Why You Need a Detailed Scope Out Before Executing a Web Redesign Project
Regardless of its size and model, a website redesign is a delicate and often complex undertaking for any business. In today’s competitive market, the design of a website is more than just your “online presentation card;” it is the face of your brand and your identity. And, now more than ever, it is the means by which many businesses generate and conduct business. This kind of project can have a direct effect on your revenue stream, which means the firm you hire may be holding the livelihood of your business in their hands.
A website speaks not only for a company’s brand but for its business model, products and customer experience. The fact is that redesign goes beyond the actual design, which is why we always emphasize the importance of working with clients to understand the core of their business and their audience. Ultimately, the design and functionality of a website serves to highlight the unique values, products, and services your business has to offer. The prime objective is to make “selling” a simple and seamless experience to your customers.
In order to achieve this level of synchronization with our clients, their brands, and their audiences, we have developed a system that allows us to “scope out” a redesign project before we fully execute it. From our experience, a great majority of design and development firms prefer to jump into the project and start working on a site using their own pre-planned methodologies and assumptions. We believe that it is impossible for any designer or developer to create a website that your customers will love, unless we truly understand your business, products, how they benefit your customers and your bottom line.
A proper scope-out can make all the difference in a redesign project. There are literally hundreds of minute details that must be addressed, and every project is different. This process allows us to determine what these details are and how they will be handled. In this piece, I will walk you through the four phases of this process:
- Phase 1 – Dissecting and understanding a client’s current website.
- Phase 2 – Understanding the client, their business, and their audience.
- Phase 3 – Laying out the “problems” and the “need”.
- Phase 4 – Orchestrating the right solution.
Phase 1 – Dissecting and Understanding a Client’s Current Website
The fact of the matter is that we are not starting from scratch – a website already exists and has a design in place. The redesign was either prompted by a rebranding, need to modernize the look and feel, or necessary upgrade in technology (e.g. need for responsive design). Regardless of the reasoning, it is essential that we understand what needs to change on the website and why. This is also the time when we analyze the framing and thinking the previous developer operated under and what functionality was needed on the front and backend of your site then versus what you will need now, as well as the implications to your business going forward.
During this phase of the scope out, our team studies and learns about three main aspects of your site. This includes:
- The Content Structure – This includes pages, post types, menu structures, graphics, choice of templates, and current flow of the website. The objective of this analysis is to study and create a “flow-chart” of how the current website structure is set up and how new content is being uploaded. Is there flow? Is there consistency? These are the questions that need to be answered as we move forward with the analysis.
- Decoding the Current Code – Every developer works his or her own way. Every designer puts together a style sheet a little differently, and not every company works with in-house developers. In our experience, the moment we dig into a website’s code, we can tell whether the website was built by a novice, a seasoned developer, or if a seasoned developer delegated the project to a whole bunch of novices. We can also determine whether the project was outsourced to another country such as India, which many companies attempt to do to get a “bargain.”While Optimum7 will ultimately develop its own code from the ground up, it’s essential for us to understand what was done and why it was done. This is especially important when studying the functionality that was built, how it was built, how it interacts with the content structure, and how multiple functionalities interact with one another. Think of coding and developing like building a home: the end product may look great, but if you didn’t have a good architect, engineer, and even decorator on board, you can bump into a pillar and watch the entire thing collapse.
- Identifying Structural Strengths and Deficiencies – Now that the team has an in-depth understanding of the website’s current content (structure, quality, and visuals), and the front end (UX/UI) and back-end development teams have dug into the code, the team will create lists of both strengths and weaknesses. These lists will serve as an internal diagnosis, which will ultimately help our creative and development teams create a well-researched and thorough proposal once the scope-out has been completed.
Phase 2 – Understanding the Client, Their Business, and Their Audience
Business is business – the law of supply and demand is a foundational principle that requires no explanation and is not likely to change. However, when you hire a team of web designers or developers, or a web development firm, you are hiring much more than that. Alluding back to my previous simile, a business is essentially hiring a team of architects, engineers, and decorators with a flavor for industrial psychology. What does this mean? It means that you are also (or should be) hiring a team of marketers and salespeople in addition to designers and developers. The purpose of a website will almost always be to either sell a product or prompt an action which will ultimately result in a sale. But how can a website generate leads or sales when the team behind it does not truly understand your business, your objectives, sales processes or, most importantly, your audience?
