Incorporating relevant tasks and deliverables when planning a website redesign or implementation project will significantly impact the overall project approach and outcomes. While identifying most of the features, requirements, and deliverables is a straight-forward process, there are a few critical activities that can be easily missed in the early stages of project planning.
In over 15 years of redesigning websites and implementing Web content management systems for our enterprise and government clients, we have identified five essential activities that are often missed in the project planning. In such cases, the whole project might be at risk because time and internal resources are not allocated. Of course, when this happens, there are still ways to deliver a project, but it might require readjustment that could have been easily avoided altogether.
Before you plan for your next Web design or Web CMS implementation project, we suggest you consider the following five activities of a successful redesign:
- Content Production, Editing, and Migration
- Web Content Accessibility Support
- Application and System Integration
- Organizational Change Management (OCM)
- Maintenance and Support
1. Content Production, Editing, and Migration
Whether you are redesigning a site or launching a completely new website, content migration and new content production are critical activities that require careful planning and consideration.
Content updates and organization typically require engagement of the content owners and subject matter experts, such as program managers or communication teams. Failure to plan for their involvement results in low engagement and unanticipated workloads that nobody allocated for. It is common for organizations at that point to step back and re-identify project stakeholders, which in many cases results in inconvenience and delays.
To avoid surprises down the road, ask the following questions:
- How much content is currently there on the existing website?
- Will all the current content be migrated to the new website?
- Can content be archived?
- Does some content belong to the Intranet or Extranet rather than the public-facing website?
- What is the legally required content that needs to be migrated over to the new website?
- Do you need to create any new content, or update any existing content for the new website?
- Will you introduce new content formats, such as photography, illustrations, or video?
- Who will produce or edit content?
- Who will migrate the content?
- Who will review and approve content editing and migration?
Answering these questions prior to starting the project will help you define a more realistic scope, and identify additional resources needed to ensure the delivery of a comprehensive website solution.
2. Web Content Accessibility Support
Accessible websites combine accessibility compliant platforms (e.g. content management systems or document filing systems) and accessibility compliant content.
While most public sector website redesign or implementation projects require an accessibility compliant platform, software, and design system, content accessibility compliance workflows and procedures are often overlooked. This can create challenges after the project is completed and the website content continues to evolve, so it is essential to establish and adopt processes to monitor and ensure accessibility compliance moving forward.
When planning your next accessibility compliant project, ask the following questions:
- How will you test and validate website accessibility after the project is completed? How will you keep the website accessible? This is especially important in public sector websites that need to self-certify for accessibility compliance (AB 434 in California).
- Are there any files and documents that need to be remediated for accessibility compliance before publishing on the website? (In many cases the answer is yes.) How many of such documents are already remediated? Do you have a strategy set in place to conduct remediation of the non-compliant files and documents? In our experience, the volume of documents that require at least some accessibility remediation comes as a surprise to many organizations.
- Do you have the technical resources and expertise to maintain an accessibility compliant website? If not, how do you plan to address the gap?
3. Application and System Integration
Many organizations, especially in the public sector, provide website visitors access to business applications through their websites. These applications help with self-service tasks and therefore significantly optimize business processes, digital transactions, and time required to serve thousands and millions of users. Such applications are often the main reason users visit the website, so consider business application integration while planning for a website redesign or implementation project.
To help identify tasks and resources that should be part of your project, review all applications currently available to the users through the website. Consider engaging the business application owners and technical support groups in the planning.
In our experience, there are a few common scenarios:
- Business applications are kept as-is. They retain their look-and-feel and are hosted in the existing environment. Applications are not integrated with the main website but are merely hyperlinked. In this case, the user experience and accessibility could end up being suboptimal, but the project timelines are more predictable.
- Existing application rebranding and visual design alignment. This is a common option for organizations that are able to dedicate technical staff who can apply the main project’s design system to the business application.
- API development and integration. This is the most future-proof solution, depending on the CMS and how much development effort is required by the complexity of the business application. Benefits of API integrations include a unified brand and user experience because the user stays within the same website, which opens up possibilities for additional features such as content personalization or user profile functionalities.
Sometimes, the rebranded applications are embedded through iframes. However, we strongly suggest avoiding this approach as it may create accessibility challenges that are expensive to address. Typically, video embeds are somewhat easier to maintain, but custom data dashboards might create more problems than benefits when embedded through an iframe.
As always, there are multiple solutions to a problem, but we recommend at least high-level planning, well in advance, to avoid surprises later in the process.
4. Organizational Change Management (OCM)
Implementing new systems and tools may require changes to the organization’s internal processes, procedures, and day-to-day operations. Planning and managing the change is sometimes omitted from the project planning process, resulting in low stakeholder engagement and slow adoption.
When planning the project, changes and challenges that need to be identified include:
- Changes in roles and responsibilities.
- Implementation of new processes, policies, and procedures.
- New resources, skills, or abilities required within the organization.
- Legal requirements for implementing the changes.
- Impact of the changes on the organization’s workload.
We have partnered with many of our clients to help lead organizational change management throughout our projects, which has been vital for successful implementations and enduring solutions.
5. Maintenance and Support
Although most website redesign or implementation projects include a knowledge transfer deliverable, some miss the option of engaging the implementing partner to provide ongoing maintenance and support after the project is complete.
Having maintenance and support in place allows organizations to gain additional knowledge of the solutions by monitoring issue resolution procedures, collaborating with the vendor to resolve real-life situations, and learning by doing. Having maintenance and support in place frees up internal resources to focus on more strategic tasks than day-to-day monitoring.
When planning the project, thinking about the organizational capabilities will provide you with a general idea of the maintenance and support requirements that should be included in the project’s scope. Consider:
- Your organization’s familiarity with the platforms and technologies used in the project.
- What resources will be available to support the solution after the new website is launched.
We hope this list of considerations will give you a better idea on how to scope website redesign or Web CMS implementation projects in your organization.
For further questions, and help in scoping projects, please contact us.