Chris Pavey from Central College Nottingham gives us his top tips for running a web project.
Back in 2015, we decided that it was time to retire the website that had launched alongside our rebrand to Central College Nottingham. The challenges at the time were that we needed a website that could hold a vast amount of content (as a college, we run over 4,000 part-time and full-time courses), facilitate online applications and have a user-friendly CMS - and all of this needed to be delivered within an extremely tight timeframe.
Although our website delivered on our key objectives, as time progressed we realised that there were a few missing parts that needed to be rectified. From looking at our analytics, a large proportion of our audience were visiting our website from a mobile device. Although our website was mobile friendly, it was far from being mobile optimised. Reviewing our analytics also revealed a large drop off in applications from a mobile device so a mobile-first redesign was deemed necessary. Other key objectives were to completely realign our website to prioritise segmentable, digital data capture and to revamp the navigation to result in a much improved UX as well as making our content more discoverable.
I’ve learnt a lot from my time project managing the new website build. In the hope of potentially helping out a fellow sole starting down the barrel of a large website redesign project, I’ve listed my five top tips that I’ve picked up along the way…
Set out clear, quantifiable objectives
This one might sound obvious, but any project needs to be based on clear objectives that have been set to compliment the wider business goals. Our KPIs were set after intensively reviewing our analytics, as well as looking into relevant national statistics; such as the research into internet usage from the Office for National Statistics.
If you can connect the KPIs you’ve set against the analytics that you’ve gathered to justify the need for the website redesign, then you’ll have a much easier job approaching your Senior Management Team and getting the budget sign off.
In our case, one of the KPIs was to reduce the abandonment rate of applications made from a mobile device by 30% - this was supported by a years worth of statistics from Google Analytics that highlighted how this was currently an issue
Involve the right people
A website redesign is a truly collaborative project - and it’s critical that you get the right people on board from the start. From making sure all of your internal systems plug in to the website, through to ensuring you have a bank of high-quality photography – you can guarantee that you’ll be drawing on a wealth of skill sets.
The key to success is keeping everyone informed through every stage. For example, we included our ITS team right from the beginning of the project, even inviting them along to our tender interviews because we knew how vital it was to have a website that played nicely with our CRM and student record system.
We also made sure that our SMT team were involved at regular periods throughout the process. By presenting to them at key stages in the project I was able to ensure that there were no surprises, which allowed for a smooth sign-off process.
Picking the right agency
One of the most critical stakeholders that you’ll be working with is the digital agency that you choose. This decision can be the difference between a project that seamlessly flows from one stage to the next, and a nightmare scenario where you’re constantly chasing and missing key deadlines.
The right agency is not only one that meets your requirements in terms of their technical capability and portfolio, but equally should also be one that you can see yourself getting on with. Why is this important? Simply put, during a large website project you should expect to put your account manager on speed dial. Daily communication should be expected - so make sure you choose the team that won’t make you dread picking up the phone every time it rings!
Don’t underestimate the size of the project
A big change for our new website was the integration of a entirely new navigation, that spoke to individual sectors of our audience through the use of hubs. One mistake I made was not allowing enough time for the content for these hub that was going to bring our new website to live.
The main challenge was that the copy from our old website suddenly became redundant. And so began a process of auditing our entire website so that we could work out what copy could be repurposed, what could be merged and what had to be deleted. Additionally, we also had to consider the tone of voice for each audience and rewrite copy with our different audiences in mind. It was a substantial task.
So learn from someone who has made that fatal error, and make sure you work closely with your agency early on in the project to establish realistic, manageable timings.
Embrace productivity tools
One thing that Kind pushed us on at the start was to change the way we communicate and ditch email in favour of a combination of productivity tools. Slack, Trello and Basecamp were new to a lot of the team here, but after a quick learning curve we began to see how they transform workflows. Not only were we able to see only updates relevant to our project in one place, these tools also acted as a nifty way to see a snapshot of where you were in the project.
Collaboration and delegating tasks became a breeze and this really helped to streamline our process and save time that would have been spent writing up endless to-do lists or searching our inboxes for an email that was sent two months ago.
So there you go, my top tips. If you’re due to start a website redesign project, or are currently navigating your way through one – fear not, get the right people around you and ensure you keep them all in the loop and you’ll be well on your way to that shiny new bit of web property.