The #1 timeline killer for website redesigns (and how to tame the beast!)

In our 20 years in the web dev business, we’ve overwhelmingly found that the key area where folks underestimate their ability and time to deliver revolves around website content.broken pencil

Writing and editing…Sounds so easy! Stuff you can assign to your team and have done in no time. I mean, we can all write, right?

Bad puns aside, the fact of the matter is that getting web content ready can be more time-consuming and require more folks than you imagined.

Hands down, the process of strategically auditing one’s content, writing/editing, tagging for taxonomic categorization, and generally rethinking the messaging and tone is the single biggest pain point for our clients because it’s easy to underestimate the amount of time and effort required to do it right.

Since content is king, what strategies and tactics can should you consider during your redesign to remove this bottleneck?

We interviewed one of our current redesign clients and association rock star, Sandra Giarde, Executive Director of the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) to get her suggestions on how best to manage the process internally with your staff:


Layla: What was your team’s perception of this process going into the redesign? How much, if at all, did this mesh with reality?

Sandra: We knew our current site and all its pages were going to need some paring down, but once we dug in, we realized the majority of the work would not be choosing which items weren’t be coming over to the new site but, instead, updating the content for those pages that would come over.

The scope of that work to analyze, and in some instances, re-write and re-image those pages took much longer than anticipated.

While we had a candid conversation about “busier times” and “slower times” here at CLCA, we underestimated the time needed on some of the tasks that were ours internally.

I think we all think we can accomplish more in a day than is possible, usually because we may not appropriately factor in the amount of our workday that is allocated to OPP (other people’s problems) whether those are phone calls, emails or that person who dropped by your desk because they “absolutely” needed to talk to you about something.

Since this rebuild of the website is taking place while all other operations of our association are in play, we should have allocated more time on some of our tasks.

We did have to massage the schedule and push back some deadlines. Bean Creative’s project manager was really understanding and supportive and we so appreciate that!

Layla: So, as you dug in, what were the things you had to do internally to get this done? How much of this process do you think others undertaking a redesign can emulate?

Sandra: The Bean Creative team was very helpful in the process.

Luckily, our team was not afraid to ask questions or seek clarity when we didn’t fully understand something, whether it be terminology or what is the visual manifestation of a header 1 vs. a header 2 vs. a header 3. You all know what they are but, we laypeople did not. Bean Creative made us a great sample that we printed out and we used it to guide our work as we prepared page content to send back to the developers.

I don’t think anything we did was custom to CLCA because it was just project management: making sure who was doing what and by when.

Layla: You said it took approximately one hour per page to edit and review. What other planning insight can help others getting started? What tools, if any, did you use to keep track, etc?

Sandra: Myself and a team member would write and edit, then swap and review to make sure we were speaking with the same tone. We had a similar process for images — determining what we liked, what was appropriate to our industry, what highlighted member diversity, etc.

I advise folks to determine how many cooks you need in this kitchen. We chose two people in our team to be primary leads on the project. Specific pages where another staff member has deeper expertise meant that they were brought in on pieces like image selection:

  • Was it an accurate image?
  • Did it match the content being presented?
  • Was it overused in other CLCA marketing or was it a “must use” image?

Same goes for content verification:

  • Were the facts right?
  • Was anything missed?
  • Was something old included that was no longer relevant?
  • Did the tone match other marketing we do for the program?
  • What calls and questions was CLCA getting about this program or service and could we address those here?

Now, with the initial tasks of feedback and refinement of proposed color schemes, layout of primary and secondary pages, and design, we brought in the entire CLCA staff team to review it together in our conference room on our large screen. Their review yielded some great observations and suggestions that made it into the feedback sent back.

To keep track, we started with Bean Creative’s content spreadsheet, then added a column where we indicated who a page was assigned to. When completed, I color coded the line so I could easily see what was done and what was still outstanding.

Layla: Now that you have gone through the process, what are the top things you think others need to know before they get started? If you were to do it again, what would you change?

Sandra: Others need to know what content they can easily change somewhere down the line vs. what content the Bean Team would need to change and determine how big a deal is that? That drives issues like if “we want to create a subpage in the future, how is that created?” and then “how (and by whom) are items updated like changing the menus or navigation?”.

Obtain clarity at the start of your project as to how many people are going to be involved and at what stages of the process are they involved.

Our perspective was that too many cooks in the kitchen makes for a very messy and painful project yet, we didn’t want to have people feeling locked out of the process. For us, that meant deciding when our entire staff team would be asked for their input, getting feedback from key stakeholders in our volunteer leadership at certain points and then moving forward as a small team.

We intentionally did not involve a committee or task force or the entire board in the daily work of rebuilding this website. Instead, we did some deep dive work with our board and others in the association as to find out what they liked and where their pain points were and moved from there.

Layla: Thanks, Sandra! We can’t wait to launch the new CLCA website in early 2018.

Questions? Best practices to share? Want a copy of our content planning spreadsheet? Hit us up in the comments!

Layla Masri

About Layla Masri

Layla is a co-founder of Bean Creative. She leverages her ad agency background and 15-plus years as a marketing and web copywriter to maximize interactive impact for strategic planning, usability/accessibility, and digital promotion.
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