Updating your website is a process - one that can feel overwhelming, even if you've been through it before. To help you navigate the journey, we've partnered with a few marketing experts to bring you a candid collection of advice and best practices, which we’ll be delivering through our Redesigning Your Website series.
Last week, we highlighted a few things to keep in mind while in the Designing Phase. This week, we move into the Building phase.
PHASE 5 – BUILDING
As the website is being built, there are several factors to keep in mind to make your new site the strongest possible marketing piece.
Consider the following suggestions:
BALANCE FUNCTIONALITY WITH BUDGET.
You may need to put some ideas on the back burner for phase two or three due to cost.
“Every decision made about the new [Edwards Wildman] site had something to do with how to best represent us, showcase our experience and highlight attorneys who are experienced in their field,” says Jennifer O’Leary Cathell, eMarketing, Design and Brand Manager at Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP.
To focus on the key project goals, other ideas were sometimes put on hold. “We had many ideas that were visually stimulating, but if they didn’t add functionality needed to help us reach our end goal, we decided to push those ideas off until a later date,” O’Leary Cathell added.
ASK USERS TO USE IT.
User feedback informed most of Fasken Martineau’s redesign decisions. The more than 750-attorney firm, which launched a new version of its site in 2012, had employees perform about 50 hours of testing during different development stages. Users were asked to go through common functionality tasks using prototypes and other sites, evaluating the experience as they did so. Additionally, the firm held focus groups, moderated by an objective third party, to get a better understanding of what was needed from the site.
“The testing came in handy,” says Desiree Turko, the firm’s Digital Strategy Manager. “Opinions aside, if subjects were unable to find a piece of significant content or successfully complete a task, we knew to try a different approach.”
Having hard data on user behavior helped the website approval committee determine the best design.
“In a big firm, you have a lot of stakeholders, and the tendency is to want to weigh in democratically on decisions, whether it’s functionality or labeling,” Turko says.
“Usability testing can help committees make choices that support the user’s experience, rather than personal preferences.”
DEVELOP A BROWSER SUPPORT PLAN.
Determining the browsers, and which versions of each, that your website will support is an important decision that not only affects how much time and money you spend developing and maintaining your website, but also the overall experience a visitor has when they come to your site.
“The emergence of rolling browser releases, HTML5/CSS3, responsive design and mobile usage has created a vastly different landscape in which to provide browser support,” says One North’s Managing Director of Technology, Ryan Horner. “Unfortunately, it’s not possible to entirely replicate all of the advanced functionality that many of these technologies offer in older browsers.”
Remember, each hour that is spent on development or support for older browsers is time not spent adding additional capabilities and innovative design for newer browsers.
TALK THE RIGHT TALK.
Stringent language laws require Fasken Martineau to offer a French site because the firm has offices in the province of Québec. Luckily, the firm had an in-house translation department to handle the task. If yours doesn’t, don’t expect to just dump the copy into Google Translate and call it a day, at any stage in the process.
“If you’re not familiar with the language, you might review a design concept thinking, ‘OK, that looks like French to me,’ without realizing the language is absurd to a native French speaker,” Turko says. “You risk alienating internal approvers.”
For specific and targeted geographic efforts, consider creating a smaller version of your site in a different language, which will reduce the amount of required build time.
“For some firms, it makes sense to create custom web experiences for specific markets. So for instance, to create a Chinese mini-site, the site elements or components– in many cases– can be repurposed and updated,” Fieldman says.
Once you build it, you must share it! Next week, we’ll highlight a few things you can do to make sharing your site and connecting with your audiences easier. Want those tips now? You can find all of the phases in our Definitive & Candid Guide to Successful Websites.