in Digital Web

Revisiting my first redesign

My first redesign project wasn’t really all that long ago. Just two years ago last month. But since then I’ve worked on sites at three other schools, launched two and I’m on the other side of the aisle.

What I was thinking about a bit ago, was how much I learned on the fly through that process and how the support I received from the people on my team really helped make things go a lot smoother than they could have.

Our redesign wasn’t mandated by someone on high. It was actually just something I initiated, after about a month in my new job. Our site at the time was a mish-mash of a Dreamweaver site with some SQL databases controlling some aspects of parts of the site. There were no instructions and the person who designed had since left and gone into business for himself. As a result, when there were problems (and there always were), we had little recourse as to what we ought to do to fix the problems, save for what I could figure out on my own.

After doing this for a few weeks and noticing other problems related to content delivery, outdated content on the site and an inability for it to really meet our needs in a real way, I went to my boss and told her what we had wasn’t going to work. I could’ve sat there and done nothing, maintained status quo and let it go, but it wasn’t serving anyone’s needs as it was.

So after developing a proposal for her, that the President approved and then presenting to the board of trustees, there was a consensus that we needed a new site and we moved forward.

I won’t revisit the whole process for you, but I will say that what I was thinking back to are the problems we ran into. I recall my boss asking me throughout, “is everything okay,” and I’d always preface my statements with, “I’ve never done one of these before. But I think we’re cool. At least, we’ve done everything they’ve asked of us and we’re ahead of schedule on everything.”

Until we launched and we magically ended up two weeks behind on everything. There was no “web team.” It was me and whatever support IT gave me, as the web guy working in public relations. I took ownership over the project more than just a person charged to do something. I felt like this HAD to work better than what we had before and I needed to make sure things were as smooth as possible, because I didn’t want anyone to feel like we were in a worse state with the new site than we were with the old one, “because at least it worked” to the untrained eye.

Rather than feel like I had to make water into wine, my boss and even the President backed me up when the snags happened. A lot of this had to do with the fact that throughout the process, I kept them informed of everything. But their doors were always open, the lines of communication were there and they took the time to let me know that they were interested and I did my best to translate the process to them in a manner that communicating the measurable impact of each part of the process and how it would help us post-launch.

Here are a few old blog posts around that time that were really helpful as a reflection tool to what we went through, too:

The first thing you learn about a redesign
Once the site is delivered…

To summarize, I think it’s important — especially for small teams — to get support from those who lead the process. Sometimes, resources in the way of staff can’t be added, but you can relieve pressure when necessary and let people know their work is valued by being a sounding board and clearing the path so they can walk and see ahead of the more clearly.

  1. I could agree with more with you on your suggestions for redesign. I’m the Web Manager at a college and we are about two start a major web realignment project and getting buy in is critical. Fortunately, we do have buy-in from senior leadership because the project is funded and outside resources are available. But going through the process, we’ll need buy-in from the campus community and that will be achieved through transparency.

    After we go through this process, I will blog my thoughts.

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