The end result of a website redesign is a beautiful thing. But along the way, it is a time-consuming, brain-wracking process, and often times can feel like surviving a zombie apocalypse. So I present to you the Website Redesign Rules of Survival, a la the acclaimed 2009 film, Zombieland.
Rule #1: Cardio
Do some exercises before the time comes to start working on the redesign. Start with some research – surveys, focus groups, analytics insights – and find out what needs to be changed. The entire redesign process should be research-based.
Rule #2: The Double Tap
Always re-read your content. A professional website should not have typos or spelling errors. Re-read what you’ve written to make sure that it is clear and will make sense to the reader.
Rule #3: Beware of Bathrooms
OK, bathrooms seriously have nothing to do with websites. But, let’s rephrase this one to say “Beware of being pushed into a tight space.” It’s inevitable that people in other departments will come to you and beg you to put their content on the homepage. Using your research, explain to them how you have decided what will be on the homepage and how the rest of the content will be structured. Remember, this is your area of expertise and you know what’s best for your visitors.
Rule #4: Seatbelts
Use restraint. Don’t copy word-for-word the entire class catalog into your website. No one will read it. Writing for the web means cutting down on text and keeping only what is necessary.
Rule #7: Travel Light
Similar to Rule #4, less is more when it comes to text. Write short, concise paragraphs and use bullet points for lists. Use headers to break up long pages and to help the user skim through the content.
Rule #8: Get a Kickass Partner
Find a web solutions company that understands your needs. Discuss your primary audiences, your goals for the website and your timeline for launching the redesigned site. Check out their portfolio and see if the designs and features they’ve developed for other clients are similar to what you are looking for.
Rule #17: (Don’t) Be a Hero
Let’s face it – your new website will not live up to everyone’s ideals. Your goal is not to design for these nitpicky people. Your goal is to provide the best user experience for the average user visiting your site. However, you’ll also want that ‘wow’ factor that makes people remember your site, so it’s OK to be a hero in that sense.
Rule #18: Limber Up
Every day will bring a new challenge while working on your redesign. Take a few deep breaths and some stretches to clear your mind before you start tackling each challenge.
Rule #21: Avoid Strip Clubs
Avoid flashy stuff. Remember back in the 90s when people tossed animated gifs, clip art and rainbow text into their HTML? Don’t do that! Use colors that are easy on the eye. Don’t use auto-play videos or sounds. Any movement on the page, such as a scrolling photo slideshow, should have at least a 10-second delay so it’s not too distracting.
Rule #22: When In Doubt, Know Your Way Out
Always have a backup plan. When the project is nearing its end, you’ll want to coordinate a launch date. Schedule Plan B on the calendar, too.
Rule #29: The Buddy System
Teamwork is key to a successful website redesign. It shouldn’t rest on one person’s shoulders. You need a good designer, developer, content manager and editor. The person responsible for all of the content needs a good editor behind their back – someone who isn’t afraid to critique and provide suggestions.
Rule #31: Check the Back Seat
Know what’s going on behind the scenes of your website. A good content management system is critical, as well as a robust analytics suite.
Rule #32: Enjoy the Little Things
Sometimes, the most appreciated features of your website are the most simple. A perfectly placed picture that tells a story can be more powerful than a professionally produced video interview. Tell stories of everyday life throughout your website.
Rule #33: Swiss Army Knife
Think of your website as a hub with many arms extending outward from it. Integrate your social media – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn, etc. – into your website. Use buttons and widgets to make your website more interactive with your other communications channels.
Use these rules as a guideline for your next website redesign project, and remember, you can always add your own rules to the list.
In the immortal words of Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘Au revoir, Gopher.’
– Bill Murray