Don’t Re-Design Your Website!

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I worked on my first corporate intranet design and content development plan over 20 years ago, so by now I’ve witnessed and participated in multiple generations of website redesign projects in various organizations and settings. Typically these have been grand, top-down affairs that start with complaints that “nobody can find what they need” and involve wireframes, various forms of testing, and a complete overhaul of the site’s navigational structure.

A recent conversation caused me to look at website design in a new light, and to think that it’s time (past time?) for a new approach. There are two things wrong with the old top-down redesign process:

1. It bogs down in trying to address the whole site at once, rather than applying a systematic segmenting approach to address the needs of a given audience. Good marketing involves thinking through who the key audiences are, understanding the purposes and processes in how each one uses the site, and customizing to meet their needs. By taking a site-wide approach, top-down redesign projects dissipate the energy and attention paid to specific audiences.

2. It overlooks the integration of media. With the proliferation of social media and content targeted to mobile as well as stationary devices, a website is only one element in a well-developed communication strategy. By focusing only on the web piece, the traditional approach relegates media integration to an afterthought.

So, what might replace traditional website redesign? Here are a couple ideas:

1. Keep a light hand on high level navigation. Don’t get bogged down in it.

2. Instead, start by identifying and understanding the key audiences. What do they need to hear from us? What content and capabilities do we want to deliver to each one?

3. Develop and maintain the content, messages the audience needs. Pay attention to timing and incorporate a variety of media as appropriate. Keep in touch; know whether it’s working and watch for evolving needs.

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