We've all been there… your site needs a refresh. Either your business has rebranded, the site has become stale and old, or it's simply not converting visitors the way you need it too. Our clients come to us to increase conversions and we often have to take a step back and redevelop their entire web presences from branding through to content. How do we do it?
A web site is broken up into 6 key strategies, which should be detailed so you know where you're coming from and what your goals are:
- Platform – what technologies are utilized, hosting, platforms, etc.
- Hierarchy – how your site is organized.
- Content – what information needs to be presented and how.
- Users – who accesses the site and how.
- Features – what are the features needed to properly convert customers.
- Measurement – how are you measuring your success or areas of improvement.
There are now different dimensions to a site and how they're integrated with your digital marketing strategies. How does the new site meet these strategies:
- Brand – the look, feel, colors, fonts, design, words, etc. that describe the site.
- Calls to Action – what are the paths to conversions and how will people get there?
- Landing Pages – where will people convert and what is the value of that conversion? Is there a CRM or Marketing Automation integration needed?
- Content – brochure information, company details, personnel, photos, presentations, infographics, whitepapers, press releases, demo requests, user scenarios, downloads, webinars, videos, etc.
- Email – where do people subscribe, how are you managing subscriptions and SPAM regulations.
- Search – platform, keyword research, page construction, content recommendations, etc.
- Social – snippets, sharing buttons and links to social presence should be integrated and promoted throughout the site.
NOTE: For improved collaboration, utilize our client mindmapping tool to map and modify the hierarchy and processes to maintain simplicity and organize all activity within 2-3 clicks of entering a site.
Within each of these strategies, what are the details
- What does the site currently do that you need it to continue doing?
- What does the current site not do that the new site must do?
- What does the current site not do that would be nice to do on the new site?
With each of those strategies, develop user stories for each of the users and how they interact with the site. Break them up into must do and nice to do. A user story is a rich description of how the user interacts and can be used for acceptance testing. Here's an example:
The user is able to login with a username and password, register for the site, and retrieve their password if unknown. Registration requires a username, full name, email address and strong password (combination of lower case, upper case, numbers and symbols). Email confirmation must be included to ensure a valid email address is used. The user should be able to modify their password at any time without support.
Now we're getting into the nitty gritty… you've got the details of your site, how users interact with it, as well as the needs of the new site and the wants. Iterative improvement is key – prioritize the features and user stories so you know what has to be done first through what is nice to have. Begin thinking about goals and resources to set expectations on what you need and when you need it by.
- Inventory the site for pages. Often, we use a scraper to simplify this.
- With each of the pages, describe what kind of page template will be needed to properly display the page.
- Develop wireframes to determine page layouts and navigation.
- If page counts will be reduced (often recommended), where will you redirect existing pages so that you don't interrupt users and search? Map all current pages and new locations.
- Develop a content migration plan to get all existing pages into new page layouts through the new CMS. This could be very rudimentary… requiring an intern to copy and paste. Or it could be a complex database transform that's written to import the information.
- Build out a matrix of users, departments, access and permissions by page and process. Separate into the need to have and nice to have.
Build your plan
- Every action item must have a who (is responsible), what (is being done in detail), how (optional), when (estimated completion date), dependency (if another task must be done first), and priority (nice to have, want to have).
- Notify users and get their agreement on tasks and timelines.
- Be flexible with secondary resources, workarounds, and reprioritization.
- Have a central project manager who tracks, updates and reports on a daily basis.
- Build buffers between client reviews and your completion dates with plenty of time to make modifications or adjustments. If new features (scope creep) are introduced, ensure the client realizes how timelines may be impacted and what additional costs may be incurred.
- Demonstrate with the client in a staging environment and walk through user stories for acceptance.
- Integrate analytics throughout the site for event tracking, campaign management and conversion measurement.
- Once accepted, put the site live, redirect old traffic to new. Register the site with Webmasters.
- Take a snapshot of rankings and analytics. Add a note in Analytics the day the site was modified.
Execute your plan! Once the site is ready
- Backup the current site, database and any assets that are needed.
- Determine a contingency plan for when things go wrong (and they will).
- Schedule a ‘go live' date/time for the site where users are least impacted.
- Ensure key personnel are notified if there is a window where the site may be unavailable – including clients.
- Have a communication plan in place to ensure everyone is accessible by phone or chat.
- Put the new site live.
- Test user stories again.
Launching the site is not the end. Now you must monitor rank, webmasters and analytics to ensure that the site is performing as you had planned. Report every 2 weeks for 6 to 8 weeks with the progress. Make plans and update projects accordingly. Good luck!