Keeping Your Website Re-Design From Sputtering: Tips to Help
It all starts so promisingly. You envision a website with clean design elements, clear copy that demonstrates your organization’s passion and uniqueness, and pristine navigation that directs clients, volunteers and donors to their respective pages. On this new website, no one will ever complain about not being able to find something, not properly showcasing a program or project, and users will understand how to interact with your organization.
|Sketch of dcflamenco.com’s re-design in progress|
Then you start the re-design. You enthusiastically meet with co-workers, gather input, get clarance from the boss, and start dreaming outside the box. You sketch flip charts full of navigational structure diagrams and mock up a new home page. You look at social media tools, photos, and think about best practices in web design and how your site will “speak” and interact with its core audiences.
Then,the reality of the re-design -with roll-out needs and time lines, people who must be “in the know” or want to offer feedback, and the sheer size of it – threaten to overwhelm you. Your enthusiasm – when the navigation looked so tidy, the new home page design was so awesome, and the ground rules for referreeing the home page seemed so clear – has slipped away. How do you re-capture the heady momentum of early days and prevent your website re-design from sputtering to a slow and painful halt?
1. Block time. As much as you can.
Doggedly schedule conference calls and planning meetings if you are working with a team. Don’t settle for just meeting – each person should have at least one accomplishment that moves the project forward to report. Block time outside of project team meetings to work on your tasks related to the re-design.
2. Listen to feedback, but don’t allow other voices to sabotage the project.
One thing a website re-design will bring out of the woodwork is a cacophony of voices – the program manager who thinks his program must always be on the home page, the obsessive compulsive editor who wants to approve every detail, and the doomsday naysayer who thinks the database will proverbially bite. All of these voices may have input to offer, but they can be momentum suckers. Meet with the people with concerns one-on-one or in focus groups, but do not allow the project to be steamrolled by a cumbersome project committee comprised of everyone with an opinion. Structuring a mechanism for listening to and responding to stakeholders can address their concerns and allow you to keep momentum.
3. Keep the dream team on task.
Hopefully, you asked your boss to help you assemble the team you need for the re-design – the real team to do the work – whether that’s staff, or staff plus consultants. Only put on the team the people you need to implement the re-design. If the team has been meeting for a while and feels stuck creatively – talk openly about your concerns and how to jumpstart your productivity. Maybe you need to look at new designs, take a break from your regular meeting format and do some exercises to expand your creative vision for the project. Maintaining a sense of community within the team, is an important part of keeping a large re-design project on task.
4. Draft a plan for the re-design. And follow it.
It’s amazing to me how often organizations – complex ones – with large websites – will start a re-design without a project plan in place. Sometimes this happens because of the creative process. One person started sketching and shared a vision, and others latched onto it and started moving forward. Sometimes it is easier to hold a committee meeting than to write a plan – but too many committee meetings and not enough action will leave you feeling like your wheels are spinning. It’s important to draft a plan for implementation with a time line for the website re-design. Hold yourself accountable to the deadlines in the plan. If you get off kilter or out of synch – whip out the plan and revise the time lines to something that is realistic.
5. Facilitate conversations – to get approvals and keep the re-design moving forward.
Sometimes a re-design sputters because the project team is waiting on valuable feedback from above. The team is eager to move forward, but their early drafts and versions are waiting on critical approvals. Park your butt outside the boss’s office. Get on the calendar. Do what you have to do, to get designs and copy approved. While you’re waiting, keep the team moving forward on the project implementation plan, as much as possible. Sometimes the re-design sputters, because of technical glitches. Perhaps an outside company was hired for the re-design, but the organization’s internal IT staff will need to maintain the pages and critical technical components must be in synch in order for the transition to be seamless. Getting all of these people talking to each other can be really important. You may have to facilitate these conversations and continually ask if follow-ups are happening.
6. Keep your focus on what’s important.
Remember why you started the re-design in the first place. You wanted a website that clearly communicates with volunteers, clients, staff and donors. You wanted a site that not only spoke to people, but allowed them to speak back through social media components. You wanted to have a website that truly showcases how your organization makes a difference in the world Sometimes writing down a few keywords – of what you really want in a web re-design – and putting them up in your office – can be a big help. Cheesey? Perhaps. But when you get stuck in the muck – an inspirational note may help restore your focus on what’s really important.
Your nonprofit organization’s website is your window to the world. If your website re-design sputters – you can get unstuck and get back on track.