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Does Your Website Need a Redesign?

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I’m certain that from time to time, whether it’s hearing a coworker talk about what they want to do on the website, a user talking about how they can’t find something on the website, or an executive loudly misunderstanding what is actually happening with the website, you have wondered:

“Do we need to redesign our website?”

This is a deceptively difficult question to answer. Let me offer a useful way to reframe the question:

“Is our website doing the job it needs to do for the organization?”

That is also a difficult question! But reframing makes it easier to take action.

With that question in mind, let’s review what a site that is working well looks like at a high level.

What Is a “Great Website?”

Let’s start with a high-level view of a “great site” at work. A site that is working at its best has three characteristics:

  1. The goals and outcomes of the website are aligned with the organization’s goals and outcomes.
  2. The website is helping to drive those outcomes in a positive direction.
  3. Users enjoy using the site and see the value in it.

When you have all three of these up and running, your site is working at its best.

If your answer is not a resounding “yes” to all of these, it’s likely one of these three possible answers:

  1. Yes, the website does more or less the job that it’s supposed to do.

  2. No, the website does not do the job it needs to do for the organization.

  3. I’m not sure, tell me more!

Now that you’ve got your answer, let’s take a look at what to do with it.

Answer 1: Yes! The website more or less does the job it’s supposed to do.

Here, you consider your website to be aligned with the strategic choices your organization has made. It’s likely not perfect, but you’re on the right track.

This means you most likely need to ITERATE.

Here are some signs that your site is mostly in good shape and you just need to iterate:

  • When your CEO gives a speech at an all-staff meeting, he uses website data as part of his “how we are doing” commentary

  • The site is driving the outcomes the organization needs to meet its goals (more members, more donations, leads, AMS logins, campus visit requests, etc.)

  • Users enjoy working with it (and you know this because you have talked with them recently)

  • The organization’s staff understands how their work is reflected on the website. Suggestions or projects that come to the web team don’t feel out of left field.

But, that doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels! Here are steps to take to maintain your site and continually improve upon it:

  1. Document HOW the site meets strategic goals and get consensus on this from other departments. This is a great document for new employees and it can be used to reiterate the job of the site in a variety of ways. Treat this like an annual employee review. Each year adjust what the site needs to accomplish. It should be growing and maturing just like an employee does. The process of doing this task will help you speak more strategically about the website in meetings as well.
  2. Create reports for the executive team showing how the site meets their goals. Identify the metrics that are moving those outcomes forward. These reports help executives see what the site is achieving for the organization. Executive buy-in helps you when you need resources. Consider sending reports to the team even if they haven’t asked for them.
  3. Keep your focus on doing the right things really well. You probably don’t need to do as many new things as do the things you need to do better. The big risk to a site in good shape is a push to include new, less strategic features or initiatives that cause the website to lose focus. Steps 1 and 2 work as a little bit of insurance against the potential for this to happen. When someone suggests something new (and expensive!), you can better evaluate it against the organizational goals. NOTE: if your organization has a strategy change or a visual brand update, you might need a redesign!
  4. Do maintenance research on your users. This should be an ongoing and regular activity. For example, once a quarter, you will talk with three users about how they use the site, what is valuable, etc. That information can help you identify how well you’re doing with the primary website tasks. It can tell you if you need to update your navigation system, your join or check out process, or other detailed tasks that are smaller than a whole website redesign.

Answer 2: No! Our website is not doing the job it needs to do for the organization.

You feel like the site is not aligned with the strategic direction of the organization.

This means you need a REDESIGN.

Yup. We are likely talking major surgery.

Here are some signs that you probably need to redesign your site:

  • The site doesn’t have the attention of executives. They don’t talk about the website, it isn’t part of the strategic plan. People across the organization don’t tend to hear about features or successes.

  • Users are frustrated with the site and find it difficult to complete the tasks they want to complete. You know this because you have talked with them recently.

  • Different teams have mutually exclusive objectives for what they are trying to achieve on the site, not a cohesive whole. Different departments treat the site like they are an independent small business.

  • You don’t have a list of priority vs. secondary tasks. It isn’t clear what tasks the site has to do VERY well, and which tasks are less strategic. All tasks are treated equally.

  • You are not tracking strategic analytics for the site, maybe you are just using the Google Analytics defaults (bounce rate, time on site, etc.) and you’re not clear on what outcomes the site should be driving.

Does that sound like you? Don’t lose hope! Here are clear steps you can take to turn this ship around.

