When you ask the right questions from the get-go, you can save time, frustration and dollars in the long run. As we head into 2015, here are the five most important ones to consider before you get started.
1. What is the goal of the new website?
Before you embark on the redesign process, it’s important to think strategically about your content so you’re clear about what you want the new site to achieve. Do you want people to buy products? Fill out an application? Subscribe to an enewsletter?
The clearer you get about exactly what actions you want users to take, the easier it will be to design your information architecture (essentially the map or framework of your site), and the more satisfied you and your users will be with the results.
2. What is and is not working with the current site?
Prior to getting started, take stock of your existing website and assess what you want to keep and what can be tossed. Do you hear any common complaints from customers or other frequent visitors? Can you glean any insights from Google Analytics?
For example, if site visitors tend to drop off at certain pages, consider what elements or content might be created to pique their interest. If you notice that users hover and click in a certain spot that doesn’t currently lead anywhere, perhaps it makes sense to add a link to “learn more.”
Be sure to dig into the data here, rather than rely on gut instinct.
“Making decisions from data, rather than emotion, is paramount during the redesign process,” says Curt Schwab, founder and CEO of digital agency Blue Water. “It’s always harder to see your own brand objectively, but the data doesn’t lie.”
3. What are your “must haves” vs. “nice to haves”?
When you redesign your website, it’s easy to get distracted by bells and whistles that you don’t actually need (and blow your budget out of proportion). This is hard for business owners who want everything right now, but just as the web is ever evolving, so too is a good website.
“Know that your site will never be ‘done,’” Schwab says. “Instead, take an iterative approach. Focus on your must haves right now and plan to make ongoing changes and optimizations based on user feedback and interaction down the line.”
4. Am I currently using a content management system, and if so, how is it working for me?
Building your website using a content-management system (CMS) has become de rigor in recent years. Popular CMSs, such as WordPress,Drupal and Joomla, allow you to easily update your website content without knowing how to code (so you don’t have to rely completely on a developer).
If you’re not currently using a CMS, then you should absolutely include one in the new site. If you already have a CMS, take time to consider whether it’s working for you and meeting all of your needs. If not, it might be worth exploring other content-management systems on the market to find a better fit.
Technology is constantly evolving and it makes sense to take full advantage of what’s available.
5) Should I do this in house or outsource?
When considering whether to do the redesign in-house vs. hire a pro or agency, it’s important to understand the magnitude of the undertaking at hand, and honestly assess whether it’s the best use of your resources. It can be tempting to want to save money by doing the redesign in house, but don’t underrate the value of having someone objective and skilled to guide you through the process.
“If you do decide to stay in house, take a good look at your internal resources,” Schwab says. “For a successful redesign, you need a 360-degree team, which includes someone with online-marketing expertise, a copywriter, a designer, a developer and a project manager to stay on top of all the moving pieces.”