Refreshing a website, the most important factors


When it comes to refreshing a website, as opposed to creating an entirely new one, there are indeed a different set of challenges that lay ahead. There are of course opportunities and most certainly pitfalls however a website refresh is a golden opportunity to enhance the effectiveness of communications of your company. Although they may appear daunting, good planning along with teamwork and the correct tools should make the process enjoyable and efficient.

Here at Wecan Media, a team of web designers in Liverpool, we’re very skilled at the special challenges that such a task may bring, which is why we’ve decided to share our tips and insights. Here’s our best advice broken down into five simple steps.

Get your information architecture correct

For those who don’t know what information architecture is (IA for short) it’s simply your website’s overall structural design in the abstract sense, not graphical. The information architecture defines the content you’ll be presenting and the way in which it’s to be presented. It’s also how your users will interact with your website too. For this you’ll want to think about your website’s hierarchical navigation, which should allow you to see your IA in terms of a site map. Visualise your main page completely stripped of all its graphic design elements too. When it comes to your site map you’ll always have a homepage that allows users to access a range of other pages with a simple click.

These pages will be organised into sections and categories. Depending on the type of website you have you may have your sections neatly organised into a menu. You may also have different users with different access, after all we treat our suppliers and our customers differently when they come in to the shop so why should our website be any different. To make things easier we also suggest visualising your IA presentation as a wireframe. Ideally, depending on whether you have different classes for different levels of access, you’ll have a clear wire frame for every different class of pages and these are usually called templates. Every single website refresh allows you to really go back to basics with your IA and get it right. Review, amend and rationalise your IA by getting rid of the dead wood and adding important new content and sections. 

Take a trip back to your corporate identity

Your corporate identity represents your company’s brandmarks and logos. It’s your visual elements and your colour palettes, your typographical guidelines and copywriting elements, which includes taglines and straplines. Your corporate identity or CI is the company’s face in the marketplace. Your CI can often be one of the most powerful elements to help create that all-important first impression in the minds of your audience. If it’s well done, your audience will develop trust in a much quicker and deeper sense. Although we’d rarely suggest your CI requires a complete change, we do think you should be open to regular refreshes to ensure it’s contemporary and effective. When it comes to CI the following factors should be considered:

  • Give yourself a refresh in your own CI and just what it incorporates. If you have a CI guideline read it front to back.
  • Consult with marketing, branding and even stakeholders to discuss elements of your CI that looks stale or inconsistent.
  • Ensure standard colours have been accurately translated for use in the website. Ensure a small but good palette of colours.
  • Consider a standard copywriting style across the whole of the website so it’s consistent, although you may choose to encourage a wide range of voices in your blogs, consistency does have its advantages.

Keep your team small and precise

It has to be said, there’s something about a website that encourages more people to comment and want to editorialise than any other marketing medium. TV ads and PR campaigns are all much easier to execute than websites therefore one of the best things you can do is to keep your team as small and tight knit as possible. Seek opinions and approvals only as wide as your company lines run. This ensures the delivery of a successful project quickly.

Define a functional specification and stick to it

The lack of a clear and firmly held functional specification is one of the critical points of failure to most refresh projects. Once you’ve reviewed your IA, ironed out your CI and assembled your team, your next task should be to define your functional specification. The functional spec should very clearly explain, via a wireframe, every single feature of your refreshed website. You need it to make sensible technology choices and create a budget. It’s a good idea to categorise your agreed list of features as your 1.0 version of functional spec. When you inevitably receive the onslaught of requests for additional features, place them in a revised list. Only when the 1.0 version has been implemented into a real working website should you consider implementing the additional requests. This avoids the dreaded feature creep that can prevent the meeting of deadlines.

Use the right tools for the job

If you’re refreshing your IA and design then you could also take the opportunity to refresh the hosting and serving technology too. If your current website is still static HTML then why not evaluate a new content management system? Consider upgrading to today’s slick content management systems, which are usually all free or in the very least extremely well priced.

Website refresh projects are indeed exciting and should, in theory, be easier to do than build a new one. By observing these five factors, your project will have a clear beginning, middle and end. If you’d like help with a website refresh project then simply contact us here at Wecan Media today.