Making the New Website Project Easier
Everyone's got a website, right? Then one day it dawns on you - ours really just doesn't cut it anymore. We've moved on, or we'd like to, and it hasn't.
We understand it’s a daunting thought. It’s not something you do every day. You’re not sure what all the steps are, what technology to use, who should be involved, and how the content should be structured. You're not sure how much it will cost and how long it will take. Last time it was hard. There’s also the issue of convincing the boss – or the Board – about the need.
Here we provide some thoughts that might assist the process.
It’s not as difficult as you think. But then again, we would say that, we’ve done it hundreds of times.
There's some website FAQ's that may help.
Establishing the Business Need
The one pager for the Board might be based on the first three pages of the IRM website - investor journey, touchpoints and success factors, with the blog posts and white papers to back this with more details. The main point – It’s more than just a website. It’s a whole online presence, using many touchpoints at different times as demanded by your investors, known and unknown, as they go on their investor journey.
Where to start
It used to be that we started a website project with a site map, or wireframe, to visualise the layout. We struggled with getting things in the right place in the navigation, choosing the right titles for the web pages, having the right number of sections.
Our advice here – Don’t. Or rather, feel free to draw some rough diagrams to illustrate the concept or to assist the thinking, and try to get a reasonable first cut before the project actually starts, but none of these details need to be absolutely finalised until the last minute. When you see the full site ready in test mode, you will be able to be confident about all those little details. Not at the start.
We suggest you start with a very clear set of key messages that describe your business. This is not really a website project issue – it’s a business positioning and marketing issue. Then produce the business information that backs up those messages so that the website creative people have a clear brief to start their work with. In reality, you probably already have most of that. It doesn’t need to be perfect or final to get started.
Re-using the existing material
There are probably some great things about the existing site that can be re-used. Ignore the technology, just look at what the visitor sees.
Assume that it can be pulled apart into many bits and spread out on the table, with individual elements to survive and others to die. Images, messages, colours and fonts, reports and announcements, whichever bits are still appropriate need to be identified. You need to imagine that content in a fresh new design and layout. You may be surprised how much is ok.
We suggest you make a list of what’s good and what’s bad about the current website. This will guide both the designers and the content creators for the new website.
You may even decide that the reason you’re thinking about a new site is really about the technology or the investor tools that are missing. In which case a site migration might be the quickest and easiest way forward - the current site (or most of it) in new technology with a new fresh design and investor features bolted on, and only a relatively small number of pages with completely new content. The technology / design transplant is not such a big cost or big deal and does not involve you as much, but when done you will have better future proofing for content and site changes.
The Design Stage
Once the business messages are clear, we produce an overall website concept, including samples of mock designs for the home page, internal pages, and any special features.
Once you see a choice of overall design concepts, you will begin to more clearly understand the rest of the project, and that it’s not so daunting.
There’s a technical project to build out the actual website. The master pages, style sheets, database, configuration parameters and so on. The result of this process is a working full test version of the website, ready for the content to be uploaded.
Much of the existing content will come from the existing website, from your latest annual report, quarterly report or investor presentations. Bring all the relevant parts across to the new test website, and IRM has some bulk loading techniques to make this easier for you.
Ok, now it does get hard for a while. Look at the test link, make sure it presents the company image you want, make sure there’s no incorrect content, and check every word and link.
But – don’t look for perfection. Even once it’s up and running, you’ll find it’s easy to change content, add new pages, restructure the navigation and so on. So if any one part is too hard for now, do it later and upload it then. Think of it as a journey not a destination. (Just don't keep changing your mind round in circles!)
Devise new governance policies etc as and whenever you like. Reword the narrative as and when you like. Words that look great on paper or in a pdf sometimes look wrong on a website and need fine tuning. Get them about right (factually accurate of course) and fine tune them later. When they are done, replace them on the website in two minutes. This is not a website issue. You can do this on your current website. Shed these matters from the website project thinking.
Send it Live
Once the new site is presenting the right messages in a really good way - and much better than the old site – we update the dynamic content (e.g. latest ASX Announcements) to the very latest and produce a “live” version of the site running on our live servers. In reality, the website is still not actually live, until you change the DNS entries for your domain to point to the new live version. At that point, it’s out with the old and in with the new.
Review and fine tune
It’s human nature – when you see the final product, you can see how it could have been better. No problems, with the freshly trained people in house to make content and navigation changes, you can fine tune and improve it to your heart’s content. There may be some things you can’t do yourself, but that’s where IRM’s support services come in.