Praise the Lord! But...
But, as we all know, if the process gets off on the wrong foot, it will very difficult to correct things and snatch success out of the jaws of failure.
Here's just one example of how we could get off on the wrong foot: "I've never liked the gold stripe on the home page. Whatever we do, we should get rid of that."
If that's the way things start, success will be very difficult to achieve. Why? Because arguing about design details that are based solely on personal opinions leads nowhere and can accomplish nothing positive.
The truth is that "design" (i.e., graphic design) is actually a very small part of the redesign process (no offense to graphic designers).
The real work of redesign isn't as simple as blurting out your uneducated opinions on color and layout.
The real work of redesign is more about realigning your site to better meet your users' needs and your university's goals, messaging, branding and strategic priorities than it is about flash animations and pretty pictures.
Build the House Before you Hang the Drapes
Think of the Web site redesign process like building a house. You can't hang the drapes before you build the walls, and you can't build the walls until you have a floor plan, and you can't draw a floor plan until you know the needs of the family that will live there.
Likewise, you can't choose the design elements before you've built a wireframe of the site, and you can't build a wireframe until you've developed an information architecture for the site, and you can't develop an information architecture until you understand the needs of your users and the goals your organization has for the site.
So step one cannot be a discussion of your opinions of the existing site or what you think should be in the new site. It should be all about asking questions. Here's just a few:
- Who are our users?
- What do they want on the site?
- What do they do on the current site?
- What do they like about the current site?
- What do they hate?
- What problems do they have with the current site?
- What/who are we competing against?
- What are they doing?
- What do our users like about other sites?
- What are our goals for the site?
- What do we want our home page to accomplish and for whom?
- What is our brand and how will that be applied to the site?
- What is the message we want to communicate on our home page?
- Do we even have the proper stakeholders involved in the process?
Once you start to ask these questions, you'll realize that you need to gather some actual data and talk to some people in order to get answers to these questions.
That will be the topic of my next post.