Technology & Development, Web Design

5 Things to Consider When Planning a Site Redesign

redesign checklistIn the digital world, very few projects stand alone. A single initiative can carry dozens of related, supportive, and dependent tasks. And nowhere is this ripple effect more apparent than in a website redesign. For institutions to make the most of all their resources—people power, time, and money—a redesign project must be meticulously scoped and carefully planned. If a site redesign is in your future, here are five things to consider.

1. Objectives, Marketing Goals, and KPIs

Successful projects are driven by clear objectives. Ask yourself, “What design, functionality, or content challenges are prompting this redesign? What do we hope to achieve with the new site? What additional tools, features, or applications might be necessary?”

Guided by a solid understanding of objectives, your teams can begin to define marketing goals and related key performance indicators (KPIs) for your revitalized and responsive site. For colleges and universities, goals typically include supporting information gathering by prospective students, collecting qualified leads, and engaging alumni. In addition to tracking general performance, KPIs measure how successfully your site achieves its goals and leads users through conversion actions such as requesting more information, scheduling a campus tour, applying/enrolling, or downloading resources.

2. Target Audiences

Contrary to popular opinion, no website can be all things to all people. The most effective sites are developed with just a few target audiences top of mind. Content speaks to their needs and priorities; navigation supports their journey through various points in the conversion process; and every detail is designed to enrich their experience.

Before you begin a redesign, consider developing a set of detailed user personas or profiles. Let that information serve as a touchstone as you create a more focused and relevant interaction with users.

3. New CMS Integration

If you don’t have a content management system (CMS) in place—or the right CMS in place—much of your redesign efforts could be wasted. After all, if teams are unable to effectively manage content, your newly minted site won’t live up to its marketing potential or properly represent your institution’s mission, vision, and brand. With that fundamental truth in mind, it’s simply smart strategy to coordinate CMS implementation with a site redesign. Beyond logistical and resource advantages, syncing the two activities can dramatically enhance:

  • Cultural ownership: As part of a stakeholder-driven site redesign, a new CMS can help large institutions finally retire problematic legacy solutions and enjoy broader buy-in from faculty and staff. If possible, content contributors should be included in the CMS review and selection process. They will be more likely to understand the CMS, use it independently, and take full advantage of its features when it comes time for rollout.
  • Active adoption: Well-designed CMSs like OU Campus™ feature intuitive interfaces that make content creation simple for everyone, regardless of technical background. For a newly launched site, CMS ease of use is a crucial benefit that streamlines regular content updates, promotes the expanded use of features and modules, and dramatically reduces administration and maintenance concerns.
  • Stability and performance: For institutions that don’t have a CMS or are using an open source or homegrown solution, stability is always a concern. Because they often feature a patchwork of temporary fixes and features, these systems can put new sites at a permanent disadvantage—particularly as background knowledge erodes due to staff turnover.

In contrast, commercial CMSs like OU Campus provide extensive documentation and training, new version releases, clear web governance standards, accessibility compliance tools, customizable search tools, and robust customer support. Together, these benefits ensure that new sites operate consistently, are continuously improved upon, and are accessible to all audiences.

4. Relevant Content

Delivering Relevant Content. It’s Google’s mantra and should be everyone’s goal. As you review existing content and prepare to develop new, refer to your audience personas. Give site visitors what they need by first asking:

  • What brings users to my site?
  • What information are they most likely to be looking for?
  • What problems or challenges might they be encountering?
  • How can I solve those problems most efficiently?

Answers to these questions can make content planning far more effective, help prioritize new content development, and—if integrating a new CMS—identify what content needs to be migrated or retired. Remember, relevant, search engine optimization (SEO)-optimized content is more likely to reach and engage users, reduce bounce rates, and increase conversions.

5. Analytics

When it comes to site performance, information is power. Use Google Analytics to better understand who’s coming to your site, what content is most popular with audiences, and how successfully you’re meeting KPIs. Leverage Google Webmaster Tools to get important details on how your site is viewed by search engines (e.g., position in search results, top-performing keywords, click-through rates). Employed before a site redesign, these two free services can help your teams establish baseline metrics that can then be compared to post-launch performance.

 

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Marcel Ayers

Director of Implementation

Marcel is a California native who has called Camarillo home for the past 19 years. A lover of both coffee and tech, he founded an online coffee bean and home roasting supply business in 2003 and then an IT and web development company in 2004. Today, as Director of Implementation at OmniUpdate, Marcel oversees the process of bringing customer sites into the OU Campus system. In his free time, you’ll find him taking advantage of the California outdoors from mountain biking and skiing, to surfing and hiking.