In part one of this four-part blog series, I reviewed the initial assessment one needs to make before undertaking a website redesign.
So, you've determined that it is time to redesign your website, and you have identified the objectives you hope to achieve by doing so (don't overlook this piece - these will be the criteria by which you measure your success). The next phase of this project is evaluating your assets (content) and prioritizing your audiences to understand what they are trying to achieve.
Start by measuring the current traffic to the various sections of your website. Be careful about making automatic assumptions about low-traffic areas; maybe it isn't reflective of the desire for the content, but rather the quality of the content. Or the fact that no one can find it (how's your SEO working out for you, really?)
Then audit and evaluate every single asset you have on your site, including words, images, infographics, video, audio, and uploads such as PDFs and brochures. Not only what content do you have, but how much is it being consumed? Look at your analytics. You might also survey your users, ask them what they are interested in the most when it comes to content. Does it validate your existing content strategy? At one firm, we were putting a lot of resources into publishing attorney articles; when we asked our clients what they were most interested in reading on our website, the overwhelming majority said they wanted to read about our experience (the matters our attorneys worked on, the areas of law). This doesn't invalidate having a content strategy where writing articles is *one* focus, but it told us we needed to spend more time beefing up the experience area of our site.
In comparison to what the Google Analytics data told us, below are the results from internal surveys, asking staff audiences what content they were interested in viewing on our website. The least visited content was Careers and Diversity, which made sense since the firm's staff wasn't interested in externally-focussed career opportunities, and the diversity program's internally-consumed content lived on the Intranet.
The point I'm making is that you must tread carefullt when asking your stakeholders what content is most important. Instead, you should be thinking (and researching) what content is most important to your target audiences. When evaluating content, ask yourself:
If you are rewriting whole sections of your website or creating entirely new sections, be sure to prioritize. No matter how well you plan, timelines will get tight and you may need to postpone rewriting certain elements. When that time comes, you will want to know you spent your efforts on the right things. Kristina Halvorsen writes a ton on content strategy; head on over to her podcast for loads of useful information and tools (her book should be required reading for anyone planning a website content overhaul).
I used visual collaboration tool Mural to help with the content audit and key message documentation work at a recent law school redesign. It helped us define not just content areas, but our keyword strategy and content style (tone/voice). P.s. if your organization doesn't already have a content style guide, this is a great exercise to get you closer to developing one.
And please, if I can emphasize only one thing: pare down. Users don't read websites, they skim them - so don't make them have to work for the information they seek. Lawyers often need to be convinced of this fact, so check out Nielsen Norman Group on writing for the web - lots of research to back up this recommendation
Stakeholders are those with a vested interest in seeing you deliver a successful website. Internally, stakeholders often are your senior leadership, department heads, and those who will own/oversee sections of the site. External stakeholders are most often your clients but you should also take into consideration laterals and summer associates. Stakeholder interviews are critical to understanding what your team hopes to achieve in the redesign. For one law firm website redesign, I include the Marketing department (primary content owners), the Human Resources department (because our Careers pages are the second most visited pages on the site), practice leaders, and several of our top 20 clients.
Each interview should probably take between 45 and 60 minutes. Some stakeholders can be interviewed in groups. If at all possible, include your designers and developers in this phase because what you hear might be very different from what they hear. (And when a practice leader insists on adding some random element, the designer and developer can help get to the bottom of what the true requirement is and how best it can be addressed.)
I also conducted a firmwide survey with 10 basic questions to suss out what employees (both attorneys and staff) thought needed to be included in the redesign. This goes a long way toward making people feel heard, and taking them on the redesign journey with you.
Recommended reading: Paul Boag on How to Improve Your Site Using Stakeholder Interviews.
You need to get a handle on who your website is serving. There will be multiple audiences, so it is extremely helpful to build out a set of user personas. This exercise will give you clarity into your website visitors, and provide you with a sort of touchstone against which to measure your functionality and content. Personas force you to understand your user objectives, their journey throughout the various pages of your website, how they arrived there in the first place, and what actions they will likely want to take once they get there. The typical visitors to a law firm website will include:
You should create a persona for each key visitor type. Recommended reading: Smashing Magazine's Shlomo Goltz on developing user personas.
Want to keep reading about website redesigns? Head on over to part 3 of this blog series, where I write about sitemaps, wireframes, and the design process.