How to create a master plan for your website redesign

By Jessica Legg | June 26, 2017
How to create a master plan for your website redesign

Failure. The big, dreaded “F” word of a website redesign. There are few corporate assets as valuable, or as polarizing, as the company website. The all-important, all-powerful website is the face of the company, the representation of the brand, the gateway to customer conversations, the source of leads, and ultimately, a key driver of business revenue. When it comes to the website, failing to plan is planning to drop the “F-bomb” in a big way. In the first post of this series on how to successfully manage a corporate website redesign, we covered how to develop and vet a data-based redesign strategy. In this post, we’ll discuss how to increase your chance of success by up to 178%, developing a master plan for your redesign. When it comes to website redesign planning, follow the rule of threes.

1. Inventory your content and analyze the gaps

Now that you’ve taken the time to assess your buyer personas, hopefully vetting them with some focus groups and interviews, it’s time to figure out if you’ve got the right goods. You’ll want to fully inventory your web pages, as well as the content you have nested within them and in your resource center, to see what’s missing. You should look at this through two lenses. The first is qualitative. Based on what you now know about your buyers and their journeydo you have the necessary assets in place to guide them through their journey, and are those assets saying the right things? If not, what do you need to create to fill the gap? The second is quantitative. How does the data match up against your assumptions? Which keywords and pages are ranking the highest? Which pages are getting the most views and why? What content is driving the most inbound links and from where?  And even more importantly, what are people downloading and sharing? As they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I’d add... don’t break it either. Keep your critical pages and content in place, building upon what you’re already doing well. Try to resist the urge to make changes that aren’t solving any problem, to reduce the chance of creating unforeseen complications. Pro Tip: Before drafting a line of content, do some messaging testing with existing customers target buyers using tools like focus groups, interviews and A/B testing to dial it in. Test headlines, subheads, themes and calls to action to see what stands up and what falls flat.

2. Get your internal BANT in line

That’s right, your BANT. Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe. You may think only salespeople need to think about BANT, but in this context, that’s exactly what you are. Whether you’re in product, marketing or IT, you’re selling this project to an internal team of decision-makers, and you need to know:

  • Budget: How much will it cost to build all the identified content and functionality, and how does that align with your budget constraints?
  • Authority: Do you have complete and utter stakeholder buy-in on your strategy, as well as the B, N, and T of this equation?
  • Need: Have you fully articulated why you need this website redesign, and what goals it must accomplish?
  • Timeframe: How long will the project take, and how does that timeline align with your marketing and business calendar?

Safe estimates are your friend here. There’s a reason that Hubspot estimates 63% of website redesign projects go over budget and 51% of run late. I recommend using something simple like their free budget template to do a down-and-dirty internal estimate before gathering official quotes from agency partnersboth as a litmus test and to ensure that there are no gaps in the scope of work that will result in unwelcome change orders later. Make sure the scope of work you present for your stakeholders’ sign-off thoroughly details the project’s goals and deliverables, the KPIs against which they’ll be measured, and the timeline for completion, as well as areas of ownership and responsibility. And don’t be afraid to add in some “if this, then that” language to increase accountability. For example, if your site isn’t ready to launch on time due to the agency missing key deadlines there might be a reduction in cost built into your terms. Pro Tip: Build user testing, both on desktop and on mobile, into your budget and timeline. If you are going to fail, it’s better to fail (and recover) fast, before the big reveal. Remote moderated user testing (for wireframes and early prototypes), and unmoderated user testing (for beta sites) will save your BANT over and over again.

3. Create the blueprint for your new site design

Kickoff is when the rubber hits the road. Once you have a scope of work in place for your website redesign, it’s time to put all of that intel that you’ve gathered to work. Your job is to make sure the web design agency you’ve chosen to partner with takes all your inputs into account when developing wireframes, and then design mockups for your new site. For example:

  • Is the design visually appealing and does it create the right brand impression?
  • Is it easy for your buyers to learn more about your products and services?
  • Is the navigation designed in a way that makes sense to your users?
  • Are calls to action naturally integrated throughout the layout?
  • Have you retained all your SEO value and high-impact URLs/pages?
  • Have any gaps in content been addressed, and in an SEO-friendly fashion?
  • Does the messaging, content, and design speak to your buyer personas?
  • Is it easy for buyers to raise their hand and speak to a representative?

Believe it or not, you only have .05 seconds to make a first impression on your users. During that fleeting window, the first thing that registers is visual design. 38% of users will exit a site simply because it’s unattractive. Yes, looks do matter when it comes to web design. Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, the next thing buyers want to see is product/service information (84%). Put a clear, strong statement about what you offer/do, who you offer/do it for, and why they should care right on your homepage, along with a prominent CTA to learn more. Your site architecture is critical to the overall success of your website redesign project because of its dramatic impact on the user experience. 95% of users say that a good UX “just makes sense.” Make sure you’re giving them what they want. Pro Tip: Card sorting can be an invaluable tool in determining how to architect your site navigation—helping you understand how buyers group information into categories. Open card sort tests can provide up-front insight into how to group things, and closed card sort tests can validate/invalidate if they’ve been grouped correctly. Additionally, you can consider tree testing to figure out if you’ve put content where a buyer would naturally look to find it. Thorough planning and testing before build can help you protect both yourself and the interests of your company from the big “F-bomb,” failure. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing two more blog posts designed to help you take your site redesign successfully across the finish line with the right optimization tools, and launch strategy—based on a firm, tested foundation of data. Subscribe to the UserTesting blog below for the next installment in our series, as well as actionable tips on how buyer insights can inform your product, website, or digital strategy.

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About the author(s)
Jessica Legg

An experienced marketing leader—Jessica Legg has spent the last 12 years helping tech companies across the ecosystem distill and communicate the value of life-changing technologies with best-in-class marketing solutions that drive demand and fuel conversion. In roles on the agency side, as well as the enterprise side, she's led content, digital, social, event, design, and marketing automation initiatives for industry behemoths like Intel, Microsoft, and Samsung, as well as SaaS disruptors like Rackspace, GoodData, Digimarc, Grand Rounds, and more.