Going through a website redesign almost always seems like a great idea.
Who wouldn’t want to freshen their brand’s online presences, create a sleeker user interface and have a website that’s way more attractive than the competition’s?
That is, it seems like a good idea until you get down into the nitty-gritty details of planning and you actually start to execute some of your ideas for redesign and development.
Then you realize that this great idea you had is going to be no pleasant, easy, and peaceful walk in the park on a relaxing Sunday afternoon.
Instead, it’s going to be a grueling, never-ending battle in WWI-style muddy trenches that you get stuck in while wading through from one point to the next, all the while just trying to do your best, hoping and praying it’s enough to bring you peace and relief from the situation as soon as possible.
Avoid Website Redesign Trench Foot: Train Before the Battle
To keep your website’s redesign work manageable (and enjoyable) and to make sure your final results are worth the effort, take time before beginning creative work to plan. A detailed, in-depth plan of the entire project will ensure you and your comrades don’t trip over one another in the trenches.”
To do this, a lot of spreadsheet work and grit planning is necessary.
If you plan down to weekly – or even daily – tasks to be completed for each aspect of your website and assign them to different, responsible professionals from the beginning, there will be no reason your project should lag behind your timeline or produce sub-par results.
This means creating spreadsheets with numerous pages and what will seem like an endless amount of rows and columns for tracking and filling in information.
It might sound overwhelming and unnecessary, but when you’re there in the trenches and can’t see the battlefield from a bird’s eye view, having a guide to tell you exactly what to do next will give you comfort and bring you closer to relief and your goal of winning the battle.
Think of creating your website redesign action plan and tracking sheets as training for the battle: the harder you train, the more prepared you’ll be, the more successfully you’ll fight, and the quicker you will rise as the victor and return home with the spoils.
Strategy First, Planning Second
Before you make a plan of the steps you need to take to redesign your website, you need to seriously consider why you need or want to redesign your website.
Consider the goals you want to accomplish with this redesign:
- keeping visitors from bouncing off your pages so quickly
- make your library of downloadable information more accessible
- more informative pages
- to be more visually aligned with your brand
- to improve navigation to average more pages per visit
- improve on-site SEO
Outline exactly what your goals are and prioritize them in a numbered list which you will use to plan accordingly, and attach actual data and numbers with these goals.
For example, if your main goal is to increase your conversion rate, define that goal (broken down on a page-by-page basis) like this: “Improve conversion rate of mobile game development landing page from X% to Y%.”
For each goal of your strategy point, you will make a plan outlined in a spreadsheet to achieve those goals and weave them together into one overarching, detailed plan that will lead you step-by-step into getting everything done and making your website rock.
Note: If your goals are to simply make your site look better or offer better information to your visitors, a total redesign probably isn’t necessary. You can simply refresh your site with updated design elements and better-written content to achieve your goals without getting bogged down.
Document Everything That’s Current
Write down and save your current metrics (whether they’re directly associated with your strategy-based goals or not) and save them in a spreadsheet document.
Divide the document into multiple pages based on each individual web page you have. If your site has more than 10 pages, create documents based on sub-sections of your website so there’s less confusion in trying to store and access this information.
Include the following data, at a minimum: bounce rate, average time on page, 1st traffic source, 2nd traffic source, 3rd traffic source, and conversion rate.
These documents will serve as a base that will help you prioritize your tasks and daily or weekly priorities when making your action plan tracking sheets.
Hint: Also back up the most recent version of your website before you start making changes so you don’t lose any of your backend SEO work that can be transferred to the new design. Further, document each and every piece of content you have:
- Page text
- Blog posts
- Downloadable reports
- White papers
These pieces of content have incredible value so you don’t have to re-do absolutely everything. And, even if one of your main goals is to rewrite a lot of it, it’s a valuable source to refer back to… whether for positive guidance or as an example of what not to do next time.
Time and Money: Your Two Most Valuable Resources
Taking stock of the internal resources you have available from the very beginning of the project is crucial. You need to know how much worker bandwidth and money you have to dedicate to the project, and over what periods of time.
With this knowledge, outline your plan for time-based deliverables and dedicate portions of your monetary and time-related budgets to each step of the process.
Make sure you complete the budgeting for the entire project at once so you can look out for problem areas and make sure you don’t come up short in the end.
