At least once a year, I’m asked to help with the evolution of an organization’s website. While the organizations I’ve done work for vary greatly, the start of our process differs from a ‘ground-up’ website launch, and with an existing site, the first phase tends to start in a different place. Recognizing that will help you with a more successful redesign when you are faced with the same kind of challenge.
Why a Website Redesign is different
In a Website redesign, you can make your life easier by finding out at the start how invested in past content stakeholders are, and why. It’s going to be clear that stakeholders know they want change, but trashing lots of content from the existing Website may not be desired or even the right thing to do. Some of it might be outdated, other content might be valuable and relevant to the direction the site needs to go. Knowing where to start with culling out the content can be one of the most difficult things to pin down. I use a questionnaire that helps 1) define goals AND 2) identify the special needs of a Website assignment that includes legacy content. I keep it updated with 16-20 questions. It has varied over time because with each new assignment of this type, questions, needs and technology changes. What worked two years ago is not the same as what works today.
Rather than being a creative brief, it’s a discovery document that goes ahead of any creative goal-setting and the creation of a creative brief.
The Common-sense Secret of Using the Website Redesign Questionnaire
A form or document alone flung around via email isn’t going to do the job alone. It’s important to put the document in front of the right people at the right time. In one case I had, there were nearly a dozen managers, board members, program directors, and organizational leaders that needed to provide input about our audiences and site goals. Instead of just sending the document out and hoping to get everyone’s attention, I worked with my point person to identify the highest-level stakeholders and provide them with an executive review first, and provide a timetable for feedback or questions. We promised their subordinates would be reviewing more closely. Once we had their buy-in on a high level, we published the answers in a short document that listed what was important to them. Then the questions and the executive-level answers went to the second round of decision-makers further down the pecking order, and also to others in the organization who were influencers and would be providing technical input.
Why did we send this for initial executive review? First, we wanted to be sure that at the highest level, we would know if there were unexpected sacred cows to address, and why. Second, to ensure that any subordinate stakeholders who would not derail or re-prioritize goals central to the website redesign.
Borrowing from past experience in guiding website evolutions, the questionnaire is goal-focused and puts questions into a non-technical framework. It avoids talking about executional details like design. Instead, it identifies who we are talking to through the website, and what is important to them. In addition, the compiled answers also help identify who within our organization is most closely in contact with each audience. Who knows them best, and why. For content writers, a knowledgeable source really help them create copy that engages Website visitors.
The Website Redesign questionnaire is FREE and available upon request.