Redesigning a website is a project with many layers, each requiring a good amount of consideration and planning. One initial challenge is even knowing where to start.
At PINT, we have encountered a few questions that clients frequently ask when engaging us in a website redesign effort. Read on to see the top questions and (of course) our answers. Plus, which questions are seldom asked but vitally important to a website redesign?
1. Should I do a website redesign discovery first?
In website and software development, a discovery is a process in which functional and technical requirements are gathered and documented. The goal is to provide an accurate, written plan for development. The discovery process often includes:
- Stakeholder interviews
- End user interviews
- Desired feature research
- Competitor research
- Cross-industry benchmarking
Discovery is time we spend on quantitative and qualitative research that determines key elements for making the website redesign project a success.
This process allows the tools and processes chosen for the project to fall out of the requirements, not the other way around.
The answer to this question whether or not to do a discovery is almost always, “yes.”
Planning and proper documentation help us see further out, past any items that may be only momentary priorities. Looking forward often prevents the circumstances that make clients unhappy with the outcome of a project, including:
- Inadequate functionality
- Budgetary inaccuracy
- Timeline miscalculations
Even smaller, less complicated projects typically benefit from a brief discovery, sometimes completed within a week. Larger, more sophisticated projects often benefit from discoveries completed within several weeks.
Discovery can be accomplished by choosing a vendor, or (depending on the internal skill set and bandwidth of the staff) internally. For websites with particularly robust backend programming requirements, it is especially important to have technical resources involved in the discovery process.
2. Should I use a CMS? Which one?
The need for a Content Management system (CMS) is often a big driver of a website redesign. It is important to provide the ability for non-technical personnel make edits and add content to the website. If you don’t already have a CMS, this is a big step to open the doors of content editing and creation to people without coding.
However, you may find eventually your selected CMS no longer meets your needs. There are several common reasons this happens, such as:
- Staff would like more flexibility than the CMS offers
- eCommerce requirements are not met by the CMS
- In-house technical expertise lies on a different platform
So which CMS should you use? The decision should be based on several factors. We’ve written on this topic before and if you are grappling with a CMS decision, we highly recommend reading our post “Choosing your CMS – There is no free lunch.” This post lies out the steps one should take in selecting a specific CMS.
3. Should I use a design agency or local contractor?
If you have very strict budgetary constraints, chances are that you will find lower hourly and fixed-bid rates with an independent contractor. Services like Elance or oDesk can be helpful in finding low cost providers that can produce quality work.
That being said, the onus to evaluate these contractors, their reliability, and their technical abilities will lie on you and your staff.
For larger projects or for organizations who wish to know more about the team they will be working with, a web development agency is a safer choice. Firms like PINT have multiple employees dedicated to each phase of the project, including:
- Discovery (research and strategy)
- Information architecture and user experience design
- Visual design
- Systems integration and technical consulting
- Front and back-end development
- Quality assurance
In addition, account managers, project managers, and department managers oversee and ensure the deliverables meet expectations and timelines.
When doing a cost/benefit analysis of choosing a vendor for the redesign it’s important to consider three things:
- What are the implications if the project isn’t done on time or doesn’t meet my expectations?
- How long do I expect my website to last before doing another redesign?
- What is the lifetime value of prospective stakeholders (prospective customers, prospective partners, prospective investors, etc.) evaluating me through my website?
By answering these questions, you may find a reputable agency that looked more expensive at a glance would actually provide more value over time in the following ways:
- Delivers a final product that pleases all stakeholders (internal and external)
- Works through a process with transparency and feedback loops along the way
- Gives a better return on your investment
4. What should I expect the developer to do?
For most of our redesign efforts at PINT, we handle discovery, information architecture, design, front and back end development, SEO implementation, quality assurance, and testing. We typically collaborate with our clients on content development. Other agencies are specialists in certain areas of the process, such as advertising.
It is important to ask and identify at an early stage what role you will have and your web developer will have in the process.
Getting these ducks in a row will ensure the deliverables are clearly defined in your professional services agreement.
5. What is extent of the developer’s experience?
While how long a company has been in business certainly shouldn’t be a sole determining factor, it should be one that helps determine the legitimacy of the vendor. Unfortunately we have heard more than a few stories from clients who got burned with fly-by-night developers prior to working with PINT. References, project portfolio, client list, individual employee bios, testimonials, and online reviews are other great measures to vet before deciding on a firm.
When embarking on a new web development agreement, it is also prudent to seek multiple proposals from a few different agencies. This allows you to see how the project can be approached. You’re probably on the right track if you get similar approaches from multiple firms. If the proposals differ significantly, you’ve got a great line of questioning.
In many of the requests for proposals and project requests PINT receives, prospective clients ask if we have experience with their industry. While industry experience is not a guarantee of success or failure on a project, it does have one distinct advantage. Industry experience can reduce the learning curve for understanding the client’s business, stakeholders, and likely the story they are trying to tell through their website.
That being said, this should be only one part of the equation when choosing a firm, not the sole factor. Having a variety of experience across industries can be just as important. This type of experience is useful when it comes to brainstorming innovative elements from other industries and applying them to your project (when appropriate).
6. What other sites do I like and why?
Before you meet with anyone, you can prepare yourself for meetings by finding three to five design examples that you like. These examples can be from within your industry, or examples of styling or features you find effective.
There are several reasons why this small investment in time can reap big rewards later:
- One of the easiest ways to get a valuable conversation started with a web development professional is to talk about specific sites.
- Web development teams in large organizations invest big resources into their sites. You can benefit from the testing they’ve done by using what works as appropriate for your industry and project.
- It saves time when meeting with professionals if you can identify what you like and what you do not. Efficient planning and design processes with fewer rounds of revision can reduce overall project costs.
Website redesign questions can vary
These are some of the most important questions we get asked and would like to be asked during the vendor selection process. Of course, each website redesign project is different.