September 14th 2012
My experience with the decisions, processes, and politics of website redesigns — in the corporate realm — have left me deflated and baffled. Here I attempt document how the process commonly flows, its problems, and a possible solution.
A Cliché Storyboard
The Marketing Dept. contracts a design agency to deliver a new homepage design. The brief contains a design and feature wish-list, and doesn’t relate to any analysis or business objectives. It’s a gruelling process that often sees more attention focused on logo sizing, rounded-ness of buttons, and squeezing everything above the fold. There is no fold!!! Eventually all the shapes look pretty enough and the layout is approved.
Up until this point, other departments have not been informed of the redesign and coincidentally have missed their window to offer insight, address current issues, and pose new ideas.
The CEO is given first preview and approves. The project is given high priority, and is fast-tracked to meet a random date in the near future.
IT are briefed (told) and have little room for feedback on the design or the deadline. Armed with indesign files (3 cheers to the design agency) they head back to the dev cave to evaluate what can be salvaged of existing frameworks, formulate a plan of attack, and commence build. As a bonus, mobile devices weren’t factored into design and will need to be solved on the fly.
Nom Nom Nom…
Skipping ahead: A handful of late nights, internal arguments and interdepartmental one-uppers later, and the new look website is launched.
In Summary: The design agency made good money and have new work for their folio. The Marketing Dept. can tick a box. The CEO has short term bragging rights at the golf club. The IT Dept. feel uneasy about the whole experience. Other departments are furious having missed their long awaited window for providing input.
Nom Nom Nom…
Two months later and any responsibility or loyalty the staff had toward the website has been replaced by new KPI’s and company agendas.
I know, I Know
I’ve purposefully over generalised above as it’s impossible (and frankly boring) to cover all basis and be politically nice. Instead I’ve covered what I consider common (from my experience) with a few cheap shots thrown in.
Grains of salt aside, below are two ways to move forward form here:
1. Clear the signals
It is of optimum importance that your website carries the true message/voice of your company. And for this to happen you need to know what’s happening within your company, behind all doors.
To do this you need to breed a culture of communication, respect, and most importantly open-ness. All departments need to feel they can be heard.
In the process of a website redesign this is particularly important during the early phases of planning, research, and design. Providing the right avenues for input early could prove priceless.
I feel there is a need for specialist teams in the interactive realm who are able to facilitate all processes of website redesigns, from the first motivation, through to launch, and afterwards with evaluation and on-going analysis.
Specialists would be fluid, with the ability to expand on-demand. When required for services outside their expertise, they handle the procurement of fellow specialists within their network.
Such a team would always have a balanced focus between getting things done, and the overall goals for the project. They would constantly work in tandem with various stakeholders to formulate recommendations and monitor progress.
They’re a new breed of professionals, offering a new angle on an old problem. Very much a result of generation flux, I predict a certain ‘rise’ of specialists in the not so distant future.
All that said, before specialists can be embraced to their full potential, I see two obstacles in their path:
A: Companies need to know about them.
B: Companies need to see value in such an investment.
I think solutions to both of the above have started to progressively occur naturally, however from my experience the opportunities for specialists to be involved are still slim, and in turn we’re still seeing sub-par websites from some of the largest and well resourced companies locally and abroad.