Redesigning your business’ website can be a daunting experience. You may have invested significant amounts of time and money in the existing design, or you may just have a sentimental attachment to it. Most people will eventually start getting swept up in the excitement of getting a new website. Before long they are dreaming up new features and scouting for other sites they like the look of. But are they perhaps jumping the gun?
There must be a reason
If you don’t know where you are going then how will you know when you’ve arrived? Where it comes to a website, there must be an end goal, there must be something you are trying to achieve with a redesign.
The trigger for the redesign could have been any one of a million things. Perhaps the boss said they are embarrassed to send people there. Maybe the marketing guy wants to start doing email marketing. Or perhaps an online store has now become a part of the strategic plan.
But there must, under all of that, exist a goal – to impress the boss and his friends, to get more leads for the business, to sell more products.
So the first and most important question to ask is “Why?” But does the why really matter in a redesign?
A way to measure success
By understanding the reason behind the redesign, we can establish the goal of the redesign project. What that means in real terms is that we can figure out if the project was successful because we have something to measure against.
If the reason was to get more leads for the business, a goal can be set (e.g. to get 10 enquiries a week by the third month after launch). Having a goal (which, of course, should be SMART) allows you to determine if that goal is achieved. If 3 months later, the site is receiving 10 enquiries every week then you (and your boss) can celebrate the successful redesign.
Know what the must-haves are
Uncovering the reason and setting related goals will also help in figuring out what to focus on in the redesign. Different goals will have different requirements.
A lead-getting goal will focus on very different aspects to the project that aims at rave reviews and an award-winning design. By clearly establishing the purpose of the redesign, you and your consultant can identify the must-have features of your site that contribute to the achievement of the goal.
Figure out what doesn’t matter
The flip-side of the must-haves are the things that can be left out. By making a clear decision on the reason for the redesign and the resulting goal of the site, it becomes possible to evaluate each possible feature or addition against the aim.
If something does not contribute towards achieving the goal, then it probably does not need to be included in the redesign. It may turn up in a future iteration, which will likely have its own reason and goals into which it may fit by then.
A process of discovery
A website redesign project should always start with an exploration of the Why. It is at this point that you should sit with your team and look at why you want a redesign. And when you get one reason, ask “why else?” It is quite likely that there are multiple reasons for the redesign.
A key part of this process will be to dive even deeper into those reasons to determine why they are considered important. It is at this stage that deeper issues will raise their heads. What everyone thought was a straightforward project being done because an online store is an obvious next step may turn out to be a major business model switch because management is considering closing down the brick-and-mortar stores.
So now you understand what you should be asking, and why you need to ask, but you are perhaps wondering how to go about it.
Doing it yourself
The first step is to make sure that this process is being done before your company has invested in a new website, preferably before they have even signed a contract with a designer. If you have started to talk to designers who haven’t asked you about the Why then you might want to reconsider your choice.
But you can start this process on your own without the intervention of a designer. Managed properly this process can be very enlightening for your entire team, and may help realign the goals of the project.
Some tips for getting to the Why of your site:
- Start with the website redesign champion, whoever first suggested redesigning the website.
- Be sure to include the key stakeholders, your team members who will be interacting with the website (e.g. marketing, sales, support).
- Do not forget to talk to your primary decision makers. If you have a boss who has final say then you definitely want their input in this process.
- Don’t try to have large group meetings or discussions because group think is a real risk and people often keep quiet if the boss is talking.
- Don’t create a high pressure deadline because people will default to the easy answers (e.g. more sales).
- Keep the discussions as informal as possible so that people relax and get comfortable talking without trying to give you the “right” answers.
This doesn’t have to be a painful process, and can be done by anyone in your team. It doesn’t have to be top-down. You just want to ensure that some thought is put into it before committing to what could be an expensively unnecessary paint job on your site.
If you are in the middle of a redesign project now, and haven’t asked this question, I suggest you stop. Right now. Cancel the project. Get a refund (if possible). Start over.
Are you planning a redesign of your site? Have you started it already? Do you really know why the project is being done?
Leave a comment below and share your experience with website redesigns and the reasons for them that you discovered.