Mike is getting ready to refresh the design of his organization’s web site. He asks:
In my present job, I’ve inherited a website that is, to put it kindly, dated. It needs a top-to-bottom redesign and I’m finally getting that underway. The questions I’m struggling with — how do the members use the website, if at all? — what functionality do they want and need? — what really works for us?
These are important questions but I like to start at a bit of a higher level before delving into them. The process I use with my clients usually follows this pattern:
What are your overall goals as an organization?
What does your company or NPO hope to achieve in the next year? Two years? Five? You need to clearly understand what you are trying to achieve overall before you even think about your web site, even if it is a key element in achieving the goal!
How do you want to go about achieving those goals?
Otherwise known as: strategy. I picked up a definition of strategy from Alan Weiss, that goes something like this: strategy governs how you make everyday business decisions. It influences your tactics. It defines how you want to go about achieving your goals. Now you can get specific to the Web, placing various strategies into the context of how well they will serve your goals. You should also be looking at which audiences for your site are the most relevant to your goals and develop strategies for serving them.
How should your site specifically support those goals and your strategy for achieving them?
Now you get down to the details. What features and content best support your strategy? What imagery is best aligned with the above? How should it be organized to appeal to your target audiences? And so on.
Ideally, you should spend as much time and effort as needed to answer these questions before investing a penny in a redesign. Otherwise, you put your investment and overall success at unnecessary risk.