Five Steps Agency Clients Can Take to Ensure the Success of Their Website Redesign Project

Christine  Meginness

March 11, 2014

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You've just engaged a top-notch digital agency with a team of brilliant strategists, designers and technologists (yes, I'm talking about us!) to redesign your company's website. You've been introduced to your project team, and been assured by your project manager that you're in capable hands, and they will steer your project to a successful launch. So now you can just sit back and let them do their magic, right?

Well, yes, you can. But there are steps you can take to make sure the project is seen as a success within your organization before the website even launches. And there are steps you can take to make sure that the project maintains momentum, rather than stalling out.

Step 1: Invite all of your stakeholders to participate in the project from the beginning.

I refer to this as the "speak now or forever hold your peace" tactic. By inviting the key business, product, marketing and technical stakeholders to contribute requirements, requests, ideas and feedback, you'll give those stakeholders a voice in the creation of the new website that will ultimately be the digital face of their company. And inviting them from the beginning means that their input is considered early on in the project, where it can be prioritized and planned in the overall strategic, creative and functional approaches to the site redesign. (See Step 5 below for the risk of not taking this approach.)

Everyone may not get everything on their wish list, but with the context of their involvement in the project, they'll gain an understanding for why their ideas may not fit in or why they may need to be implemented in a future phase.

Step 2: Determine the ultimate decision maker.

It's great that you've invited everyone to the party, but inevitably there will be differences of opinion that need to be resolved. Your organization needs to determine a project owner who is the tiebreaker in any situation where there are conflicting viewpoints. Ideally this individual is someone skilled at gaining buy-in and consensus from across your lines of business, but ultimately this person just needs to be able to make the tough calls and stick with them so that the project can keep moving forward.

Step 3: Get meetings on reviewers' calendars as early as possible.

This may seem like a small thing, but it can turn into a big issue. This is also an adjunct to the "speak now or forever hold your peace" approach. If stakeholders aren't able to attend presentations and offer their feedback on deliverables, it'll be tough to get that consensus and buy-in when changes are (or aren't) made to deliverables without their input.

In addition, if you're trying to schedule these meetings at the last minute and can't make it happen on the scheduled date, your overall launch schedule could end up getting pushed out just because it took an extra week to get a review meeting on the books with your stakeholders.

Step 4: Be precise in your feedback, but present the problem rather than the solution.

I can't count the number of times my teams have gotten non-actionable feedback along the lines of "The homepage needs more pizzazz" or "I hate that font." But almost as bad is highly prescriptive feedback without any information about where the change request came from. Some examples I've seen are things like "Change all of the link colors to light blue" (even though a light blue font would be illegible against the white background) or "We need "X" menu item in the top nav" (even though the analytics show that nobody ever clicks on the "X" menu).

You've hired a digital agency because they bring experience and expertise to the table that you don't have (or don't have capacity for) in-house. If you can present us with a problem, we can come back to you with a workable solution, and it may be one you'd never have come up with on your own. For example, if the feedback was "Light blue is one of our new brand colors and we need it to be emphasized more on our new website," we might respond with a creative approach that includes a light blue rollover state for your menus, light blue action buttons, etc. And if we'd gotten feedback that said, "We can't lose the content in the "X" section of our website," we can work to find an appropriate home for that content in the new menu structure.

Step 5: Be prepared for the cost of changing your mind.

The farther along you are in your website redesign project, the more complex and time-consuming a change in direction can be. If you tell us in the first or second round of wireframe reviews that you really don't like having all of your site links within three big mega-menus and you would prefer a wider, shallower navigation scheme with eight or nine top-level menu items, it may take us a day to make those changes. If you give us the same feedback after we've completed the wireframes for your mobile and desktop sites, completed all of the design comps for your pages, and are implementing the designs in your new content management system, it's likely to take several days, if not weeks, to unwind the work that's been completed and apply the change to the site.

If you bring a new stakeholder into the mix when we're well along in the project, you're introducing the same risk, with new input that may deviate from the established direction, and decisions that were final being "un-made." The answer to the requested change is never going to be "No," but it is going to be "Yes, and this is what it will cost" in terms of budget, timeline and/or other features that may need to be sacrificed.