  1. Begin research into the job the website should be doing at the organization level. Check strategic reports and presentations from staff to identify what your executives are tracking. What can the website do to help drive those outcomes? What metrics will tell you that the website is driving those outcomes? What goals do other parts of the organization track? Write out the outcomes that would indicate an improvement in the performance of the website (Ex. “If we’re converting visitors into new members and have a growing % of home page visitors who log in, the site is doing its primary job”). Be sure to gain consensus from executives as well as peers (as possible).
  2. Understand what users need from your organization to see value. Get out and talk to users directly! We usually begin with interviews and surveys. What do people want from your organization? What do they like? What is difficult or frustrating? What tasks do users need to complete to consider the site successful? What kind of experience do we need to create for users who visit the site?
  3. Talk to other stakeholders in your organization about website needs. Check for alignment first between steps 1 and 2. If users were able to do what they want on the website, would that move the outcomes that executives are tracking? You might discover that your site was on the right track all along! You might be in the “iterate” category outlined above. More likely, you’ll need to start drafting a vision for what a redesigned site should include. Talking with other stakeholders for whom the site is important will help you think holistically about new directions. (NOTE: Often, talking with third parties can help you piece together what you’re hearing about your site goals with a fresh mindset beyond your current organization.)
  4. Brainstorm features that add the right focus to the site. You probably need to do something new—but what would that be? You now have an idea of what the site should be doing. What features need to be added to drive those outcomes, what metrics tell you the outcomes are moving in the right direction? What needs to be removed to maintain focus on the tasks that matter? Identify the tasks users need to complete to get more strategic alignment around the site.
  5. Sell your ideas to the executive team. Every organization has a different path to the executive team, and it will likely take multiple steps to the top if you are in a large organization. Frame your vision as outcomes. “You know, from what I’m seeing, if we improve the process of [blank] and [blank], we should be able to better meet the organization’s goals of [blank].”
  6. Can you make these changes to the website using existing staff? This one can be difficult to determine. Will IT changes be necessary to make recommended improvements? Do we have marketing staff to support the goals? Look into this as best you can. If you can spend time talking through your plan with other departments, it will help you decide the next steps.

BONUS QUESTION: Does your organization need a rebrand? It is possible that you’re having trouble meeting your site goals because your brand assets are outdated or no longer support your organizational mission.

Answer 3: I’m not sure, tell me more!

You feel pulled in both directions! Maybe your organization’s strategic direction is not clear, or you’ve reviewed plenty of organizational documentation without any real conclusions. You haven’t talked to users. Let’s just acknowledge that this is the most difficult pickle to be in of the three possible answers to our original question.

This means you need to EVALUATE.

The “I’m not sure” answer can spring from several directions:

  • You’re in the middle of yes and no. Some parts of the site seem to be working well, but you can’t articulate WHY they are working well or what benchmarks the site should be meeting. If this is the case, you might consider yourself in the redesign camp outlined in answer 2. Some parts of the website might need a redesign, others might need more iterative updates.
  • It can also mean that you’re not clear what the organization is trying to achieve through the website. If that is the case, go back to the steps in answer 2.
  • Maybe users are happy with some parts of the site, but not other parts of the site. You’re not clear about what your users are trying to achieve.

Here are some signs that you are in the “evaluate” state:

  • Different parts of the organization seem to be thinking about the website with different approaches and different goals.

  • Your web team is reactive rather than proactive. One group wants one thing, another group wants something else and your department just prioritizes outside requests. This tends to put the priorities of the website at the department level. You end up functioning like a series of smaller companies who happen to share the same logo.

  • You are not conducting regular research with your users and aren’t sure you’re using resources to fix the biggest problems users are having on the site. Regular conversations with users reduces the risks associated with decision-making by reducing organizational guessing.

If you’re not sure if your website needs a redesign, do the following:

  1. Talk to site users. This is the fastest way to understand how well your site is performing. Can users find the things that they need? Do they describe your site with your brand adjectives? (Prestigious? Fun? Innovative?)
  2. After talking with users, try to identify the strategic direction of the organization in order to make the website more strategic.
  3. Get an outside perspective. Do you have friends or contacts in your industry who work for other, related organizations? Talk to them about your site. This might also be the time to reach out to an agency if you need help.
  4. Start with a small project. Test your hypotheses on a small portion of your website and check the outcomes.
  5. At this point, you might revisit steps 1 and 2 of this article. Hopefully, you’ll have a better understanding of which direction you need to move in.

Mighty Citizen Can Help

Everyone wonders whether they should redesign their website. It can be a difficult question to answer on its own. If we frame the question more as: “Is our website doing the job it needs to do for the organization?” it can be easier to answer the question in one of three ways:

  • Yes → Iterate

  • No → Redesign

  • Not sure → Evaluate

No matter which answer you give, it’ll take some work to answer the question strategically. The good news is that taking the time to think through these questions will raise the status of the website, and your role, in the organization. If you’re looking for a third-party partner to help you identify your website needs, drop us a line! We’d love to chat.

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