9 Tips for Managing a Website Redesign

At Localytics I managed a big company rebrand and website redesign. We launched this in conjunction with new pricing, a new UI and three big new features. (We were busy!) It’s been a few months since the site launched in August, and the time has helped me process the experience and consolidate my thoughts into some website redesign tips.

Ready? Okay.

1) Identify the Website Redesign Decision Makers

Many people will have opinions about a redesign. However, it’s not realistic to have an entire company chime in on every little decision. First, you need to narrow down the feedback team, identify the key representatives from each department and strategically involve those people in the right conversations. Second, to ensure the decision-making process goes as smoothly as possible, you need determine whose opinion and approval is nice to have and whose opinion and approval is a must-have.

Following this logic, consider dividing people into three groups.

Group 1: It’d be nice to have their feedback, but it’s not absolutely necessary to have their approval to move forward on a decision or deliverable. (This is probably Director/Manager people and other internal experts. This group may change depending on what the decision or deliverable happens to be.)

Group 2: You have to get their feedback and take it into consideration, but it’s not absolutely necessary to have their approval to move forward on a decision or deliverable. (This group is probably the VP’s from each department.)

Group 3: You have to get their feedback and you have to have their approval on all decisions and deliverables. (This group should be small. Probably the CEO and one other person.)

2) Make People Feel Heard

To hit deadlines, you have to ultimately take people’s feedback and then choose a single direction to go in. Unless you wish to have a unanimous decision-making process (I don’t recommend it) this inevitably means that people won’t always get their way.

It’s important that you proactively give people a platform where they can provide their ideas so they feel like they are a part of the process in the first place. Meetings and conference calls are obvious platforms, but you can even do simple things like sharing a Google Doc where everyone can write their ideas. To close the loop, if people took the time to give input, you need to inform those folks about what direction you ultimately went in and why you did so. Which leads me to the next tip…

3) Explain the Logic Behind Your Decisions and Ideas

Back into the presentation of your ideas by first showing examples in the marketplace, metrics or telling a personal story or experience. You always need to explain a challenge or situation and present your idea as a solution to that. This information is already in your head. You just need to take your time and speak to it.

When I did this, I found that it set the tone for the kind of feedback or pushback I received in return and resulted in a much more productive conversation.

4) Be Clear on Decisions vs. Asking for Feedback

There’s a huge difference between keeping the necessary people in the loop and asking for additional input. In addition to explaining the logic behind your decisions, be clear when a decision has been made. A good way to do this is to acknowledge what parts of their feedback you took into consideration to arrive at that decision.

5) Work Backwards From Big Deadlines to Create Smaller Milestones

When coordinating a lot of internal resources for a launch, everyone obviously needs to operate under a shared deadline. However, when one deliverable doesn’t get done, it tends to have a domino effect that can impact that big deadline. This is why small milestones are important for a launch. They create a sense of urgency for getting small tasks done, but not arbitrarily. It gives you leverage to explain to those you are managing how their contribution to a small milestone is part of something bigger. This often is a much more effective way to motivate people to get things done than the alternative – random assignments with no explanation or sense of urgency.

6) Leverage Smaller Milestones to Nudge for Decision-Making

Similar to assigning tasks, when requesting feedback or approvals, picking deadlines out of thin air doesn’t do much to entice people to get back to you. People are busy! But when you can connect your request to the bigger picture you’ll have much more success in getting the feedback or approval you need in order to move a project forward. Additionally, being able to leverage a deadline helps you in situations where you need to actually move forward without approval.

7) Interactive Features and WordPress Templates Don’t Necessarily Mix

A major goal of ours was to create a site that non-technical employees could edit. This is why we chose to use a CMS, and given our familiarity with WordPress, why we chose to go with WordPress. We also wanted to create a site that really stood out with sophisticated, interactive graphics. It turns out that these things don’t necessarily mix. Javascript-laden interactive pages don’t make for great WordPress templates. This resulted in some pages being harder to edit than we would like.

The big takeaway here is to assume nothing. Ask tons of questions, keep reminding your design team of the overall project goals and do a lot of research on your own so you are an informed participant.

8) Use Project Management Tools to Stay Organized

I have tried several project management and to-do list tools including Trello, Things for Mac, Trajectory and Remember the Milk. For this project we used a combination of Asana for the Localytics team and Basecamp for our external design team. I love Asana and still use it for task management. I’m a Rework fangirl, love 37 Signals’ content and I liked Basecamp’s to-do lists, but I definitely found the messages layout to feel cluttered and preferred Asana overall.

9) Maintain Stamina

Throughout this redesign, I resented many of the work/life balance blog posts I read in the tech blogosphere. Some of them seem to insinuate that finishing your work by 5:00 is an easy thing to do, and if you are not getting it all done by 5:00 then you are a disorganized mess that has no life.

Writing copy, doing mockups, coordinating conversations, sitting in meetings, taking notes and funneling decisions-made back to a design team halfway around the world was just a lot of work. What I learned is that sometimes in your career there is just a lot of work to do. It’s tedious and time-consuming and no human can get it all done by 5:00. Sometimes you have an early morning and a late night. Unfortunately, for a big project like this, you may have both for months. It comes down to maintaining stamina in spite of the fact that you may not have a ton of outside time for rejuvenation.

My tips:

Be positive and enjoy the work. I worked way too hard and wish I enjoyed the day-to-day process of this more. Create a new playlist to work to. Work from a coffeeshop. Stay signed in to Gchat and chat with your girlfriends in the background. If there is lighter work to do, play a movie or some trashy reality television in the background while you do it. There’s work to do. You can either huff and puff and be miserable about it or you can embrace it and make it fun. Either way, the work has to get done. It’s up to you how you feel while you’re doing it.

Take shorter breaks. A 30-minute walk at lunch or in the evening is not going to derail your entire day. I wish I had enjoyed summertime a little more and done this more often, or at all.

Make plans. When you are working on a long project such as a website redesign, it is easy to default to work and avoid making social plans. Additionally, if you have already started to burn out, it’s harder to get work done as quickly. You may not trust yourself to finish things up on time if you make plans. However, when pressed with a hard deadline of dinner and drinks, I was always able to wrap things up on time and see my friends. The work will be there in two hours. Make plans in spite of it.

I hope that these tips are beneficial to someone reading this! Let me know if you have any tips to share with the class.

1 comments
cowdogger
cowdogger

Really good advice, I like the blog.  Website redesigns are so hard.  Your general advice about giving and receiving feedback, and establishing a difference between approvers and reviewers is great stuff.