In this era of technology, a business’s online presence is vital. A website is a direct reflection of a brand—for some consumers, it is the only way they interact with certain businesses. So the design and usability of a website is crucial to a successful business. For business owners, your brand’s online presence should be a priority handled with care and acute attention to detail.
As the founder and creative leader behind CollegeFashionista, I recently sat at the helm of a website redesign, a process that opened my eyes to the importance of the relaunch process. The culmination of 10 months’ worth of planning, development and execution, we unveiled our new website in January. The process, both challenging and exciting, had its fair share of problems.
With a task as important and tedious as developing a website, you can be successful by familiarizing yourself with the road ahead and the issues that are likely to arise. While there is no way to truly prepare for unexpected challenges in Web development, there are ways you can prepare for a digital transition that is as seamless as possible. And, with the online space as noisy and overpopulated as it is, you want to make sure your investment (both time and money) reaps the best rewards.
Before getting started, here are several things to keep in mind:
Choose the right design team
Having a design team, either externally or in-house, that you can rely on with confidence is vital to the success of the process. The team will be responsible for executing your vision and should provide guidance through the entire process. Perhaps more importantly, they will be tasked with resolving any issues (and trust me, there will be issues) that arise along the way.
A design team is the source through which your vision will be made into a reality, so it’s equally important to feel a sense of compatibility with the team. It’s easy to get distracted by Web designers’ ideas, but ultimately it’s your brand, and you know it best. It’s the design team’s responsibility to be in sync with you, not the other way around. So before you meet with your design team, have a firm grasp of how you picture your brand’s site—its look and usability—and be prepared to discuss your expectations for a successful partnership.
To survive the relaunch process, you must accept the fact that there will inevitably be delays. It’s easier if you expect this and maintain a sense of flexibility. You will rarely, if ever, meet your original deadline, so allow a two-week buffer between your ideal relaunch date and the date when your project will be complete.
Bugs are also inevitable. Be prepared to have time to sort through this before your new site goes live.
Remember to breathe
It’s important to maintain your calm on the day of the launch. Chances are that something will not go as planned. Bugs will appear, functions won’t work, but know that this is normal. If you have a strong team behind you, rely on them to quickly resolve any issues. More likely than not, a majority of the functionality issues you notice won’t be recognized by users simply because of your intimate relationship with the process.
Take time to smell the roses
It’s easier said than done, but remember to take breaks throughout the process! With a strong design team in place, it’s important that you let them do their jobs. You should be able to objectively assess whether you are happy with the final design and functionality of your new website. To do this, it’s best to have fresh eyes.
Looking at a computer screen for too long can become exhausting. Be sure to get out of the office, walk away from your computer and return with a renewed set of eyes. When you come back to the computer, you can decide with a clear mind whether your new website in fact reflects your vision and your brand’s mission. The final product will benefit as a result.
With consumers utilizing the Internet more and more everyday, a strong Web presence can push a brand to the next level. As the newly designed CollegeFashionista has shown me, websites allow a brand to reach a wider consumer base, express itself and position the brand better for the next generation. While exhausting at times, the culmination of a website relaunch is well worth the process. The devil may be in the details, but the details are key to a brand’s success.
Amy Levin is the founder and creative director of CollegeFashionista.