Website redesign projects and digital transformation seem to come round in cycles – a contract comes up for renewal, budget targets get tightened, a restructure happens and with those things comes the need to look again at what you’re doing online.

The projects come with plenty of potential but are often most focused on the presentation layer – the ‘look and feel’ and the content within the design – rather than the design of the services being ‘digitised’ or the capabilities of the organisation to keep pace after the project.

On projects I’ve been involved in the temptation is to skip this phase and JFDI (I’m definitely pulled to jumping in, rather than endless meetings!) but spending time to really understand where you’re coming from, and where you’re going to can make or break the success of a project with the users and how hard or difficult the organisation makes it for you to do the work.

So, before you begin the next round of redesigning make sure you’ve had these conversations in the organisation, and have done the work to find detailed answers. Between them they set the direction for the project, underpin the visual design and content work with solid evidenced strategy, and align everyone to the things which matter.

Why are we doing this and who are we doing it for?

If the answer to this comes back to any sort of individual or organisational vanity: stop. The reason for redesigning a website or undertaking a broader digital strategy should be because you’ve identified a need from your users and the organisational benefit of meeting it.

To do that you need to know who your users are. And spoiler, it’s not ‘everyone’. Most large organisations will have several audiences, each with distinct needs, and you need to understand this to really nail the strategy and design work which comes from it. You may need to look at users for each service, or a group of services, and consider how to meet their needs. In the initial conversations try to resist coming up with solutions, but think more broadly about who you’re doing the project for and why it’s important to meet their needs.

Sub question (yes, I know it’s a bit of a cheat to include a sub-question) – who is already doing this really well in our sector and have we had a conversation to learn from them, or see how we can share? If you’re a council (for example) and you’re not looking to the work LocalGov Digital are doing across local government to improve services, ‘fix the digital plumbing’, or share new tools or collaborate on projects then you’re missing a trick.

What do we mean by digital?

Digital has become one of those words which is amorphous, and often interchangeable across several different levels of activity. It could mean the technology, it could mean the communications, it could mean content, or simply whatever is ‘online’. In my career I’ve had job titles and worked on projects covering ‘new media’, ‘e-content’, ‘e-communications’, and ‘digital’. The last may be the more fashionable term right now but it’s important if you’re creating strategy and aligning an organisation and team you spend time making sure everyone knows how it’s being used by you.

Sub-question (yes, I did it again) – are you using ‘digital’ to mean you’re catching up to where you should be and the expectations your users have, or are you intending to get ahead and push forward with new technologies to meet emerging behaviours? This ‘progress’ benchmark can be useful in defining digital.

Do we have what we need to keep being great after the initial project?

This is really important too. Often whatever resource there is goes into the project phase – the bit where you’re actively creating something – and what comes after is sort of put to one side during the planning.

Undoubtedly redesigning a website, or driving organisational strategy, needs resource attached to it (and have you got this, or is it being added to your day job?) but who is going to look after the thing you’ve made once it’s live? This ‘maintenance’ or ‘continuous improvement’ part of the cycle is just as important as getting the thing made in the first place.

This question needs an answer involving process as much as resource – a team and the capacity to do the work is important, so is the capability but what is the process for reviewing content or ongoing testing and check ins with users? What’s the approval process for making changes to structural elements like the website navigation, or functional elements like form fields (yes, this content matters too). All of this is well worth the time to talk through upfront before starting on the work.

NEED A HAND?

If you need a hand with anything do get in touch. I’m happy to take a look at what you’re currently doing, share my experience to help you build something new, or come in and share some of my knowledge and skills with you and your team. You can get in touch with me here and find out who else I’ve helped recently here

You can find the next dates for the Vital Facebook Skills workshops I run with Dan Slee here and I’m also running a Paid Content Essentials workshop diving deeper into online advertising including Facebook Ads, Google Ads, landing pages and more – even if your budget is small!  

Original source – Sarah Lay

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