure to test all forms, test all animations (or anything interactive), and test on as many devices as you can get your hands on. Something that looks fine on mobile might look weird on desktop, or vice versa.
Get Ready for Feedback at Launch
No matter how well prepared you think you are for launch, there’s nothing like the eyes of your entire company to uncover the stuff you overlooked. Don’t take it personally; just fix the issues as soon as you can. My personal favorite overlooked error at launch for us was a client called “Mondgab” on our homepage header. There is no such company, and if they existed I’d suggest they change their name.
Any tips for people going through designing a new website (or revamping their old one) with a professional design team? Let us know in the comments!