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Avoid Website Design Regret

August 14, 2012

I just talked to an organization with website design regret.  Their site looks fine, but they can’t maintain it, the firm that did it for them isn’t interested in maintaining it, and the software that was used to program the site is not used by other website firms and is not supported any longer by its publisher.  They’re going to have to start all over.

I often hear versions of this story, but even more so recently.  Why?

  • Limited budget drives the decision to hire a low-cost, free-lancer, but after launch, support vanishes.  The site was built in an unusual manner; bringing in a new firm results in starting all over.
  • Cool firm with a cool technology uses proprietary programming software; when the relationship ends, the site has to be built all over again.
  • The site looks cool, but you can’t change a thing without rebuilding significant components of the site.

How can you avoid website design regret?

First of all, hire a firm with the right expertise.  Website design requires expertise in three areas:  communications strategy, graphic design, and programming.  Don’t look for the lowest priced option.  It will lead to regret.

Your website is the foundation of your communications program, and your brand’s key messaging.  Redesigning your website cannot be done without considering all of your overall marketing strategy (who are you trying to reach?  how are you trying to grow?) and your other communications tools.  Make sure you integrate your marketing strategy into your website, and that your website design firm understands how to communicate this strategy through the website.  Ask to see examples of this.

Your website must be visually well-designed, particularly if you are in the design business yourself.  Make sure it aligns with your visual brand.  Don’t assume a firm has graphic design expertise.  How you visually represent yourself through your website very important, particularly if the redesign is setting the tone for the rest of your communications tools.  Ask to see how this firm has designed in other media (brochures, etc.).

Finally, don’t be led down a dead-end with programming that is not used by mainstream website designers, or that is proprietary to the firm you are considering.  If and when the relationship ends, you want to make sure that you can plug in another firm to work in the same technology.  You should establish the system for maintaining the site before you select your website design firm – whether you have someone on your staff that is trained and able, you set up a retainer with the website firm to do this, or the website includes a mechanism for website editing.  Make sure the next chapter is clearly established.  I guarantee that you will want to start changing your site the moment it launches; make sure you have set up the process for this to happen.

Redesigning your website involves considerable effort and investment.  Hiring a website design firm with the right expertise will prevent regret down the road.

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