Whilst there are few exceptions to every rule, chances are your organisation has a website. Whether it’s a small brochure site or a huge e-commerce site, it will eventually go out of date, and need updating from a design and security point of view. As a marketer, you’ll likely be responsible for managing a website project at some point in your career, and it’s one of those projects that can easily spin out of control.

Usually this is because everybody wants a say in your new website. Your sales team, your boss, your boss’s wife’s nephew... they all have an opinion, and they usually contradict one another. Managing a website project can be a real challenge, and often much of the stress doesn’t come from the build itself but from managing requests, opinions and last-minute changes. To keep everything running smoothly, we have a few rules for how to manage the mix of people and opinions involved.

Rule 1: Put the Customer at the Heart of your Redesign

When it comes to getting through a website project with your sanity intact, your customers are your biggest allies. Everybody has an opinion on what your website should look like. However, the only people whose opinions really matter are your customers.

Putting your customer at the centre of your redesign will mean doing your research up front, so you have it to refer to. Buyer personas, survey data from your current site, focus groups and analytics data should all play a part in guiding your decisions.

It might sound like a lot of work up front, but it vastly increases the chances of coming out with a high-performing website that your customers love, and decreases the chances of needing another overhaul a year down the line.

It’s also a great trump card when handling “helpful” suggestions from the rest of your team!

Don’t say: “Sorry Frank, but that colour combination just looks terrible.”

Do say: “I see where you’re coming from, Frank, but our research shows that our customers prefer a more subdued palette. If we want our customers to love the website, it means making some choices that we don’t personally 100% agree with. Is that okay?”

Rule 2: Choose (and Manage) Your Stakeholders Carefully

“Too many cooks” is a common problem with any website project – everybody has an opinion and they’re usually more than happy to share it. It can be tempting to work on your redesign behind closed doors, but we wouldn’t advise this. Instead, plan how and when you’ll involve other people carefully to get the most out of them.

At as early a stage as possible, map out who will need to be involved in the process, when and how. Then, make it really clear to each person you involve what feedback and support you’re looking for from them.

For example, you might need a member of your technical team to thoroughly check product copy to make sure it’s 100% accurate. Or you might want somebody from sales to look over the list of benefits on your sign-up page to see if they’re the ones that resonate most with customers on the phone.

The more closely you can direct each team member to where they can add value, the less likely they are to stray into opinions on areas outside their expertise, and the more positive their input will be.

Don’t say: “So, what do you think?”

Do say: “Trish, can you take a look at this product page and let me know if it has everything a customer might need? Do people ever ring up and ask for information that’s not already on here?”

Rule 3: Formalise Feedback and Input Stages

No matter how carefully you choose your stakeholders, it’s virtually impossible to retain complete control over your website project. At the very least, your boss is likely to want final sign-off on the website, and other team members are likely to grumble if they don’t get any input at all.

This is a good thing (really!) – you want your team to be aware of your company’s website and to feel like they have a stake in its success. However, like every other aspect of your redesign it’s far less stressful to take the initiative on how and when you involve others, so you retain overall control.

Communication is key. At the start of the project, explain exactly what’s going to happen. Reiterate the importance of putting what the customer wants at the centre of your redesign project, and explain how that’s going to happen. Then, explain that you understand everybody will want to have a look at the new site and might have some opinions and suggestions. That these are welcome, although they might not all be implemented and ultimately you have to go with what’s best for the customer.

Set a specific time period for review, and a deadline for suggestions. Provide some pointers on how to make these constructive.

Don’t say: “Feedback on our colour scheme will be filed under B, for Bin.”

Do say: “We’re unlikely to change the brand colours we’ve been using for the past 20 years, but we’d love any suggestions on how to liven up our Team page profiles”.

Rule 4: Accept that your opinion is just that 

Truly putting your customer at the heart of your website also means accepting that your own opinion is just as unreliable and biased as everybody else’s. Even highly experienced marketers aren’t much better than a coin toss at predicting which page layouts work best, so don’t dismiss your team’s suggestions out of hand just because this isn’t their day job.

You’ll inevitably get ridiculous requests and suggestions from your colleagues during the redesign process, but you could well get some really good ones as well. Being prepared to take a scientific approach might be a good way to keep the conversation constructive.

If there are strong opinions on both sides of a potential change (and particularly if you can see the reasoning for both sides), suggest going with one or the other for the launch and then implementing a test to see which performs better.

Don’t say: “We’re doing this my way, because I’M the expert!”

Do say: “That’s an interesting idea. Let’s just get an initial version live first, and then we’ll schedule in an A/B test to see if it works better.”

Essential Preparation for a Low-Stress Redesign

A website redesign is a big project, and unfortunately there’s no way to ensure that it’ll go completely to plan. However, by doing your research up front and thinking carefully about how you involve stakeholders in your company, you can avoid many of the common pitfalls that lead to last-minute pre-launch all-nighters.

Above all else, it’s vital to remember that your website is for your customers, not for you or your boss. A strong set of buyer personas will make every stage of your website project easier, by giving you the guidelines to make decisions and explain your reasoning confidently.

If you want to use buyer personas to make decision-making easier, but don’t have any for your organisation, download our buyer persona template here.

Like this? Sign up to our newsletter and get the latest tips, guides and advice delivered straight to your inbox.