A website redesign is the perfect chance to reboot your visual identity and web strategy. By getting organized ahead of time, you will set the foundation for a successful project and smooth, efficient communications with your agency partner.
This guide will walk you through what you should prepare before speaking with a potential partner for your site. We've found this process to be the best way to get what you want out of the project and ensure you realize your business goals after launching.
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Be Prepared To Tell Your Story
Any vendor will need to know why you are redesigning your site or building a new website. What is working for you and what could be improved?
The following questions can help you clarify the core purposes of the site and will give your agency partner the background it needs to map out a successful solution.
Who is your primary audience, and what do they need to do? What are they looking for?
What is unique about your company? What are your key strengths?
What will make the redesign a success from a business perspective? What specifically do you want to achieve?
In outlining the project, focus on your goals and what your users want, not specific tactics. For example, instead of telling your vendor that you need a rotating homepage carousel with five slides each featuring a leading product, tell them that it's important for potential customers to understand the breadth of your product offering. Then let the vendor apply the expertise you are going to them for to recommend successful ways to convey that and explore possible solutions together to choose the best fit.
When you can talk about your needs from a goal-oriented perspective, a vendor can better understand what you really need.
Take Stock Of Your Internal Resources
It's best to go into conversations with a design agency having a clear idea of what resources you plan to bring to the project. Take inventory of the team members who will participate in the redesign process. Will they continue to be involved in maintaining the site after the redesign?
Who will lead the project on your side? Will they be able to efficiently secure needed approvals? Larger projects with multiple departments involved frequently benefit from having a project manager on the team.
Who will author and organize content for the redesign? Who will migrate existing content? Your design partner will help you understand what you need and how to format it, but plan for this role either internally or with your partner. Creating content is often the most underestimated aspect of web projects, and it greatly affects the success of the end result. The sooner in the process the content is understood, created and in the hands of the design team, the better.
Who will manage the site on a day to day basis after launching? Do they have the bandwidth to accommodate any planned features or new content requirements?
Do you have internal resources that will manage the technology infrastructure? Or are you looking for the agency to handle this or recommend a vendor?
Gather Visual Ideas And Existing Collateral
Any vendor you connect with will need to develop a feel for your brand and a sense of your company personality. When you gather branding materials before meetings and then talk through what these materials represent, you can help a designer best grasp who you are and what you do. The website will be stronger as a result.
Start by gathering your style guide, logo files, brand artwork, collateral and other relevant marketing materials. If you have an image library, prepare to share everything you have with the design team. Even if you want to go in a completely new direction, showing these materials will help the vendor develop a clear sense of where you are coming from.
Come armed with example websites of other companies in your niche who are really doing a great job and of companies in other industries whose brands resonate for you. Think outside the box - what fashion label, brand of alcohol, car manufacturer, or band has a look and feel you love?
When you can talk about what you love and why you love it, your design partner can help you achieve the desired look.
Have An Idea Of Your Technology Plans
You'll have a more in depth technical discovery once your project is underway, but be ready to acquaint vendors with your technology landscape.
What content management system are you using? Are there any challenges with the current solution?
Do you require integrations with any third party tools?
Are there other major digital initiatives planned that might overlap with the project? For example, if in 6-12 months you want to add a customer portal, outline this for potential partners.
Track down your website analytics login and prepare to share with your new partner - it will be immensely valuable in the redesign process.
Avoid Common Pitfalls
RFP's - They are unnecessary. Don't do it. Many of the best agencies typically don't even respond to these. Be prepared with the information outlined in this guide and hand pick a few potential partners - they will work with you to understand what you need and price it out. (One exception for RFP's is for municipal and government contracts.)
Spec Work - It's not considered reasonable to ask a designer or agency to create a design so you can see if it's a good fit before hiring them. They aren't getting paid for it, so it's not going to be their best work anyway. Respect the talents of the people you meet by paying for sample work.
Budgeting a Website Redesign
Finally, you should have a close idea of your budget before approaching agencies. Discussing a project that doesn't have a budget is wasteful of everyone's time and doesn't give the agency what they need to make accurate recommendations. An informed budget conversation with your potential partner will quickly confirm for both sides if it makes sense to proceed.
Not sure how much to budget for your project? You may be in for some sticker shock - hiring amazing, creative and engineering staff isn't easy, but a high quality design that improves business outcomes is a truly worthwhile investment. If you need help establishing a scope and budget for the project, consider hiring a consultant or one of the vendors you're considering to do some discovery research to put this together.
Hit The Ground Running
By thoughtfully considering all of these points, you'll be ready to hit the ground running when engaging an agency to design your site. Of course, there will be much more hard work ahead to dive deeper into understanding your user, developing content and working through creative concepts, but you will be working from a solid understanding of the goals you want to achieve and can proceed with confidence.
Photo by Geatan Lee CC BY 2.0