“7 Steps To A Headache-Free Website Makeover” by Jason Sadler
There comes a time when every business’ website needs a fresh start – whether launching a new product or service, changing up the team, developing a new brand identity or noticing that your website still says “© 2008″ in the footer.
Unfortunately, many businesses believe that a website relaunch is an incredibly painful process. It’s worth going to great lengths to avoid, since you have to either pay an agency big bucks to utilize all their resources and experience, or cobble together freelance designers and developers on your own, complete with a great deal of oversight. If it’s the latter, you have to trust that one of those people understands how to communicate in your native language and that they’ve actually done the work you see in their portfolios. With either option, are they organized and willing to hit specific deadlines? Oh, and do they offer flexible payment terms or do they require everything up front?
However, your website revamp doesn’t need to be an awful headache. Follow these 7 steps to ensure a smooth and successful site redesign:
1. Put in the prep work
Before calling in a professional, you’ve got to prepare on your own. First and foremost, remember that you have the money and are paying someone for their services. As business owners, we tend to forget that we are paying for a service, and if you use the right company or people, that service should be delivered to your liking. Next, do yourself a huge favor and write out what doesn’t work, what you want to change, what your goals are and add in a pie-in-the-sky idea you’ve always had. Find some websites and design styles you love. I recommend searching Awwwards, Sortfolio, CSS Gallery, Web Creme, and even that good old Google search: “websites with great design.”
2. Allocate a budget and bandwidth
Once you’ve completed the prep work, then you can start to think about your budget. Can you afford a big agency to step in and crank out a new website for you at the $25,000-$100,000 range? Do you want to find freelance workers and have $7,500-$15,000 to spend? Or are you looking at $5,000 and under? Set a price range that you’d like to stick with. Bandwidth is also another important thing to remember. Designers of all levels have other clients and timelines to deal with, and you need to plan far enough in advance (i.e., not one month before launch).
3. Choose a designer
Decide whether you’d like to work with a design agency or a freelancer. If you’re a young entrepreneur like myself, I’d caution you before knocking on any of the big agencies’ doors cold, unless you have an existing agency relationship. Not to throw them all under the bus, but being an inexperienced website owner with money and approaching agencies is like covering yourself in rib-eye steaks and jumping in a tank full of sharks! Instead, ask your contacts to recommend people or agencies, and find freelancers with strong portfolios and talk to them about your goals.
Note: Most of the time the right agency or freelancer will help guide you in your desired direction without taking a single penny. Why? Because they have a reputation to uphold and have no interest in having an unhappy relationship associated with them. They’ll tell you if what you’re asking for is realistic and if they have the bandwidth to help you out.
4. Pick a platform
Now that you’ve picked your agency or freelancer, what project management platform are you using? Please, don’t say email. Nothing will kill a website project faster than trying to manage everything through email. Products like Basecamp, Podio and Smartsheet are affordable options that will keep your revisions and timelines organized.
5. Agree on payment terms
It’s customary for each organization to have their own payment setup, but expect to pay 50 percent upfront and 50 percent upon completion. Some agencies might require a monthly retainer, and some freelancers may prefer an hourly basis (make sure they’re showing you that hourly tracking). Whichever way, don’t pay for everything upfront. Also, if you’re planning to move hosting providers, find out who is hosting your website, what kind of hosting support is offered if something breaks, and if this is all included in the cost. The last thing you want is a bill, two months after your new site launches for $1,000 in web hosting and maintenance.
6. Think of your audience
Relaunching a website is not just about your relationship with the company working on it, it’s also about being respectful to your current customer base, fans, or readers. Even if you don’t have much web traffic, there are people coming to your site daily, so keep them in the loop about what’s going on with a custom landing page. Even more so, position the redesign as a marketing opportunity. Tell your email list how excited you are for this relaunch; share with your Twitter and Facebook audiences that something new is coming, and even drop a occasional teaser or two. You’re not only spending money on your website, but you’re also essentially setting up a marketing campaign that needs to be nurtured and updated.
7. Expect the unexpected
Deadlines will be pushed back and technical errors will occur (why does the domain not forward to the new DNS? Also, what the heck does that mean?) Be prepared for these things to happen and understand that it’s par for the course. As long as you’re ready to tackle a few bumps in the road and you’ve given yourself a realistic deadline, your website relaunch shouldn’t give you too many gray hairs and should provide a nice spark for your business!