11 Common Website Redesign Pitfalls to Avoid

02.03.2023 9 Minutes

Your website is your firm’s most valuable marketing, business development, and recruitment asset.

A website redesign requires a great deal of planning, patience, grind, and courage to pull off. For this reason, it’s best to plan from the start for any potential pitfalls that may delay the process and balloon your budget.

In this article, we’ll outline several key pitfalls you should avoid in your next website redesign project.

Not having leadership (fully) on board

Your leadership team absolutely, positively needs to be fully on board with the website redesign. In our experience, marketing leaders can run into avoidable problems without the full and complete support of their leadership team.

Website redesigns require a significant investment of resources, time, energy, and investment — so marketers need to focus on making a business case for why a new website is required.

Some good reasons to redesign your website include:

  • Your business strategy has changed
  • Current website is inadequate for recruitment and business development
  • Outdated technology and functionality restricts growth

Insufficient investment

You have to view your website as an investment — not an expense. Remember, your website is your firm’s most valuable marketing, business development, and recruitment asset. Both the client experience and employee experience often begin on your website.

A website should educate and inform the user about your firm, it sells your firm 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

For this reason, you should ignore what you spent last time and instead focus on the value your new website will provide towards your organization’s recruiting, business development, and thought leadership goals.

All website features come at a cost, so you’ll want to calculate both a high and a low number when accounting for different budget considerations. As a few topics to think about:

  • Custom vs. “customized”
  • Number of unique layouts or pages
  • Search engine optimization
  • Integrations and 3rd party tools
  • ADA compliance

Not having a dedicated internal project manager

Failing to appoint a dedicated internal project manager — the individual who will ultimately own the initiative — can lead to delays in the process. You can’t manage by committee, it needs to be a specific individual with the ability to put time aside specifically for helping with the website redesign process.

The project manager is the person on the inside who is tasked with managing the project — keeping it on time, keeping it on budget, communicating with the consultant, and making sure everyone internally is getting tasks done.

Most importantly, this individual needs to be empowered to do the job. Managing the website redesign is a job in itself — so you should take care to empower them to make their own decisions and not overload them with unrelated work.

Too many people on your project team

Related to pitfall #3 above, having too many people on the project team can negatively impact the timeline and budget of a website redesign project. “Too many cooks in the kitchen” is an expression for a reason — there are always subjective choices in designing a website, and having too many opinions battling it out at once can potentially make you lose all momentum on your project.

When it comes to design we call this the “Frankenstein” effect, where good ideas fall to the consensus trap and end up watered down. People pull a little bit from every idea that’s put out and mash them together to create a design that lacks a holistic aesthetic and feels piecemeal.

For this reason, our general rule for web projects is to include “as many as necessary, but as few as possible.”

Underestimating the time, resources and planning involved

Websites are expensive, time-intensive, massive projects. If you haven’t been through the website redesign process before, you may be seriously underestimating the time and effort involved in building a new website from scratch.

We know this firsthand because we’ve done it ourselves and have walked alongside many clients who’ve gone through the process. You must adequately prepare for the time and effort involved. It’s not just going to require more investment than you think it will, but will also require more time and effort from everyone involved than you’re probably expecting.

Make the project a top priority — it’s not just something you do “on the side,” it’s a strategic initiative that’s central to meeting your recruiting and business development goals.

Designing around the needs of the firm, not the user

Websites are for your users, not your firm. “What do we want on our website?” is the absolute wrong question to ask. Because what your firm wants to put on your website may not always align with what your users want to see on your website.

You need to have an audience-centric content strategy — singularly focused on the different ways that users find and consume information on your website.

The opinions and preferences of senior leadership, and even the individual opinions of members of the marketing team matter very little compared to the end user. Your sole and singular goal when developing a new website should be creating a comprehensive and valuable experience for your users, not your internal team.

Users want to find what they’re looking for as quickly and easily as possible. Make it easy, make it organized, and don’t make the user think. However, in order for users to find what they’re looking for, you need to put what they’re looking for on the website.

When it comes to how you design, plan, and architect your website, think about users and their needs, use cases, and generally what users want to do or find when they come to your website.

Delays in feedback and approval

Delays in approval will cause delays in the schedule. If you are unable to approve or provide feedback by milestones in the project schedule, this will have a ripple effect down the line — ultimately delaying the entire process.

Consistently missing key milestones is going to affect the schedule and cause delays. That’s just how these projects work.

Additionally, you should note that delays in feedback aren’t just limited to no response, but also to unclear feedback as well. Clarity in feedback is essential to ensuring your voice is heard and your needs are met. The inability to articulate your needs, preferences, and opinions to your partner can significantly hinder the process and potentially lead to a final result that misses the mark on certain aspects.

Remember, the project — and its schedule — is a shared responsibility. Always work with your partner towards a website you can proudly show to internal and external stakeholders.

Putting content on the backburner

If there is any one thing that delays a website redesign project, it’s content. Looking back over the last several years of web projects, I would bet that 80% of the delays were caused, at least in part, by having to scramble for content near the end of the process.

Marketers don’t always realize how much effort is involved in pulling together all the content for a new website. It is very rare and never recommended that you copy / paste content from your current website and put it on your new website. If you’re doing things strategically, you need to understand that you’re starting with a mostly clean slate.

Take the time to identify key photography, video and content needs early and often — never just leave content for the end. You can’t just say “we want video on the website,” you need to have a strategic plan — from the outset — of what specific assets you want to put on display.

Minimizing the technical aspects

We frequently see businesses and marketers ignore the technical side of things and assume that the tech stuff will be taken care of by someone else. And we get it. It’s easy — especially if you’re not a technical person — to think about the design and the content, but it’s hard to conceptualize the supporting technology if you don’t have a deep understanding of these kinds of things.

However, you should never assume that something will be done just because it’s a best practice.

Make sure that technical aspects such as search engine optimization (SEO), page speed, core web vitals, and schema are all included in your scope of work so you can ensure your development partner focuses on these core elements during the process, not after.

Launching before you are ready

It’s perfectly fine to have a general timeframe for when you want to launch your website — whether that’s a particular month or  quarter. However, one of the single most stressful things you can do in the website redesign process is committing to an arbitrary launch date too early in the process.

Remember, the process will take longer than you expect. You don’t want to burn the candle at both ends at the end of the process so you can meet an arbitrary date you threw out months or years before.

Not planning for post-launch

All of the effort you put into designing and building a robust website will fall short if you fail to plan for how you’ll use the website post-launch.

Content management systems have software updates — whether that’s WordPress Core or the various plugins you have installed — and failing to maintain these systems can result in a broken or insecure website a few months down the road. You don’t need a high-price maintenance plan or a dedicated developer, all you need is a partner who goes in and performs maintenance on a regular basis — usually monthly.

Additionally, having too much (or too little) control over your website can also lead to broken systems down the road as the website takes on technical debt and members of the marketing team build out custom solutions that may not have been accounted for in the original website design process.

Digital ink never dries

Remember, your website isn’t a brochure that you print off and send to clients — it’s a living, breathing member of your team that works 24/7 year-round to show off your work and offer your value proposition to potential clients, recruits, and partners.

Never take a set-it-and-forget-it mindset when it comes to your website. Digital ink never dries, meaning you need to account for your website as a long-term investment in order to hit all of the goals you set out to hit.

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