Winning the Internet

Planning for a website redesign?

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

Is your website dated, clunky or hard to update? Are you hoping to redesign it but are struggling to figure out where to start? Redesigning a website can be an overwhelming and costly experience, but careful planning can ease the pain a bit and help you save money on design and development.

Abstract Edge released a free e-book this week that guides you through the planning process step by step, and I have to admit that I love it! As someone who’s been involved in designing or redesigning several websites, I can tell you that it’s almost always an excruciating process. Design by committee and impossibly long lists of goals can quickly turn your vision for a new and improved site into a cluttered, generic looking site that doesn’t really do anything well.

If you’re getting ready to tackle a redesign project, consider not only reading this e-book, but possibly even positioning it to your boss as a framework for the project. Here are a few highlights that could save you from design disaster:

Purpose driven design
Abstract Edge’s first concept is a critical one– purpose driven design. Before you get started, it is important that you clearly define your goals for the site.

Without a very clear understanding of your specific goals, there can be no accountability. This is important. After all, you’re making a big, long-term commitment with your new website (or, at least, you should be) and you need to understand what is and is not working. If you don’t have a specific knowledge of your goals, how will you know if you’re successful?

The paper makes it clear that narrowing down your goals to just a couple is key.

It’s not about you
Your website isn’t really about you– it’s about the people coming to the site. Your site should be accessible and relevant to them, and designed to make it easy for them to take action. The paper describes how to break this group down into segments and ensure that your new site meets the needs of each segment.

The 2-second rule: Developing your style
Before starting a project, it’s critical that you at least roughly define the style you want for your site. I’ve seen people resist this before– after all, they’re paying a professional. Shouldn’t the professional be able to figure out which style is best? While the pros do know a ton about design, they are not experts in your issue area, don’t know what your goals are for the coming year, and they certainly don’t know your personal likes and dislikes.

Abstract Edge recommends looking at other sites and examining specific features like color palette. I’ve personally found that identifying a few sites that you love and defining exactly what you like about them is also great for getting buy in on style from higher ups before starting a project. This will help you avoid many time consuming and expensive rounds of review too.

The paper also walks you through thinking about SEO, developing the content for the site, etc. Check out the full e-book here.


About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.

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