The Website Relaunch Survival Guide
In every CMS migration, there are several milestones to hit to make everything run smoothly on your new site. These steps will keep your team moving forward and along the same path that ultimately leads to the launch of your updated site. Planning is definitely the less glamorous part of a website relaunch, but we promise that your future self — and team — will thank you for laying out the process before diving in.
Website relaunch milestones
For large-scale website redesigns, it’s crucial to give every project milestone full consideration. While each site will have its own needs, there are common milestones you'll meet as you proceed:
- Strategic planning
- Creative design
- Content strategy and planning
- Testing and migration
No website relaunch can succeed unless it’s clear who owns the overall goal, who oversees the different project tracks, and who decides when a particular milestone has been reached. A kickoff involves mapping out the resource plan for completing this project.
A big mistake many companies make when undertaking a site redesign is spending too much time talking to themselves. You need to make sure that the pages and conversions that are important to the company are also important from a visitor behavior and site-traffic perspective. And while the numbers tell a story, they don’t tell the whole story. Use different sources to inform your analysis and look to balance opinions and assumptions with data as a way to avoid internal tunnel vision while giving customers and other users a voice.
3. Strategic planning
Defining your site’s primary audience, as well as the broader audience it addresses, is a crucial step in the process. After all, you’re not building the site for you. You’re building it for them. Defining these audiences is also an important way to keep everyone grounded with regard to the overall focus of the project.
4. Creative design
Your research and strategic planning will strongly inform your creative direction. These decisions will be used to develop wireframes and detailed designs for pages and other site elements. Since you’ll likely be using these design elements for a long time to come, we’d recommend developing a component library at this milestone as a way to guide page creators as the site grows.
The infrastructure can be built in tandem with the strategic planning milestone to maximize time efficiency. Determining your infrastructure and workflows before you start building will ensure you’re aligned and set up for success.
6. Content strategy and planning
Content strategy needs to focus on enabling content creation, especially for non-technical business users. During this phase, you’ll map out your content taxonomy based on factors such as content goals, audience personas, business objectives, and search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. Understanding your content strategy up-front will also inform how new content is incorporated into the site later on, making it easier to set guidelines when new requests arise.
With all of the right pieces in place, the actual development work can begin. When starting development, it’s always good to begin with the back-end work first and then move to front-end development.
8. Testing and migration
The final milestone is testing and migration to the production environment. Testing can occur in tandem with development and should include a strategy for testing various browsers and mobile devices to ensure all scenarios are covered. Also consider doing quality assurance (QA) checks frequently to make sure that each change is tested as you go along. Don’t wait until the very end to begin QA. If possible, dedicating resources to just bug fixes will let other developers maintain the momentum.
Relaunch challenges to look out for
When taking on a large project like a website relaunch, you’re bound to encounter a few hiccups. If you know what to look out for though, you can keep your eyes peeled and pivot accordingly if — and, more likely, when — something does come up. Let’s look at a few common challenges to watch for.
Legacy code. If your website has been around for a while (even just five years), you’re likely to run into legacy code. While you can make assumptions about how things are structured, you won’t really know until you start the work. When you come across a blocker, take a step back to look at your plan. Consider how the legacy code can be approached safely so that you don't lose meaningful data during the migration process.
Content migration. In the age of “more is more,” you’re likely to have a lot of existing content to migrate. You’ll want to understand exactly what you have. To do that, you’ll need to conduct a content audit. Don’t underestimate the time this task takes. You’ll likely uncover things that need a migration plan of their own that goes beyond what was initially mapped out. Finding ways to prioritize projects within your content audit and migration will make the process much more manageable.
Working with new tools and methods. A very likely part of a relaunch is the introduction of new tools and, in turn, new processes. Being realistic about the amount of time it'll take to implement and adopt these tools — even if they’re just a new version of something you’re already using — will keep things running smoothly. Looking for opportunities during the planning phase will also help you be proactive about any issues you might encounter. For example, defining and creating a library of reusable components up-front will help teams move faster once they’re in the development stage.
Coordinating design and development. Far too often, teams work in silos which unfortunately tends to create headaches when projects finally come together. Ideally, designers and developers will work cross-functionally — collaborating to optimize efforts, aligning on the design direction, and effectively using development time to focus on features that will have the greatest business and customer impact.
Relaunch recommendations for success
Each team and organization will have their own processes and approach to a website relaunch. But here are a few you can incorporate to set yourself up for success.
- Get full buy-in from the onset
- Do the simple stuff first
- Emphasize breadth over depth in testing
- Add an additional month into the scope
- Pay attention to what’s coming next
Now that you have an overview, why not dig deeper into the details and see how we approached our own website migration? For more examples, tips, and considerations, download our free e-book: The Developer’s Guide to Website Redesign.