Most website projects begin innocently enough. The goal is to design and build something that will reflect the company's products, services, aspirations, culture, history, etc. What happens next is often a surprise to all involved- an organizational identity crisis that threatens to undermine the project and even damage the organization. As a result, the web design agency goes from hero to zero as the crisis deepens. Why does this happen?
Redoing your organization's website naturally leads to questioning the fundamentals of the business. It is similar to remodeling a house- you need to check the foundation, identify supporting walls and do some demolition. So redoing a website leads to asking the big questions: why are we in business? What does success look like? How are we different from our competition? Who are our target audiences? This line of questioning has a ripple effect through an organization. The challenge is to channel this questioning into improving the overall health of your organization. It can be done but it requires courage, planning and leadership.
Web design agencies need to prepare their clients for this byproduct of building a website. They need to lead their clients through the process and prepare them for the impact. Instead of it being a threat, it can be an opportunity to evolve the organization and increase its overall health.
If at all possible, involve the organization's leadership team in the project and not just the marketing team. The leadership team may think that redoing the website is the domain of the marketing team, but in reality an effective website redesign will reach into all areas of the business. It will force an organization to finally answer those tough, foundational questions they may have passed over during the chaos of starting the business.
Here's the take away: you aren't just redesigning a website, you are rediscovering why you are in business to begin with. Be prepared.
PS: We have been guilty of not answering those foundational questions as well. We finally took the time during our recent Factory Week to nail down our company's North Star. It has been a transformative experience for us and is leading to a complete redesign of our website which we will launch in early 2013.