This past year, as websites have been called upon to do more heavy lifting than ever before, marketers are taking a closer look at their sites, questioning whether now is the time to take them to the next level, and considering what that might look like.
I’ve been involved in hundreds of website projects. I know that questions concerning whether and when to redesign a website often percolate for months — if not years. Those conversations can amount to a lot of wheel spinning, or they can contribute to a solid foundation for moving forward with a focused plan that fuels game-changing outcomes.
Since a strong start tends to make a huge difference in the success of the project, I’ve decided to cover a topic that is rarely addressed — the preliminary steps that set the stage for solid choices, stakeholder alignment, and a resulting website that represents the brand and is able to stand up to digital-age demands.
Define Your Brand
When companies approach us concerning a web redesign, the reasons can range from not liking the look and feel of the site, to not getting enough leads from it, to concerns that competitors have a more impressive web presence.
The most effective starting point is get clear on the fact that your website is where your brand resides. Unless your company is in the leagues of Nike or Apple, or you are running a major TV or billboard campaign — and even if you are — chances are slim that any other marketing presence rivals the importance of your site.
The truth is that your website is where buyers and partners determine who you are. As such, your website needs to be positioned to grow with your brand, and not require a tear down every couple of years. Representing your brand is your website’s number one job. When it does that well, all other objectives are a functional detail.
If, on the other hand, your website is a subpar representation of your brand, a redesign is a business and marketing imperative.
Decide What’s Working and What’s Not
The next step is a thorough analysis of the good, the bad, and the so-so of your current site In other words: “What’s working? What can we lose? And What needs to be improved?”
A basic “Pros and Cons” list can serve as a starting point, and getting the team involved in the exercise can serve as a productive step toward aligning the team with the objectives of the new site, while sparking excitement about new possibilities. Factor into the conversation any current information concerning what will be happening within the organization within the next year or so, and how the website can be leveraged to advance new strategies.
Also consider KPIs. How are you assessing the success of your current site and are you looking to collect any additional data?
Be mindful of the fact that the excitement or urgency felt within marketing concerning the need for a new website might not be shared by finance, accounting, or other departments. This is an opportunity for marketers to reposition perceptions about the website, ensuring that it is viewed as a critical, companywide asset, and not simply another cost.
This exercise may involve a closer look at the objective of the site. Will the return on investment be in the form of:
- Sales enablement?
- More and better leads?
- Attracting the right talent?
- Standing out from the competition?
- Establishing expertise?
- Conveying cultural values?
- Redirecting reliance on customer service?
- Any combination of the above? Or
- Something else?
Getting organizational buy-in concerning the need for a new site is, of course, critical. Setting expectations within your own team and mapping out roles and responsibilities is another key step in the process.
- Who on the team will be the primary point of contact with the agency?
- What will be the level of involvement for every member for the team?
- Who will be the final decision maker?
Find the Right Partner
There are so many awesome web design and development agencies from which to choose. Finding the right partner means finding the right fit for you.
We’ve found that a culturally aligned client/vendor partnership is the No. 1 factor in determining a great outcome.
On average, Solid Digital designs and develops about 30 websites per year. We do not take every opportunity that comes our way. We have a selective qualification process and the question we ask ourselves after an introductory call with a prospective client is, “Do you think they are a good culture fit?”
We encourage prospective clients to ask the same question. Great working relationships drive great outcomes, and as we see it, life is too short to not connect with and thoroughly enjoy those with whom we work.
I’d be happy to talk with anyone who is curious about how we determine whether a client is a culture fit, but having been involved with hundreds of web redesign projects, I’ve also honed my perspective on how to select the right agency partner.
A good place to start is by taking a look at the agency’s own site. Their website is a pure representation of their work, without the influence of client direction and individual tastes. While there is always the possibility that an agency with an outdated or neglected site is too busy focusing on client needs to concern themselves with their own online presence, ask yourself whether a sub-par site seems like a reflection of their own priorities or signal that the fit is not right.
While you are on an agency’s website, consider checking out their blog. This content might reveal important information about the culture or how in-tune they are with the latest trends. We love when prospects ask us about something they read. It shows that they took extra time to get to know us and that means a lot.
It can also be interesting to dig a bit deeper into the website’s technology, and it’s actually quite easy to find this information. Simply enter the URL into Builtwith.com full list of the technologies that their website leverages.
Additional sources of online due diligence include:
- LinkedIn to validate the team members listed on their site;
- Clutch for finding information on agency experience, costs, and customer feedback; and
- Glassdoor for in-the-trenches insight into the agency’s culture. It can be helpful to confirm that you are not entrusting your new website to a disgruntled or burnt-out team.
Open a Dialogue
Once you determine the agency or agencies with whom you’d like to discuss your project, the conversation begins. Even though I’ve recommended a depth and breadth of preparation, I’ve found that the most productive and revealing conversations do not begin with a laundry list of requirements.
This is your chance to get a feel for the kind of chemistry that your two teams would have working together. Try and scratch below the surface to gain insight into how the agency operates and how they’d approach your project. Share your KPIs and analytics, as well as your goals relative to them. You don’t need to go overboard with data, but sharing what you focus on can help to guide relevant questions.
If I was a marketing director meeting with an agency for the first time I’d ask a question something like: “Here’s our problem, or here’s what we are looking to accomplish. How would you approach it?”
We recently had a prospect, who’s now a client, ask us: “If we had $25,000 extra budget to spend, what would you do with it?”
I thought this was an amazing question. It gave us the opportunity to think strategically for them. The answer to this question can also provide insights into what the agency feels are their strengths and how you as a client stand to benefit from them
Tie the Knot
Once the research, the due diligence and the meetings are complete, it’s decision time. The decision might be an easy one, with all of your team on the same page, but if that’s not the case, it will be helpful to have a process in place for evaluating prospects.
Considering that your website is potentially your brand’s biggest asset, the significance of this decision is huge. You’ve done your homework, determined your priorities, and communicated your strategy. You are well positioned to select an agency partner with whom you feel a connection and a high degree of confidence.
At Solid Digital, we don’t claim to be the right fit for everyone, but if innovative web design that serve as a foundation for digital growth sounds like a good place to start, let us know!