Launching your website redesign with the right rollout strategy

| August 17, 2017
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If you’ve been following my four-part blog series on how to successfully manage a corporate website redesign, you’ve probably been eagerly awaiting this post. Previously, I wrote about how to develop a data-driven strategy for your redesign; how to turn that strategy into an actionable plan; and how to marry form with function in your build. This blog post will cover the final phase of your project—managing a successful rollout of your new site.

Before you launch, you’ll need to do some final testing, ensuring your build can withstand real world usage scenarios; you’ll want to identify impacts to internal systems and processes, making sure the changes don’t break anything; and you’ll want to ready your teams, creating brand advocacy for your new site. Then comes the fun part—the opportunity to put on your marketing hat and introduce customers and prospects alike to your new corporate website!

1. Take it to the limits, and beyond, during testing

Every change you make to your website, no matter how minor, has the potential to create a butterfly effect in deployment, introducing bugs or issues in seemingly unrelated areas. There is an enormous volume of variables at play between the actual system of components that comprise your site and the often unexpected ways in which people use them.

Best practice when re-imagining your site is to begin testing all the way back in the concept stage, involving a sample set of representative users in evaluating wireframes while your UX team and developers iterate on the design. Once you have a working prototype you feel good about, you should test it with real users in a controlled environment, asking them to complete specific tasks to explore its usability. Testing the user interface with representative users is critical to ensuring a final product that meets the unique needs of both your customers and prospects and drives repeat engagement.

As your team begins building the actual site, they should also put it through Quality Assurance (QA) tests, using automated tools specifically designed to look for the weak spots. For example, Gremlins.js promises to “unleash a horde of undisciplined gremlins,” generating and typing in random data strings all over the place to test how your website responds. These technical tests are all about systematically checking that the site is meeting its specified requirements, catching any potential errors before they make it into the final product.

Last, you’ll want to have your internal team of users review the site, both for usability and bugs, using a tool like Jira to aggregate and address their feedback before releasing it to the public.

Pro Tip:  Gaining feedback from real users early in the development process can save you a lot of time, money, and cycles. Interviews to inform the requirements; A/B testing to guide the design; and remote moderated and unmoderated usability testing during the build are all great methods of ensuring your website redesign meets the needs of the most important stakeholders of all—your customers.

2. Update your marketing and sales materials to avoid 404s

In my last post, I talked about evaluating your content to determine which pages should be redirected (301s) and which should be removed altogether (404s, or if you’ve planned carefully, 410s). Anyone who’s ever seen an “Oops, looks like the page you are looking for no longer exists” message knows that discovering a dead end 404 error isn’t a great user experience.

Often overlooked during a website redesign are all the sales and marketing materials that link to content on the site. You’ll want to work with your Salesforce administrator and your marketing operations lead to audit all of your sales email templates and live nurture campaigns, to avoid the customer experience fail of sending out communications that lead to dead links. At the same time, your content marketing manager and your social media manager should review and update all of your customer-facing content that contains links. You may be surprised how many paths there are to each of your web pages, especially if your original site hasn’t been updated in awhile.

Pro Tip:  If you’ve been using Google’s Campaign URL Builder to create custom links to track campaign performance, identifying any social content linking to pages you’ve retired should be easy. Just visit Traffic Sources>Sources>Campaigns within Google Analytics (GA). If you haven’t, you can still use GA’s Referral Path, under Traffic Sources>Sources>Referrals to explore inbound traffic from social platforms, Google image search, blog posts, and more.

3. Ready your internal teams and create advocacy

Depending on the size of your company, there may be several teams that you need to prepare for the big day you launch your site. If your site is your product—for example, you are a SaaS provider—your customer support team will need to be fully prepared to handle a higher volume of inbound calls, chats, or emails in the days following the launch. Similarly, if your site offers customer tools, and the location or look/feel of those tools has changed, you’ll need to have service reps standing by to answer questions.

You’ll also want to make sure that the development team that worked on your site, whether you used an external agency or internal resources, is available in case any bugs or other issues arise that you may have inadvertently missed during testing. The larger your site is, the more opportunities there are for problems to occur. Additionally, you’ll need to ready your sales and marketing teams to send out any communications announcing the new site or changes to its functionality.

Most importantly, you’ll want to let the whole company know what’s happening, why, and when to prepare them to act as advocates. A corporate website redesign is a big deal, and you want the whole world to know about it. Who better to spread the news than your employees? Use the internal company newsletter (if you have one) and email to communicate all the details and educate them on how they can best share the redesign, retweeting or sharing status updates from the company’s social media accounts.

Pro Tip:  Queue up your teams in advance with a playbook that includes answers to frequently asked questions to ensure consistency in their customer communications. You may also want to consider developing some preloaded calls scripts and email templates to enable your teams to respond quickly and accurately to customer questions or issues.

4. Share the big news with customers, then share it again

Depending on the nature and scale of your website redesign, you might need to begin teeing up your customers for the change several weeks in advance. For example, if the location of the button they always look for to access their account has changed, send them an email or two notifying them about the change before it happens, so they know what to expect.

If the site is your product, and its functionality has changed, you’ll want to be more thorough in your communications, preparing a cadence of educational or instructional content spanning the weeks before and after launch. For example, you could create a series of videos on how to use its new features and share it via email, your blog, your social channels, or even through a feature on your homepage. Even better, you could build a tutorial into your site at launch, retiring it once you’re confident that your users have made it through the learning curve. Make sure to include a highly visible path for customers to provide feedback or ask questions in all of your communications. Not only will this help you get ahead of any potential issues, but it also can provide you with a treasure trove of ideas for your next iteration.

Pro Tip:  Exit surveys are an excellent way of gathering quick insight on site performance, functionality, and usability. Develop a series of surveys before launch using a tool like Survicate, then adjust as you gain more insight into whether or not your site is delivering on its goals. Try to keep it to one or two multiple choice or scale questions, designed with the user’s context in mind.

5. Tap into the power of analytics and human insights to optimize and iterate

In the first and third posts of this series, I recommended leveraging Google Analytics to research and benchmark your site’s current performance—looking at things like visits, uniques, bounce rate, time on site/page, top performing keywords, inbound links, and pages indexed. Soon after launching your new site, and on an ongoing basis after that, you should see how your new site is performing against benchmarks. What’s working out as expected? What isn’t? And what can you learn from it?

You’ll also want to evaluate data from your marketing automation platform to see if form conversions have increased for things like “talk to sales” or “download content.” This should give you insight into what content or offers are most appealing to your users, and whether or not you have the right amount of fields on your forms. If you’re using Optimizely or a similar tool to A/B test headlines, copy, or calls-to-action, you’ll need to consider that information as well.

Pro Tip: Ongoing user testing, including benchmark and longitudinal studies, can help you understand how successful your site changes have been, and give you deeper insight into how your customers are interacting with your new design. Contact User Testing to learn more.

Remember, the digital world changes constantly, so post-launch you’ll want to schedule regular meetings for your web team (web managers, content managers, SEO specialists, designers, developers, and IT contributors) to evaluate its performance against goals, and explore opportunities to make improvements. You should think of your site always as a work-in-progress that requires dedicated resources to stay fresh.

Thanks for reading this four part series on how to develop a data-based strategy and actionable plan for your site redesign, as well as how to manage the build and roll it out to your customers. Subscribe to the UserTesting blog for more actionable tips on how buyer insights can inform your product, website, or digital strategy.