Whether you are changing website platforms, refreshing your website’s design, or just making some changes to your site architecture, a website project can be an intimidating task.
Website projects often take up a lot more time and money than initially projected, and website delays can make it challenging to meet marketing deadlines and commercial goals.
We have been involved in 100s, if not 1000s, of website projects, so here is our quick checklist for you to run through to help you succeed in your next digital project.
Clarify the scope before you begin
You need to be clear on scope before you start planning your website upgrade. Consider what is covered in the project from a technical, graphic, and content viewpoint for more accurate scoping. A good scope will help you set more realistic deadlines, targets, and budgets.
Think about the extent of your website renewal:
Here are some guideline questions you may want to ask:
- Are you seeking to upgrade your website technologically? (e.g. performance or content management issues)
- Is this change more about a content refresh, or a subtle rebrand? What roles do the graphics and text take, e.g. is updating one more important than the other?
- Are you just evolving with the market, e.g. adding new services and elements?
- Do you need a new environment for some of your content?
- Are you looking for a complete rebrand and rebuild, to start again?
- Are there any new features that will increase project scope? Ecommerce capabilities and integrations quickly increase complexity.
Understand the current technical background
Understand what you are currently working with, especially from a technical point of view, as this will help you make smarter decisions. You could benefit from a completely new CMS, or you could just need a technical upgrade in terms of your website hosting or theme.
This information should come from someone with a web development background, or even an SEO. The key is to consult someone who can interrogate the website’s code, not just focus on its external elements.
- How does the website perform from a technical viewpoint? (Looking at core web performance vitals may be a good place to start).
- How well is the site being indexed and picked up by search engines? (Best to consult an SEO).
- When was the site last backed up? (Having recurring backups is an essential web development practice).
- When was the last time the site’s theme or plugins were updated (specific to WordPress)? WordPress plugins can cause a lot of issues if not regularly updated.
Consider future technical issues such as CRM integrations etc
Integrations can often push up the technical complexity of a website project, and they are often poorly understood. Take the necessary time to really consider your website in the larger context of your organisation and systems such as booking systems, CRMs, license management systems etc.
You need to ensure that you don’t run into any compatibility issues further on down the line. Using an integration partner may be something you need to include in the project scope.
Ensure you have the necessary design assets
It can be easy to assume that you already have all your web design asserts ‘sorted’, but often clients end up not having clear enough documentation or page templates, leading to costly and time-consuming design work.
- Ensure you have a wide range of colours and fonts for web designers to work with: you will need to consider colour alternatives to main brand colours, CTAs (calls to action) etc.
- Different fonts for headings and body text are a must. Consider how you may want to use fonts to tell a story across your website.
- If you are going to need extra graphic design work as part of your website renewal project, ensure you leave enough in the budget for design work.
Factor in any performance considerations
The key to a website project is to try to improve website performance and remove ‘bloat’, e.g. over-large image files, unnecessary code etc.
Core web vitals and speed tests can be a good indicator of your website’s performance, but be aware that optimising websites for speed is a complex and multifaceted issue. Some content management systems like WordPress can easily be slowed down by plugins, and you will likely need to take an iterative approach to speed optimisation. The key ingredient: good code.
Are you making any changes that are going to potentially slow the site down? Test these in the development environment first.
Are you following SEO best practices?
A website project is often a risky time for your search engine rankings, so it is important to mitigate any drop-off you may see.
This means ensuring you use redirects, keep an eye on how your website is being indexed, and respect the importance of SEO-friendly content.
With a website project, it is worth considering how you can use this as an opportunity to add value to the user. Improving and increasing relevant content, metadata, and internal links are all good places to start!
Identify any website training needs
Who needs to use the website? This web project could be an opportunity for your organisation to include more people in the website and content management team.
See if you can order in some outside training if your internal resources are not enough to cover the new roles and responsibilities. Remember that website training is an investment that is likely to pay dividends in the long run.
Content management systems
There are many different website platforms to choose from, and your choice will be dictated by a variety of factors, from technical context to website budget and in-house resources.
WordPress is the most popular content management system in the world for a reason (best for SEO, easy to find developers, open-source code means developed on an on-going basis). Highly flexible and scalable, you can add many different features to a WordPress website, but on the negative side, multiple plugins can slow the website down.
For ecommerce websites, you can choose from options such as WooCommerce, Magento, Shopify, as well as countless of specialist ecommerce software solutions.
Headless CMS are also becoming an increasingly popular option. Often praised for speed and flexibility, these ideally require (some) in-house technical resource. Here is an interesting guide on what a headless CMS is: https://www.sanity.io/headless-cms.
Regardless of what system you are using, consider the following:
- Changing platforms may increase project complexity, but moving from a simpler platform to a more robust one is often an unavoidable step.
- Choose a CMS that is aligned with your business goals.
- Spend time researching and going through options.
Timelines and resourcing
A project like this is likely to take longer than expected (depending on scope), so start the planning phase well in advance.
Start by mapping out the information architecture and the user flow first, focusing on how your website is going to function as a sales and marketing asset.
Have a clear project plan with deliverables, goals, and task owners. Sprint meetings and workshops are a great way to stay accountable.
Migration process & launch
Migrating over a website can be a complex task, so ensure you have a capable team on hand to make the switch! You will need to have redirects for SEO and UX reasons, but you will also need to consider a launch strategy to help ’embed’ your new website and iron out any kinks.
If re-platforming or re-designing your entire website, the migration process is going to be more complex. Migration planning should also be factored into your timelines.
Information architecture is an often neglected part of website projects, but this is actually a really crucial step when it comes to understanding links, website navigation, and business goals.
Any website migration project needs to be properly managed with an understanding of information architecture. Website structure and information architecture will ensure the web environment is stable and easier to manage, and it will benefit users and your business to ensure these are not compromised.
A website project can be a costly enterprise. There are different pricing styles out there to suit your needs, ranging from hourly to project fees.
You may also need to factor in maintenance and subscription costs.
It is usually a good idea to have some flexibility in the budget for unforeseen costs.
Consider all the people who need to be consulted in order for your website project to truly represent your organisation. You may even need website focus groups to help you steer your digital strategy.
From HR to finance, there are loads of potential interest groups and stakeholders you need to factor in, so ensure you leave enough time to collect and analyse all these different viewpoints.
Future-proofing your digital investment
This is a great moment to set up good working practices for your website management. Ensure you have an ongoing website updating and review process, and keep refreshing it as you go.
One way to succeed? Have a dedicated in-house website team to manage and liaise over project, and then when project is done, set clear guidelines on how to manage website e.g. content updates, deleting pages, adding images etc.
Website Project checklist
Go through all these points to ensure your web project stays on track:
🌐 Do you need help with your website renewal?
We at Timehouse offer you our strategic understanding of websites and the tech that drives them. We implement our services through both a consultancy and technological build model.
Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call +358 207 491 449.