The 10 Commandments of a web redesign

Embarking on a website redesign? We’ve put together our top ten tips to ensure it’s a winner.

Picture of Keith Durrant

By Keith Durrant, CEO

April 12, 2016


1. Thou shalt embrace uncertainty

If you’ve ever gone through a website redesign, you know requirements rarely — if ever! — remain fixed, and details and complexities have a way of emerging at inopportune times.

Rather than trying to eliminate uncertainty, embrace it. This isn’t to say “Don’t plan,” but rather to remember having too rigid of a project plan can render you powerless in the face of changing conditions in your organization and industry.

2. Thou shalt know your business objectives and KPIs now, not later

At heart, a website is a tool to meet business goals and user needs. Thus, every feature, every piece of content, and every page should serve those goals and those needs. If these things aren’t clearly stated and formalized well before project kick-off, the resulting website will lack cohesiveness and purpose.

Don’t have business objectives, user needs, or KPIs yet? That’s OK. If your agency is worth their salt, they can help you develop an overall strategy for the site.

3. Thou shalt know thy user

Who’s visiting your website? What are they doing when they're there? What content are they interacting with? What content isn't being interacted with at all?

Before beginning a redesign, make sure you know who your audience is, or who you want them to be. 

If you don't know this information offhand, take the time to find out — after all, a website should be user-centered. Your analytics are a good place to start. User surveys are another. This information will inform the overall strategy for the content, design, and development.

4. Thou shalt focus on thy content

Websites are often primarily content delivery vehicles. An award-winning design is useless if it doesn’t have the content to back it up.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of waiting until well into design to gather and produce content because you want to "see" what your content looks like, but as we’ve talked about in a previous post, we advocate a content-first approach.

“Content-first” doesn’t mean finalize every piece of content on the site before you get started (that would probably be impossible), but rather know where you’re going with your content and have detailed samples available. Your website can then be tailored to your content, not the other way around. The more content you can share with your agency, the more likely the website you end up with will serve your needs.

Some questions to help you get started:

  • Who's your content owner? A content owner acts as your editor in chief, collecting and inspecting your content for alignment with brand voice and strategy before it goes live.
  • What content types will be on the site? (Content types include text, video, images, inforgraphics, etc. You may want to break down "text" even further into things like "Product overviews," "blog posts," employee bios," etc.)
  • How long will these content types be (it’s best to have an average, shortest, and longest scenario available)?
  • Have you or will you perform a content audit?
  • How much content will be migrated? Revised? Created net new?

5. Thou shalt not have too many cooks in the kitchen (particularly when it comes to design)

While it’s important to gather feedback from a variety of sources — including your users, internal stakeholders, and team — it’s even more important to empower one product owner to keep the ball rolling. Too often, teams become mired in unproductive conversations about button sizes and colour palettes, which can completely derail a project. Furthermore, Design by Committee ultimately dilutes the final product, causing it to become a Frankenstein of features and styles that don’t go together. A product owner keeps everyone out of the weeds by collating feedback, and measuring it against business objectives, user needs, and KPIs to make informed decisions that result in the strongest end product.

6. Thou shalt be a partner, not a client

We’ve found projects go most smoothly when client and agency work as a single team. Naturally, no one will agree 100% of the time (and if you can tell us of a project in which that was true, we’ll buy you a beer) — but that’s OK.

Successful projects let everyone shine in their respective area of expertise, while encouraging collaboration and learning along the way. Commonly, the client brings brand and subject matter expertise to the table, while the agency brings strategy, design, and development expertise.

7. Thou shalt think beyond launch

You’ve spent months preparing to launch the website, so on launch day it can be tempting to breathe a big sigh of relief and then put it out of your mind.

Launch day, however, is just the beginning. All the assumptions, work, and research that went into the project will be put to the test. Expect that you’ll need to make adjustments and tweaks. Know that things you didn’t plan for will no doubt arise. Here are a few things you can do to ensure a smooth post-launch:

  • Make sure you’ve got a post-launch optimization checklist handy, as well as an action plan for likely scenarios
  • Keep an eye on your analytics, so you can start compiling a list of updates and optimizations to roll out in the next update
  • Schedule your next update(s) so you have deadlines to work towards
  • Create a content calendar, so your site stays fresh

8. Thou shalt protect thy SEO juice

If not planned properly, redesigns can result in an SEO disaster. If you’re planning to migrate your content to a new site, have a plan in place to manage your redirects and preserve your SEO.

Moz has a great breakdown of why and how to redirect.

9. Thou shalt choose the right CMS platform

There are plenty of platforms on which to build your website, and it can be tough to know which one to choose. Open source vs. licensed? Out of the box or custom? Standard or bells & whistles?

To help focus your search, consider the following:

  • The primary functions you need your website to perform (or will need it to perform) on a regular basis. Consider your edge cases, of course, but don’t let those be a driving decision maker.
  • Your future plans for the website. Make sure you take functionality that you have planned for the future into consideration when making CMS decisions. Be sure to let your agency in on this information — it will likely inform how they design and build the site.
  • Ease of use for content editors/owners. One reason websites can go stale is that it’s hard to update content — either because there’s no CMS or the CMS isn’t user friendly. Keep your content team in mind — and even involve them in the selection process if possible — when you’re choosing a platform.

10. Thou shalt choose the right partner

As we’re fond of saying at ecentricarts, a web project is like a marriage, requiring mutual respect and shared vision. It’s important to choose a partner who can not only help you achieve your goals, but also who you actually like. We highlight the partnership aspect because we’ve found it’s the most effective way to work — one team, one shared goal.

We hope this has been a helpful round up of tips. Do you have any to add to the list? Tweet the team: @ecentricarts.