A long, long time ago (six months) in a land far, far away (Hackbridge*), a comms team made the brave decision to begin one of the most treacherous journeys known to comms-kind: redesigning their organisation’s website.

Armed with only their wits, a bit of wisdom and not nearly enough wine, this intrepid band negotiated the necessary gold from the gatekeepers of funds (management team) and began their voyage.

I was one of them, and here are our four essentials for survival:

Find your Yoda

You need a website agency that understands where your organisation is now - as well as where you want to be. They will be able to create a website to help bridge this gap.

We invited three companies to pitch and were impressed by them all, but decided on William Joseph because of their emphasis on becoming a ‘digitally mature' organisation. This really resonated with Bioregional’s goals for the next few years.

Ellie and James from WJ were a dream to work with. They always gave considered answers to our many, many questions and helping us to meet our objectives was priority number one - but they also weren’t afraid to challenge us to think about things in new ways.

Embrace teamwork

As tempting as it is to power ahead with a website redesign behind closed doors with nothing but coffee and 90s dance music for company, you need to bring your whole organisation with you.

William Joseph set the tone for this by involving key people – including our CEO – in our initial audience definition workshop and we continued this engagement throughout.

Of course, people weren’t involved in the day-to-day detail. But clearly defined, decision-focused sessions with our colleagues, as well as progress updates, gave us useful insights and made sure they felt heard. We found Sarah Richards' book on content design invaluable for this process.

Admit fallibility

I am not always right. I know, it was a surprise to me too. This was especially apparent during user testing. For example, there were some language and navigation choices that my colleagues and I really thought would be the right choices based on our experience.

Yet when it came to testing, some of our preconceived ideas didn’t work, confused people, or made them do the exact opposite of what we wanted them to.

A former colleague used to talk about ‘holding things lightly’ and I think this is a good principle to keep in mind about your website before you test it. A challenge to those of us who have strong beliefs about navigation structure but there you go.

Learn to let go

It takes a certain amount of courage to decide ‘we no longer need this blog’, (especially if you wrote it…). But a website redesign is the perfect opportunity to Marie Kondo your content – if it doesn’t spark joy, delete it.

I exaggerate slightly but a content audit is a non-negotiable. Get stuck into analytics and find a good keyword tool – ask yourself what’s working, what’s dead weight, what opportunities are there to get to the top of Google page rankings?

No page on our new site has gone untouched, from minimal tweaks and adding new ‘search engine optimisation’ keywords to re-purposing old case studies and deleting out-of-date blogs. Our website has roughly halved in size, and it’s all the better for it.

We are so happy with the final product as it reflects Bioregional’s story and what we do much more clearly. But the launch isn’t the end for us – it’s the first day of a new process of trying new things, testing them and improving them. We can’t wait.

Do let us know what you think on Twitter – or share your website redesign essentials with us too!

*Where Bioregional is based at our BedZED eco-village office.

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