More benefits of a web redesign
October 10th, 2011
In my post answering the question "Another website? Already?" I focused mainly on the benefits of an updated site for one’s external image.
But, as they say in those classic TV commercials selling kitchen gadgets, “BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!!!!”
Less well recognized is that a web development process can help a growing social enterprise internally.
Organizations that are growing in their early years are also defining themselves along the way. Where that journey takes is very difficult to predict when the founders sit around the table to sketch out the first website.
It follows that your first few websites will likely become outdated fairly quickly. That is, if you are actually succeeding. If you are truly discovering new things about your environment, making strategic changes in response, and growing your own organizational capacity, you'll want to communicate those changes via a changing website design.
Re-designing a web site can serve as a forcing mechanism: an event that compels stakeholders to make key decisions that they might otherwise avoid. There are other classic forcing mechanisms: making budget cuts and creating a three year plan are also potent means of defining organizational priorities, weaknesses, values, and more.
But web site design can work very powerfully also. Try asking your team if they can agree on what images convey the essence of your mission. Or have each person describe the most important viewer of your site and what he/she should come away thinking about your organization. I’ve witnessed something as simple as trying to figure out whether an icon really belongs on the home page lead to some very profound conversations.
And a web redesign can be a fun forcing mechanism. With a redesign -- unlike a budget cut or a white paper -- everyone ends up owning an actual product that the masses can see. There’s the opportunity for creativity. There is a visible landmark for those key conversations. And no one got laid off.
The longer lasting fruit that is possible in a redesign process doesn’t just happen automatically. Beware of just handing off the project to a junior member of the team or even worse, shifting responsibility to someone whose only expertise is the technical side of web development. It requires some seasoned leadership expertise to pose the right questions and offer up the most illuminating options. If your senior leadership has someone with experience in web design, that person should be tasked with that responsibility in a substantial fashion.
A thoughtful organizational process must drive the web redesign process. Any given site may not last; but what may endure are the dialogues, thinking, and decisions that went into its creation.
Build a great web site. But do it in a way that builds a great organization.