October 1, 2014

Get the Most From Your Website Redesign Agency

Matthew Billingsley • Chief Creative Officer

Once the decision has been made to redesign your organization’s website, what are the next steps? Regardless of the rationale, we have provided a guide for what you should know before engaging with a digital agency. A little pre-prep before making the hire will ensure you get the most return on your investment and create a productive relationship.

Have a Scope for Timing & Budget

Even if these two items are not definitive at the early stages, (and they don’t have to be) it is important to have a sense of what both numbers are before approaching an agency. These numbers will help frame the project and properly set expectations for what is required. It also shows the digital agency there are clear parameters to work within. We know that disclosing your budget can feel like tipping your hand but try to think of it like any other purchase. When shopping for a new car you give the salesman a budget range so he knows what type of car you’re looking for. The same thinking applies here.

Understand that more complex tasks will take longer and quicker turnarounds will cost more. Sacrifices will need to be made but understand what you are willing to give up. A great agency will work with your team to help you determine a project’s timing and budget, but not having an idea of either may breed frustration and reduce the pool of agencies willing to help.

Communicate Your Audience’s Needs

You know your organization better than anyone. You are the best catalyst for relaying what your key audience should expect from the website. The more information you can provide, the more successful the project will be but the first step in gathering requirements is knowing what you need to offer the people visiting your website. Knowing base objectives such as “increasing donations” or “gathering volunteer signups” will help the agency to create a solid content plan and information architecture for those goals.

One helpful tip is to survey how other nonprofits are serving their user base. Provide examples of what you feel works and, just as important, what does not.

Identify Who Will Lead Review Processes

At Visceral, we consider it a best practice to assign roles and points of contact that you will interface with at every phase of the project. This is to ensure checkpoints are met from kickoff to launch. It is just as important to identify this person, or persons, on your team who will have final say (and veto power) in reviewing deliverables provided by the digital agency. Will your project manager have sign-off authority on every major checkpoint? Or will separate specialists be on hand to lead different aspects of the project such as content strategy, design, or SEO?

Above all, no matter how many people are involved in the project it is crucial to make sure that one person is driving and leading the decision-making process. Nothing will derail success more than someone unfamiliar with the project injecting opinions while removed from the day-to-day efforts and project objectives. That’s not to say this person should be disregarded—it could be the person who writes your check!—but be selective in sharing actionable feedback to the redesign team.

Determine Technical Requirements

Depending on your organization’s level of expertise this could be one of the most cryptic portions of information gathering. Understanding the technical strengths and weakness of the selected agency prior to awarding any project will help. Are they experts in Drupal or WordPress? It is important to allow the redesign team to make their best recommendations, but never rely on blind faith. Reach out to representatives from different CRM and CMS vendors to help you determine what is best.

Customer relationship management software (CRM) and content management software (CMS) are two integral pieces of most organization’s website. Even if your team does not have specific platforms in mind for either, knowing what the website needs will set the chosen agency on the right path to determine, with you, what the correct platform is. Of course, if your organization is already using a CRM platform it may not be worth switching to a new one.

For CMS requirements, the capabilities of a digital agency will vary from company to company. The purpose of integrating CMS is to allow your team to have total access to update and maintain the website. At Visceral, it’s standard to offer a thorough post-launch training session on how to effectively use the CMS administration area.

Engage Regularly With Your Agency

Remember to communicate routinely with the redesign team. Work with your internal team to determine checkpoints through the duration of the project. A project’s success begins and ends with all parties working together and sharing communication fluidly and frequently. Delays are sometimes unavoidable but a friendly note to the redesign team’s project manager will ensure a focused effort and help to keep the redesign team on track no matter what obstacles arise.

Last and certainly not least… spread the word! We, like several other companies, count on referrals and recommendations from others to stay in business. If you enjoyed the working experience and are happy with the results, the best thing you can do is pass them on to your peers. Shout them out on Twitter or like their Facebook page. Send a singing telegram to their office if that’s your thing. We don’t ask for much.

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