In this example, a company plans to take care of everything except the design in-house.
Create Action Plan Trackers
To make filling in the exact tasks and deadlines easier, start with creating action plan trackers for every single page you will either redesign in some way or the new pages you will add into your site as a part of your redesign.
Use your page’s current site map to help you get started.
If you only have 5-10 pages within your site, one document with different tabs will suffice. However, if you’ve got more than that, segment your pages into different documents based on the over-arching goals of the pages.
For example, if you’ve got one subset of pages for services, another subset for products, and a third for company-based information, these can be three different documents, each with multiple tabs, grouped together in the same folder.
Label your column headings with page-specific task, goals, person responsible, target delivery date, and date completed, and your rows with each task that you will do.
You won’t be using this yet, but it’s the easiest document to set up and you won’t want to lose your momentum once you get to the point of filling it in.
Create Strategy Trackers
Think of your page action plan trackers as your ready-to-implement plan.
But, as stated earlier, you can’t have an effective plan without a strategy in place. You can’t decide how to get somewhere until you actually define where it is you want to go. This is what your strategy documents will do for you.
And just like your need to fine-tune every detail of your plan before you execute it, you also need to fine-tune every detail of your strategy before you execute it into your plan implementation documents.
Open the document you used to write down your goals earlier. Each goal gets its own tab in a spreadsheet.
It’s up to you how many separate spreadsheet documents you make, but make sure you’ve at least covered the bases: SEO goals, conversion goals, UI goals (clickability), time on page, pages per visit, content quality, brand association / design quality, etc.
Set your columns up with Goal, Person Responsible, Deadline, and each row is dedicated to a sub-part of action items required to either do or plan to complete that goal.
Remember the trenches, people. It sounds like a lot of work now, but you’ll be thanking your lucky stars for these sheets once you actually get down to business.
If you’re getting confused about how all this documentation works together, here’s a flow chart of the process:
Fill In Your Strategy Trackers
With both types of trackers made, it’s time to get down to business.
This is where your real training starts and is what separates the boys from the men when it comes to showing a website redesign project who’s boss.
With each overarching goal, you’ll find a seemingly endless number of baby steps to take to finish that goal.
One of the best ways to do this is to fill in the obvious, larger steps into the document first. As you realize what the smaller steps are that comprise the larger steps you initially filled in, you can add rows underneath them to make the document more complete and cohesive.
Hint: To save time doing this, have a brainstorming session with everyone involved in the website redesign project. Go goal-by-goal and write down absolutely everything each person suggests needs to be done in his or her arena to accomplish that goal.
You can go back and organize these tasks into the document later, but doing this will give you all the information you need to complete the documents in one sitting rather than having clunky back and forth communication for suggestions on improvements and additions.
Note: Depending on your in-house capabilities, you may or may not need to outsource some of the work to freelance professionals or agencies. If you see you need to do this, build a planning document dedicated to the steps you need to take to successfully find the best professionals to work with within your budget.
Fill in Action Plan Trackers
When your strategy tracker is finished, half the battle (of the training part, anyway, is finished).
You’ll find that each action item of your strategy tracker will lead you to solve problems and make decisions about what to write directly into your action plan tracking sheets. All you need to do is follow each one step-by-step.
It will take some time to do, but you can set your to-do list on autopilot (since the strategy tracker has it taken care of) and just go step-by-step, completing your goals for each day.
Once this is finished and your action plan documents are done, send them out to your colleagues working on the project with you and ask for their reviews and criticisms. A few small adjustments may have to be made, but that’s all.
If it helps, have another brainstorming meeting to poke holes in your action plan to find ways to make it stronger.
Each action item will be assigned a responsible person and a deadline, so once everything is finalized, distribute these sheets to your team and have them tick off items as they complete them.
A word to the wise: Even though you’ve taken care of yourself to follow a step-by-step plan, you will still feel like you’re deep inside a war zone trench at some points. When this happens, it’s best to hold a meeting to clear the air, communicate about any confusions, and get everyone back on track to win the battle.
Make it Happen
After all the teeth-gritting, hair-pulling planning and the internal cringing over staring at spreadsheets and filling them in day in and day out, you’re ready to jump out of the low-flying helicopter and hit the battlefield with your rations on your back and your gun in your hand.
Good luck, soldier.