Ask the Expert: Avoiding Missteps in a Web Redesign Project

The road to web redesign is riddled with potholes. But there are straightforward ways to avoid a misstep. Brooke Thomson spoke about this at a recent workshop hosted by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and the International Association of Business Communicators Minnesota Chapter. Brooke, Scott Anderson, and I each shared five tips for website redesign. Brooke, a veteran of several redesign projects, focused on managing the project. I asked her a few follow-up questions which I'll share below.

You talked about the importance of establishing priorities and expectations for a web redesign project. Could you share an example of how that played out in your organization?

Managing expectations on a big, organization-wide project like a website redesign is so important. Everyone wants their own department/project to have priority placement. That can lead to a very messy homepage. I think this presents a great opportunity to engage your audiences in planning a site that meets their needs.

What was the agreement your team came to on how decisions would be made, and why did you decide to do it that way?

We’re a youth serving organization. During our last redesign, we decided that our youth council members would have the final approval on most aspects of the site. We engaged them throughout each step of the process and were able to provide their comments and feedback to the staff. Doing this led to a great level of buy in and understanding. We’re planning a refresh in 2018, and we’re eager to have youth voices leading the way once again.

You mentioned the danger of letting staff preferences heavily influence design and content decisions. What's the problem with that, and what's a better alternative?

I think the main issue with letting staff preferences influence design and content is that they are often not the target audience for the website. Keeping your target audience at the forefront of the design and planning stages of a redesign is critical to ensuring that you’re meeting their needs and your goals. Do the images and language resonate with them, or are you using internal jargon? Also, don’t underestimate the expertise your web developer brings! They can provide insights and alternatives that staff may not have considered.

All of your presentation slides were filled with pictures of pugs! Just for fun...what do pugs have to do with web redesign?

What DON’T they have to do with web design? I was thinking about branding as I put that presentation together, and I was there representing myself more than my organization, so I was thinking about my personal brand. I’m all about authenticity and being who you are, and my weird and obnoxious little pugs represent me well. :)


About Brooke Thomson
Brooke is the development and communications director at the Annex Teen Clinic, where she is responsible for all development initiatives, social media, marketing, communication and volunteer management. Brooke has a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Minnesota, and a master’s in nonprofit management from Hamline University. She is passionate about healthy youth development and helping nonprofits thrive.

For more guidance on how to plan your website redesign project, download Idealware’s free workbook. Or read Scott Anderson's thoughts on what to consider before issuing a web redesign RFP.


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