5 Tips on a Website Redesign

Cross-posted from Reach the Public

Last week GovLoop, the online knowledge network for government employees, launched a redesign where we redesigned our home page and launched 7 new sub-communities.

The purpose of the change was to increase the overall readability of the site and organization of the site. We had been hearing from our members over the last 6 months that the site had become overwhelming with more than 15,000 blog posts, 6,000 forums, and 900 groups. Our members were having a hard time finding relevant discussions and content that they cared about. Thus, we set out to develop a streamlined home page and 7 focused “hubs” on the site for the topics:

  • Acquisition
  • Careers
  • Communications
  • Human resources
  • Leadership
  • Project management
  • Technology

As many of you in government probably know, a project of this magnitude takes energy, time, and consensus. Now that we completed the initial redesign I wanted to give my 5 tips on a website redesign:

1) Put someone in charge – In a website redesign, everyone on the team has opinions. The website is something that affects everyone. Plus, design is a skill that everyone has an opinion about. (People wouldn’t give a developer feedback on their code, but they usually have an opinion based on their design tastes; thus, the phrase “design by committee.”) For your website redesign, put someone in charge who is a good project manager and knows design. For our redesign, we made sure that everyone understood that the project was led by Jeff, who was chosen to lead the project because he is skilled in both design and project management.

2) Communicate, communicate, communicate – One leadership tip is to communicate a message until you are sick of it. Then communicate that message 5x more. This rule is even more true in a redesign. With such a big project, everyone wants to know the latest. So, make sure you are giving constant updates to the rest of the team.

3) Gather data and feedback – Before starting our redesign, we collected a lot of information on what people wanted on GovLoop. We spent time analyzing our Google Analytics data to understand what people were currently reading on the site and where they navigated to around the site. We also collected qualitative feedback, from discussion threads on GovLoop to one-on-one discussions. For the past year, every time I was with a GovLoop member, I’d ask them what they liked and didn’t like about GovLoop. All of this information was compiled and helped us make decisions, with the ultimate goal of providing a streamlined process for our users to find the content they wanted more easily. Finally, in addition to the data and feedback, it’s important to remember what your vision for a redesign is, ultimately. For us, it was critical to “grow big, stay small,” so we knew the importance of creating something like sub-communities even if our members didn’t articulate it exactly in those words.

4) Put a time scope on it – We knew we only had 2 months to complete our redesign, from project start to when we needed to go live. While the time pressure limited us from doing some things we wanted, it also provided a clear deadline which forced us to keep our project in scope.

5) Do it right – We’ve redesigned parts of our site before on GovLoop, but the projects were often piecemeal or run by interns. This time, we made sure to do it right; we partnered with the folks at Forum One who brought in a range of skills (front-end developer, interactive designer, project manager) and pushed us to do the redesign the right way. Small decisions made a big difference, like deciding to take a little more time to use an API instead of an RSS feed to bring in pictures and comments to our communities. All that little bit of extra effort truly made all the difference.

Have you been a part of a redesign? What are your tips? Have you seen the new GL- What do you think of it?

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