Why would an organization overhaul a website?
On Thursday, April 20th 2016, we released our brand new Drupal 8 website. You’re on it right now! Cool, right?
A week after the website went live, I met with our CEO Rick Bjarnason and CTO Gene Bernier, to ask them why they decided to go ahead with the redesign, what the process looked like, and what are the things you need to consider before committing to a project like this. For a full transcript of our conversation, click here.
Starting a website redesign project can’t be taken lightly. As Gene explained when we spoke, the cost and time associated can be a bit intimidating. However, as Rick pointed out, for us, the greater risk would have been not updating our website.
Since our last website launched two years ago, a lot has changed for our company. For starters, we’ve grown from eight people to just over twenty. As such, our goals have also changed:
Two years ago, our primary goal was to show off what we could do. We were transitioning from being subcontractors to having our own clientele base. Since we didn’t have a lot of portfolio items, we felt we needed a flashier, more visually stimulating site.
Now, we have a lot of really awesome projects in our portfolio and a healthy clientele base of our own – check out our work – so our primary goal for the website is to convert users to customers.
Rick instigated the website redesign when he realized our website was no longer doing its job. It wasn’t helping us get clients. In addition, we needed to readdress these key points:
- A website is usually an individual’s first touch point with a company or organization
- A website has to represent who you and your company are
- A website has to represent your brand
As a Web Agency in an ever evolving tech world, we took our main pain points and solved our own problems with the biggest, baddest, upgraded technology out there - Drupal 8.
How did we get started?
Phase 1 – The Plan: Rick, Gene, our Creative Director Chris, and our SEO Marketing Guru Steph put their heads together to come up with a strategy.
“When you undertake a website redesign, you need to be really clear about what your pain points are. What's impacting your business or your organization, and then their try to figure out how to solve that problem with technology before just going, here's some technology, hope it solves something.” ~ Gene Bernier, CTO
Phase 2 – The Strategy: Spela (hey, that’s me) did some research and determined our buyer personas. Once you have the personas, you can clearly define a path to purchase:
- Who are the people visiting your site?
- How are they going to use the content?
- What end results do they want?
After we started defining all that type of stuff, we got into site mapping, information architecture, and then finally we started thinking about throwing some “lipstick on the pig” (as we fondly call it) and creating some designs.
Phase 3 – Development: Our development, design, and marketing teams put it all together.
And then it was done?
Not exactly. Actually, not at all.
In Rick’s words,
“We've just moved on to the marketing and testing phase, which is probably three times the size of all the other [phases].”
Having a website is a lifelong investment. As Gene puts it:
“It's a constant investment, be it with our marketing team or our development team. There are always going to be things that we can test and improve on. And if we aren't actively testing stuff and going, ‘OK, we tried this, let’s switch this up a little bit and see if we get an improvement,’ then we're failing ourselves. There will be a lot more hours invested in this.”
At this point, you might be thinking, “Wow, that went smoothly!”
The truth is, a website project, like everything else in life, has its bumps and curves.
Other than the “Why Drupal 8” website we built this website to test the capabilities of Drupal 8. This was the first Drupal 8 website we’d ever built. Since Drupal 8 was only released in November 2015 (5 months ago), there also wasn’t a lot of documentation on how to do things. We were learning it all as we went along, which only made us wiser and more knowledgeable about the processes.
Like other organizations, we also had to find a way to dedicate resources to this important project. As Rick says,
“Having a team dedicated to your own website when you've got client work waiting is always a pain to manage. I mean it really is. You’ve gotta bring in dollars and keep the lights on; but, at the same time, you want to make time to work on your own properties.”
In the end, it took as a little bit longer then we would have liked, and our developers have a couple of new bruises, but we have a lot more tools and knowledge in our backpacks after this Drupal 8 build. I think that was Rick and Gene’s sneaky plan. To push us when it came to building our own website, so we’d know exactly what to do when it was time to go through the process (jungle, as we like to call it) with our clients.
What did we learn?
1. Slow down at the beginning. It can be hard to stop and look at the big picture, when all you want to do is get your nice, shiny, new website up and running. Taking the time to figure out your pain points and determine your strategy will save you time, money, and most importantly, sanity in the long run.
2. You cannot underestimate the value and importance of your website. Your website is one of the strongest tools you have in your pack. Your website is the first place people go when they hear about you. Alternatively, your website could be the first place people hear about you. Your website is where your audience goes for information, to buy things, to contact people, to learn more.
3. We knew before we started that a website is never really done, but this project reaffirmed that. Your website is a continuous process of trying new things, getting rid of the things that didn’t work, and building on those that did. To quote Gene:
“Now, we're looking forward. Basically we are going to constantly invest in our own properties. These are tools that we're building to make ourselves strong. We tell our clients to do that. We're going to be doing that now too.”
So, I will leave you this pearl of wisdom:
Don’t undermine yourself, who you are, and what you have to offer by skimping out on your website. Often, it’s the first thing people see when they meet your organization. Let’s make it an excellent first impression. Dig into your pain points, determine your strategy, design a website that helps you create out this strategy, and learn.
For a full version of this interview, and more candid thoughts from Rick and Gene, see the transcribed interview here.
Finally, if you would like to uncover how to think of about your website as a tool to help you build relationships with your donors and (future) supporters, download our new guide: The Nonprofit's Guide to Planning a Website.