Wait! Before You Start...
Why are we doing this? There’s at least one reason why you want to redesign the website that represents your college or university, right? Maybe your design is dated or needs to incorporate changes to your brand. Maybe you want it to work harder, perform better, with new features and functionality. Maybe it’s just time for a facelift to keep it fresh… and “keep up with the Jones’s”. Whatever it is, write it down. Commit it to memory, or better yet, save some snapshots of what will soon be your “old website”. Once your new website has been launched, revisit the reasons and snapshots. Make sure you’ve accomplished what you set out to achieve.
What are we getting into? Set expectations early. It will be a long project, involving a lot of people, with a wide range of experience and skillsets. It will, therefore, cost more than you think if you want it done right. Expect a full Higher Ed website redesign to take 6-12 months. A 6-month redesign is extremely aggressive and requires absolute adherence to the project plan. If you miss any delivery dates, plan to work nights, weekends and/or holidays. Remember, both parties (college and your vendor) will have defined deliverables and deadlines, so project management is certainly required on both sides. It’s truly a joint effort and requires a close working, dedicated relationship for success, regardless of the length of the timeline.
What should we expect from a web partner? Expect your web partner to setup a Kickoff Meeting and be on site multiple times (especially during the analysis phase, the design-and-review cycles of wireframes, presentations to decision makers and user acceptance testing). Expect your web development partner to manage the project timeline in collaboration with the university web project lead. Expect your web partner to drive the project while being consultative and creative in providing ideas (solutions) throughout the project. It’s your web partner’s responsibility to lead you to the finish line, but they can’t get there without your team doing their part along the way.
What about Higher Ed resources? In our experience, Higher Ed Website Redesign projects tend to run better when the institution has 3 levels of oversight:
- Project Team with a designate Lead/Manager (single point of contact that coordinates/manages tasks by the college)
- Steering Committee (stakeholders that review and/or approve major deliverables, handle scope/budget issues and are connected to other areas of the college that are involved in the website redesign project – esp. PR/Marketing)
- Content Owners (the group of resources that will be responsible for managing the content across the various departments, schools and organizations within the school.)
Every project has points where tasks “spin”. That is, progress slows because of a delay in making a decision (particularly “committee decisions” over designs and features that have some level of subjectivity). It’s always good to establish a set of ground rules that govern these situations so that progress is not impeded and more importantly, time and cost are managed more effectively.