How to plan a website redesign – and which mistakes are best avoided

I have been working in the field of web design for over ten years and have observed the processes hundreds of times. Unfortunately, quite a few went wrong or even quite wrong, with all the frustration and unnecessary stress that goes with it. Sometimes it’s the design qualities of the agency, but in the majority of cases it’s not that simple.

It’s taking too long. Needlessly.

The typical website of a medium-sized company is often a relatively simple system. Especially when we consider the efficiency and performance of modern CMS platforms and various benchmarks and design schemes to fall back on.

It typically consists of a manageable number of main areas: product or service catalogs, “About us”, “News”, “Career” and contact areas. Nevertheless, the process often takes an astonishing amount of time to implement, the budget is exceeded, and the results are often unsatisfactory in the end – both for the team and for the decision-makers. What is the reason for this?

What are the errors in the redesign?

So many things can go in the wrong direction that I will mention only a few that are important from my experience and that occur most frequently. Most problems can easily be avoided. These are related to the process and organizational issues – you still need a good designer, of course.

1. No strategy

No matter how trivial it may sound, but to build a website without a clear strategy is like going through the unknown forest without a map. It may be an interesting adventure, but it is unlikely to reach a goal this way. By strategy, I mean the overall corporate goals, product policy, target group definition and the role of the different channels in marketing and sales. Amazingly many companies, even the big ones, do not have this information ready when the process starts.

2. Taste determines, not the goal

A company website is first and foremost a tool. She should look good, of course, but first of all, she should work well. That is, the most important things are the structure, content, and mechanisms of selling and other customer interactions such as collecting leads, sharing with customers such as product inquiries, complaint management or for attracting talent on the career side.

In many cases, however, most of the time is spent discussing the images on the homepage, the style of pictograms, colors and other less important things. Obviously these points also have an influence on the effect, but a good designer knows how to deal with them. But never-ending discussions about the look and feel are a decisive factor for setbacks and frustrations on all sides.

3. The wrong briefing

The project briefing is usually lavishly packed with information and has been developed after a long series of internal meetings and workshops. Unfortunately, most of the briefings I’ve received haven’t been very helpful. They contained the company history, a specification sheet and a vague idea of the look and feel (“contemporary design”, etc.). But they did not list what results were expected from the relaunch, did not explain the role of the website in corporate communications or an idea of what the website should cover in terms of content.

4. The project team is far too large

We do not yet have any experimental confirmation, but the anecdotal experience shows that the project time increases exponentially with the number of participants. Too many people involved often make it increasingly difficult for the project manager to keep his hat on, take responsibility, make quick decisions and give approvals, because far too many people involved discuss a lot and often change their minds – all this brings with it many requests for change. It also makes it increasingly difficult to plan workshops because scheduling alone requires so much coordination. This is one of the most critical factors slowing down the entire process.

5. Decision-makers are involved too late and in the wrong contexteinbezogen

Deus ex machina is one of the most popular scenarios for a web design project. After several weeks or even months of intensive work and an infinite number of decisions by the project team, someone from the management asks for a general acceptance. This can go well, but quite often this very busy person asks for a few more changes without knowing the context or the process, how certain decisions were made, and which basic assumptions and premises led to them.
Because of its position, most of these changes are adopted, and in some cases the comments are indeed helpful, but just as often they can question the consistency of a design.

6. Lack of confidence in designers and developers

When you need a surgeon, you don’t explain to him how to proceed and how he plans the treatment. With a design team it is often very different – suddenly everyone wants to be an integral part of this team. In many cases, they also bring a lot of experience and knowledge, but in most cases the designers have a certain head start in their field. Design as a committee process is often not a good idea. This approach also stands up against the project time.

7. Waterfall processes

Another factor that decelerates the process is to segment it into individual steps such as analysis, information architecture, function design, graphic design, and front-end implementation. Agencies that do this do so to ensure that there are no more changes once they start programming.

However, it can take weeks before the functional design (also called mockups or prototypes) is developed and coordinated. During this time all other specialists are idle and waiting for their appearance.

Assuming that the Agency enjoys the full confidence and that there are no major changes to the overall concept, it can proceed quite differently. The project can then be developed and live in individual blocks, accelerating the whole process.

8. Contents are missing

Many companies care less about the actual content of the website until the functional test page is finally ready. Way too late. Designers should be able to work with real content right from the start. In our team, we often say: “Lorem ipsum is dead”, which means that you can’t develop a good product with fake content. The design must include images, descriptions and real products, otherwise, it will just be a nice design, but not the design of your corporate website.

How do you design a company website correctly?

So what should you consider if you want to work efficiently, meet your budget, and most importantly, secure your return on investment? A few little tips.

  1. Find yourself a good designer or a decent agency. They don’t have to be the most expensive, but the references should speak for themselves. Don’t ask for a concept in advance, even if it’s in a pitch, because with it you invite only those in need. Judge your shortlist on the work the designers have already done. Find out who is responsible for the design.
  2. Establish comparability in the results. Check your current statistics (if you don’t have them yet, make sure you have them) and consider which metrics would be an improvement for you. Do you want to sell your website or do you just want to develop a better image? Are you looking for new employees? Formulate all expected results in the briefing – that is the most important part of it.
  3. When you write your briefing, focus on the most important aspects. Name the 3-5 sites you like best and explain why. Tell us which mandatory elements you can supply, such as CI/CD documentation, image database, product catalog, etc… Make a list of all content areas that should be included. Prepare a list of your target groups or, better still, personas with their stories. Set a reasonable deadline.
  4. Collect all available content before starting the project. The raw material is sufficient at the beginning, but the agency also needs material so that the copywriters can work. Look for the best pictures, set up a photo shoot or explain to the agency that it should stick to the material. Don’t make assumptions about the technology, resolutions or CMS used – if you work with the right people, they’ll know what they’re doing.
  5. Make quick decisions and test the results in live operation. Don’t slow down the process. Don’t get nervous. Remember, it’s all about results. You’re testing these results. If a result does not materialize as expected, rebuild now – and not in two years’ time.
    Repeat the last step until the results correspond to the planned key figures.

If you work with the right people, your website should start working within a few weeks. At the latest, if something should come up, in a few months. For a medium-sized company, this process should under no circumstances take longer than half a year until a first version is live and working.

Go for results – our newsletter for you!

So that you get wind of it right away when we come to new insights in our magazine.