The objective of this stage of the scope out will be to:
- Provide the Client with a First-Hand Look into the Firm –, we generally prefer to “test it before we buy it”. While we’re confident in our expertise and selective about which projects we take on, we believe that the businesses we work with are not just customers or even clients. They are collaborators to the entire process.The only way for us to perform at our absolute best is to foster a collaborative partnership of sorts with our clients. This means establishing an open communication policy, putting the right assets into the project, adapting our internal procedures to the client’s satisfaction without jeopardizing efficiency and follow through and, most importantly, showing the client our level of creativity, professionalism, expertise, and commitment to their bottom line.
- Become More than a Vendor – At this stage of the project, our marketing and creative teams will absorb everything there is to know about your business, its history, the product(s), current sales efforts, internal processes, revenue streams, and opportunities (essentially anything that will require website interaction). The objective is for our marketing and creative teams to think as one with your business. While we understand technicalities and lack of expertise in your industry may be a limiting factor for us, we have developed a series of questionnaires that serve to fill in these gaps quite well. These questionnaires work along with any informational literature and material we receive from you to provide a comprehensive look into your industry and the place you hold within it. However, client cooperation and a partnership mentality in this part of the project is essential – be prepared to answer additional questions as they surface!
- Look through the Eyes of the Target Audience – The next step is to immerse ourselves in the lifestyle and mindset of the most important individuals in this entire process – your buyers.How we carry out this study is heavily contingent on your business model and target markets. For example, if you are already well-positioned in an established market and are looking to gain more market share, then we would make the existing market our focus. However, if you are looking for market share in new areas, then our research will focus on new demographics. The ultimate purpose of this phase of the scope out is to have a direction and an established target(s) in mind.
Phase 3 – Laying Out the Problems and the Needs
Data is only as good as what we interpret from it, how it is presented, and ultimately what actionable items it will prompt. As the entire team regroups to analyze the intelligence gathered from the research phases of the scope out, a plan of action begins to take shape. We will ultimately develop documentation that provides insight into the following:
- Business Needs – From basic details to more intricate ones, this section will include answers to questions like these:
- What is the objective of the site? (Lead generation? E-commerce sales?)
- Who is the target audience?
- Who will be updating the site?
- What content is (or needs to be) on the site?
- How often will content be updated?
- Who should have access to the site?
- What kind of access should various kinds of users have?
- Technological Needs – The means by which the business needs will come to fruition and be met on the website.
- Will the website require a mobile version? Responsive design? A separate web app?
- Should the website be custom coded or built on a CMS?
- What are the website’s backend needs?
- What technologies are best suited for building the desired functionality?
- What server environment is recommended for hosting this functionality?
- What plugins, add-ons, or extensions (if on a CMS) will be needed?
- What types of plugins, add-ons, or extensions (if on a CMS) will have to be custom built?
Phase 4 – Orchestrating the Right Solution
There is an huge difference between solving a problem and orchestrating a solution. As the saying goes, “No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” Our redesign scope-outs are a new process the Optimum7 team worked on together after reflecting on our decade’s worth of collective experience in marketing, sales, technology, and most importantly, business. We simply wished to improve upon our foundational capabilities to a truly robust ability to completely scope out projects of all kinds.
We believe that the execution of such an important and complex project as a redesign requires much more than individual designers and developers. A great redesign is like a song, masterfully laid out on staff paper to be beautifully and flawlessly played by an orchestra. Think of the client, the product, and the audience as the inspiration; the piece laid out in staff paper as the scope-out, and the orchestra who will play it as a synergistic team of marketers, developers, designers, and copywriters.
Needless to say, we have both composers and musicians in every department at Optimum7. Contact us and get the unique skills, expertise and professionalism we can offer for your next project.