December 22, 2017

Your Next Website Project: Best Practices for 2018 and Beyond

It’s almost time for the New Year, and that means you’re only days away from making a resolution. In addition to the usuals—eat healthier, go to the gym, declutter—why not set a resolution for your business?

In this new series from Franklin Street, we’ll explore the various ways you can analyze your own organization’s performance and tactics against best practices within one of the most influential areas you have access to: your online platforms. Whether they’re social, marketing automation and email, paid search, or your website and beyond, now is the time to see how you stack up.

We know business leaders in health care overwhelmingly believe digital optimization and standardization is a top priority. In our experience, when clients approach us about their online presence, the question they are most afraid to ask is: “…but what about my website?” Can-of-worms doesn’t seem to do it justice.

Keeping with New Year’s resolutions, we’re going to kick off our best practices guides with just that—the big and scary website question. Something advantageous, but manageable with the right team, the right perspective, and the right guidance (just like your personal resolution).

Health Care Website Redesign Best Practices: Questions to Ask, Tips to Follow

 

1. How long has it been since your last site redesign, overhaul, or basic visual update?

As you do your own research to answer this question, you’ll see many answers. But for us, a good rule of thumb is to consider the number of years the current version of your site has been live. If you last made major design updates to your site 3-4 years ago, it’s likely that it’s time to begin planning the next iteration.

This has to do with the speed at which design and user expectations change (here’s a clue: it’s very fast).

HubSpot does a great job of simplifying the list of scenarios you may find yourself in when considering whether or not your current site is appropriate for the future of your business.

2. Conduct a Heuristic Evaluation.

Heuristics (hyoo-riss-ticks) are 10 principles tied to universal psychological needs as users interact with digital platforms. This means that they are timeless, and one of the best ways to see how your site meets, or does not meet, the needs of your users.

It can be hard to understand specifically how these heuristics lead to your site’s overall report card evaluation, but that’s the exact point where Franklin Street has seen successful client relationships pivot and evolve into thoughtful discussions about how to accomplish more than just immediate goals.

What’s more, your site’s report card can provide the framework for future requirements documentation as you go through your site planning exercises.

3. Ask yourself: who will do the work?

It’s not easy building a website, but it doesn’t have to be infuriating or unmanageable. According to HubSpot, over half of all website redesign projects are done internally, yet almost one-third are deemed as a failure upon completion. How does that compare to the historical experience within your organization?

There are many options to choose from in deciding who will do the work, but the most common combinations look like this:

  • You do the strategy, Partner A does the design, Partner B does the development. You are responsible for managing the process from start to finish.

  • You hire Partner A to manage the process for you, and to facilitate the necessary conversations between you and all other relevant contributors. Partners B (and maybe more) are responsible for the research, strategy, design, and development.

  • You have an internal marketing department and an internal IS/IT department, and you decide to be the one-stop-shop for your website design, only bringing in Partner A for the limited work your team is (technically speaking) unable to do.

Each of these options has pros and cons, but the bigger question is what is appropriate for you to do. Given your past experience, given your budget constraints, given the capabilities of your team members, choose the option that will yield the best results.

4. Build personas, then “serve” them according to their appetite.

If you were serving dinner to a group of friends, and once was allergic to peanuts, you’d leave it off the menu; or, if you had a friend who was wheelchair-bound, you wouldn’t place a chair at their spot. Why think any differently when your website is going to be served to your audience?

By documenting common personas who will interact with your site, you can understand what actions they will then need to take on your site and what accommodations they might need along the way. In Agile project management, these are referred to as User Stories. From there, you can customize the experience to be as easy and intuitive as possible.

If you’ve ever interacted with poor website design, then you know how frustrating it can be. Starting your strategy, your site structure and your design/content hierarchy from the perspective of your users will alleviate and avoid as much flawed user experience as possible.

5. Define Who Has a Say…and Who Doesn’t

One of the pitfalls of any creative process is decision-by-committee. Regardless of the size of your organization, or the industry you work in, do yourself a favor and build a responsibility matrix which will outline various combinations of who is:

  1. Responsible

  2. The Approver (or “Accountable” – the person to whom “Responsible” reports)

  3. Supporting

  4. Consulted

  5. Informed

Know exactly who is on the hook for key decisions, and who simply needs to be informed as progress is made.

If you choose to involve partners, you’ll likely have more than one responsibility matrix–one for your internal team, and one for each independent scope of work which outlines the expectations with said partner.

6. Do you know exactly what the requirements are for your future site?

You “think you know,” or you’ll “cross that bridge when you get to it”—but the reality is you can’t put off thinking about it even one more second. As the last step before the rubber meets the road, your requirements documentation, and especially the subset for functional requirements, will dictate every step from start to finish.

“Requirements” is the process of gathering necessary inputs from stakeholders across the vertical and horizontal hierarchy of your organization, and taking their wants and needs into consideration—not to mention the needs of your users uncovered in step 4.

Here’s an example of a good requirements statement, followed by a sample of categories to consider, where each will have as many items and statements as you need.

Example Statement:

Category – Content Management

Item – News Articles

Statement – The proposed site should accommodate one of our most common needs: the ability to upload individual news articles in a streamlined fashion, as well as the ability to manage those articles both individually and through bulk functionalities (such as publish or archive “all selected”).

Sample Categories:

Content Management, Media Management, SEO, Form Integrations, Social Media Integrations, KPIs/ROI, Growth/Scalability, Analytics/Reporting, Intranet/Third-Party Application Integrations, Data Security, Hosting, etc.

Now go build those requirements! Remember that doing so is a collaborative process, and the goal is to be as thorough as possible. It’s important to keep track of what is a “want” and what is a “need.” Even further segmenting those into immediate or future subsets can help if the list gets too cumbersome.

If your requirements are pulling you in distinctly different directions, then it’s time to revisit the drawing board and understand what disconnect is occurring between your stakeholders, and how to resolve it before pursuing a full website redesign or overhaul initiative.

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The six items outlined above are here to help you think through the process of your website project and make sure you understand how to put one foot in front of the other, regardless of whether you handle it internally or with the help of partners.

Ring in the New Year with a new you, a new perspective, and a new website!

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