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Ten tips for managing a successful Web redesign

In this excerpt, Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler offer advice on overseeing a site overhaul

By Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler
February 16, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Excerpted from Web Redesign: Workflow That Works with permission of New Riders Publishing, all rights reserved.

Processes evolve. Over time and several redesigns, a few points screamed to be kept in mind: Communicate with the client, be scalable, plan to plan, test your assumptions, analyze your current site, and so on. We ran these mini-philosophies by industry leaders and newbies alike. The result? Our collection of things to think about evolved into -- drum roll, please -- 10 EXPERT TIPS TO A SUCCESSFUL REDESIGN.

The 10 tips presented in this chapter cover many topics: planning, industry positioning, audience, usability, technology, content, scalability, and more. We will be addressing all of these and more in the pages that follow. This is by no means an exhaustive list; rather, it is a helpful group of things to keep in mind as you progress through the phases.

Redesign is happening. Address the need. And stay on track while you do it.

Tip 1: Think before you act.
Don't just put up a new site because you think you are behind the times. This is a common trap. Understand that there is more involved than simply designing a snazzier interface. Plan to plan. A logical workflow will help you cover all your bases.

Tip 2: Identify redesign issues and goals.
What is currently working on your site, and what needs to change in the redesign? Review customer service calls and e-mails -- especially complaints. Conduct usability tests to identify specific redesign issues rather than speculate. Determine your goals and then execute accordingly.

Tip 3: Analyze your competition.
View the industry objectively. Look at competitor sites and see what works. Compare features and services. See what works by actually using competitor sites and your current site, too. Understand how your site differentiates itself from the competition.

Tip 4: Involve your current audience.
Include your current user base in the redesign. Don't alienate your current audience with sudden change; communicate clearly why and when your site is changing.

Web Redesign: Workflow That Works


Tip 5: Design for users, not investors.
If your site is not usable, your online presence risks failure. Too often, usability issues are clouded by the requirements of the advertiser or investor. Do not make the mistake of designing for the wrong audience. Know your audience. Take great pains to ensure that the needs of the user are compatible with your business objectives.

Tip 6: Bring in your engineer early.
Consulting with a technical engineer (for HMTL as well as application development and back-end needs) early on in the process will save you time and headaches in the midst of your project. Your engineer will help you plan confidently and will clue you in at every step as to what is technologically feasible.

Tip 7: Believe in usability testing.
Redesign with your user in mind. Perform usability testing on both current and redesigned sites during the development process. Determine usability issues and seek to resolve them with redesign. Nothing gives you more honest feedback than watching someone go through your site. Can users use the new site? Watch and learn, and then apply.

Tip 8: Understand content delivery reality.
Content delivery is a top schedule-buster in nearly all redesign projects. Have a dedicated, client-side point person who gathers, modifies, writes, and delivers content on time. Don't underestimate the need for a content delivery plan.

Tip 9: Set clear expectations.
Communication is key. Many times, a project starts beautifully and then breaks down due to misunderstandings and misinterpreted assumptions. Each document you produce should clearly outline your goals. Make sure all team members are always on the same page, speaking the same terminology.

Tip 10: Think long term; focus on short term.
Don't try to do everything at once; you will drive yourself absolutely nuts. Redesign and launch in phases. In addition to allowing for realistic delivery goals, an iterative approach to launching also offers the chance for evaluation of the redesigned site so that changes can be incorporated.

Excerpted from Web Redesign: Workflow That Works with permission of New Riders Publishing, all rights reserved.


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