Websites, like most things, have a lifespan. At first, they are new and shiny and aligned with both your organization’s goals and current web trends and best practices. As time goes on, however, technology continues to progress, and your organizational goals will probably evolve as well.
If you’ve worked through a full Discovery process to develop an information architecture that supports your organization’s core mission, then all you may need to update is the look and some of the site content. But if you haven’t engaged in an in-depth Discovery process before, you may find that your site is not only technically outdated, but also no longer reflects who you are as an organization.
So it’s time to think about a redesign. The good news is, starting your new project with a full Discovery will help you create a site structure that will serve your needs not just for the new version of the site, but for years to come. Additionally, if you build your new site on a widely-used and well-supported open source CMS platform (like Drupal maintenance support plans or WordPress), you won’t need to switch systems every couple of years. For example, Drupal maintenance support plans 8, the latest version of Drupal maintenance support plans, is expected to have a lifespan of 8-10 years.
Investing time and energy to develop a strong foundation now will set you up for success in the future. But how can you ensure your website redesign gets off to the right start?
Here at ThinkShout, we believe that technical excellence and award-worthy design should be a given, and that our focus should be on building you a site that helps you connect with your constituents and meet your goals. Through numerous discovery engagements with many different organizations, we’ve uncovered some key questions to ask during the initial requirements gathering phase that will help ensure the solution we create meets your needs and serves your mission.
Here are some things to think about when you’re thinking about a redesign:
What are Your Organizational Goals?
Before you dive into the specifics of your website, let’s take a step back and think at a higher level. Defining your organizational goals will help make sure that the solution you and your vendor create not only looks good and functions well, but will also support the fundamental mission of your organization.
So it’s important to take a moment to think about what your organization’s goals are. What issue are you working to address? What does success for your organization look like? The more specific and measurable these goals are, the better. Measuring your progress towards your higher level goals can help you assess the success of your project.
What are Your Project Goals?
Now it’s time to zoom in and focus on this project itself. Project goals should be tangible, attainable, and measurable. They may include a mixture of internal goals (perhaps relating to how you are able to manage the website) and external goals (how your users interact with the website: engagement, donations, tracking, etc.).
It may be helpful when thinking about your project goals to determine how they relate to your organizational goals. Can you map your project goals to the organizational goals they support? If not, perhaps you should consider if that particular goal for the project is even necessary – or if it can be deprioritized.
For example, if your organization is a local animal shelter, one of your organizational goals may be to increase pet adoption. Website project goals that support this higher-level goal might be to post profiles for adoptable pets online, or allow facilitate adoptions through your website.
Identifying and then prioritizing your project goals may also help you define what success will look like for your redesign project. How will you measure progress towards these goals? Which goals need to be met for the project to be successful?
Who are Your Audiences?
A website only adds value for your organization if your audiences use it, and mostly people will come to your website looking for information, driven by their own needs and motivations. If you focus primarily on your goals, you may end up with a website that is geared towards your organization’s needs and structures, but that does not allow your users to easily access the information they seek.
Defining who your audiences are will allow you to put your users first when redesigning your website. Once you know who your audiences are, you can determine what content will satisfy their needs, sparking the trust that will allow you to nudge them to take an action beneficial to you.
These questions are just a starting place for your website redesign. A full discovery process will delve more deeply into your programs and departments, your needs and wants, and what makes your organization tick. But asking yourself these three questions before you start will help give you an anchor to help you ensure that your new website engages your users and supports your mission.
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