The process of building a successful website takes both the skills of an architect to build the code and a visionary graphic designer to create a one of kind user experience that is equal parts beautiful, functional and sustainable to years to come.
But what if your first website doesn't function correctly or if the design no longer fits your vision for your business. Below are a few lessons learned to help plan your website makeover project.
Do you need a new website?
You probably do if:
- Your potential clients don't hire you because of what they have seen on your website.
- You get complaints from people because they can't find information on your website.
- If your website is not responsive. This means it looks good on not only computers on all common browser platforms, but also on all mobile devises. You should not have to build a separate website just for mobile devices anymore. If you need a different format on mobile for some reason, consider having an app built instead.
- Your website loads slowly or images do not look good on larger screens.
- Your website is not run on a Content Management System and is hard to update.
- Your business model has changed and the website can't be changed with a few tweaks to represent this.
How to start a website revamp project
First, consider the following:
- All the primary stakeholders are on board (i.e. partners or marketing director).
- Someone at the company is available to be the point person to work with the designers and/or web developer.
- Time and resources must be allocated to the website revamp (i.e. preparing images, proofing/editing text, testing the prototype, managing the review and approval process).
The following technical requirements have to be included to meet today's Web standards:
- Responsive design, so it can be seen correctly on all devices.
- Don't use proprietary tools requiring special plugins (such as Flash). People will go somewhere else where they don't have the hassle.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO). While you can hire a SEO specialist to help increase the ranking of your site, a good designer will understand the basics of SEO in structuring your site.
- Content Management System (CMS). Make sure that your developer uses a good open-source CMS such as Drupal, Joomla or Wordpress that is widely supported. This will also allow you or someone in your firm to manage the website content without having to contact the web developer for updates, which could cost you time and money.
- An ongoing relationship with the developer. While you may not need to work together regularly, you want to make sure the company you've selected has a good track record of responding to existing clients when they need help, maintenance or feature updates.
The scope of work
It is vital that you define a project with beginning a conversation with a web designer. Ask questions such as:
- What are our business goals?
- What are your aesthetic visions?
- What are the problems with your existing website?
- Do you need new branding or logo? If so, make sure you are working with a graphic designer who understands branding.
- Who will be involved in the decision making process for the design and the technical build?
- Do you have login information to the existing web hosting, domain registrar, and the CMS?
- What visuals do you have to work with (i.e. photographs, sketches or drawn-up plans)?
- Do you need to rewrite of edit the text of each section of the current website? If so, make sure you allot time for the review and approval process
One final note. Be sure you have an understanding that when the project is finished, the developer provides you with all the master usernames and passwords, along with the URLs needed to access the backend of the website. This is vital in case something happens to the design firm or you need to change companies due to poor support.