UIEtips Article: Thinking in the Right Terms: 7 Components for a Successful Web Site Redesign

Jared Spool

August 30th, 2007

UIEtips 8/30/07: Thinking in the Right Terms: 7 Components for a Successful Web Site Redesign

A few weeks back, I had the chance to talk with Gerry McGovern, author of Killer Web Content and UI12 Speaker Extraordinaire. We talked about a variety of aspects of designing web sites, but one theme we kept coming back to was about how prepared the team was for the long haul.

During the talk, I realized people who have experience building brochures and marketing materials might come to the web design process with a misleading perspective. With a brochure, you carefully construct the design and messaging, put it into production, and then never see it again. Rarely do you get to see anyone interact with the brochure. That information never informs the design of future brochures.

Gerry made the great point that web design is very different. It’s an iterative process where you’re receiving constant information after the design. This information allows you to tweak and enhance the design, often in small ways, to make continual improvements. Most of the work happens after the initial production, not before, as in a brochure.

In this week’s UIEtips, I’ve described the findings from recent research on web site redesigns. In this article, I talk about seven strategies we see employed by the organizations best at redesigns.

Read today’s UIEtips article.

Have you employed these strategies? Are you finding hurdles from thinking too much in the short term? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the challenges when redesigning web sites. Join the discussion below about this week’s topic.

Want to learn more? At this year’s User Interface 12 Conference, Gerry McGovern will present How to Design a Task-Based Information Architecture, to give you a solid grounding in IA that will enable you to create designs that help your users find what they want.

12 Responses to “UIEtips Article: Thinking in the Right Terms: 7 Components for a Successful Web Site Redesign”

  1. Paul Rouke Says:

    We use pretty much all of these strategies, although as we are providing services to our clients, there is a combination of clients with no real in-house expertise to others with large teams of online designers and developers.

    Point 1 on vision is certainly a key strategy that we work on with our clients from day one. For instance we are working with one of our clients, the UK’s largest group of privately owned dental laboratories, to provide them with a full online account management facility for their 3000+ dental customers which will be an industry 1st. The system will provide full job tracking facilities from launch, and further developments will allow samples and approvals to be communicated online compared to the current system of physically having to approve dentures and other dental work carried out.

    Along with this client we strive to work with very much forward thinking businesses, so with ourselves supporting them with the long-term online strategy, as has been pointed out our clients gain considerable business impact from the online channel (and competitive advantage).

    Another great article!

  2. Daniel Szuc Says:

    Great reading!

    Often teams see it as a “cosmetic job” – just adding a new skin to an old problem.

    Also we have seen the *turf battles* start on what the web site should be to the stakeholders involved and less about the vision. It becomes about people internally wanting to be right as opposed to all holding onto a shared approach.

    A lot to be said about getting people onto the same page.

  3. Lucy Says:

    All good strategies, but…

    The inital comment is about the lack of prepared’ness’/understanding of the team. I couldn’t agree more, but I see these more as design strategies, and not necessarily the activities you need to get an inexperienced team into a “web ready” state.

    I guess as someone who has been involved with a number these types of projects but mostly with inexperienced teams, I’d be really interested in what you’d suggest to actually prepare the team, as opposed to preparing for the process.

  4. Jeanne Says:

    Excellent reading. Getting a team to agree on a common understanding of all seven of these points is the first challenge. I find it difficult to get people to think strategically if their world is mainly tactical. To be fair to them, who cares about avoiding something abstract like potential pain in the future if your leg is broken today? I would be interested in hearing about how others help people to make this leap.

  5. Peter de Gosztonyi Says:

    We have seen a lot of inertia with our customers when it comes to starting a web redesign, even though the need to do so is recognized. Much of the reluctance appears to be a lack of understanding of where to start, what needs to be done and how much it costs.

    I agree that the critical starting point is the purpose and vision of the website relative to the organizational strategy, second is understanding the user, and this involves observing the user as well as using the web analytics to track user behavior. One effective tool we use at the very start is a visitor’s first impression, it becomes very evident very quickly the visitors perception of the purpose of the website and potential target users. When matched to what the designers intended, you get some very interesting discussions. This approach seems to help re-orienting both the design and management team to focus on the customers perspective.

  6. Jackie Says:

    Jeanne – I understand your problem with getting a team to agree on a common strategy. I have found that lots of patience, repeating yourself a lot and distributing articles like this one helps!

    Gerry is definately right, most Marketing people have designed brochures and magazines before and try to translate that process to web redesign which doesn’t work. Some web design and development experience in the team is very important, although that one person will have a tough job convincing the others.

    What I find most interesting about web design is that everyone thinks they are an expert because they ‘use’ the internet. We should be thankful the same people dont translate that to piloting a plane- “yeah, I can fly the plane, I’ve been on a plane heaps of times”…..

  7. Daniel Szuc Says:

    Suggest its also important to remember that the web is still new. We are learning all the time and what seems right now, will probably seem strange in 5 years time.

    This applies to both individual use of the web and corporate use.

    For example, its hard for companies to focus on a “core” and often they try and be everything to everyone.

  8. Beyond Caffeine Says:

    Components For A Re-Design…

    There is a great article over at UIE.com called "Thinking in the Right Terms: 7 Components for a Successful Web Site Redesign."
    Definitely worth a read if you are considering a re-design or handle re-designs for your clients.
    ~Nicole
    ……

  9. R S. Moreno Says:

    Excellent reading, for me who sole is the entire “team” in a fashion retail family business. Our site has grown huge over the years, but is now hopelessly out of date, (regarding to accessibility and XHTML/CSS standards), in need of a immediate redesign, but I ‘m/was into a creativity dead end, tired of doing it all in my spare time.

    After reading this article I feel more prepared and motivated to pursue my original long time plans in sharp contrast to the older generation (my father-in-law), that don’t understand nor believe in the Net. So hopefully; by the time me and my lady are taking over, (may it come soon!), we’ll have a well working site.
    swed

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