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In our last chat, we navigated the ‘why’ and ‘why not’ of redesigning a website. Now that you’re equipped with the reasons to embark on this journey (or to hit the pause button), it’s time to talk about the ‘how.’ Specifically, how do you scope your redesign project to ensure a smooth sail rather than a turbulent ride?

I’m Shaun, back again with my two cents – or maybe a dollar’s worth – from my 25 years in web design and development trenches. In this piece, we will unravel the art of scoping your redesign. It’s like drawing a map for a treasure hunt; you need to know where you’re going and what pitfalls to avoid to find that hidden treasure (a.k.a. a successful, impactful website).

Setting the scope of a redesign isn’t about throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. It’s about strategically deciding what needs a revamp, what can stay, and how deep the transformation should go. This is where aligning your redesign goals with your business objectives comes into play, along with getting all your stakeholders on the same page.

So, buckle up, and let’s dive into how you can scope your redesign project effectively – because, in web development, a well-scoped project is half the battle won.

Determining the Scope of the Redesign

Scoping your project is not just about connecting the dots; it’s about being open to discovering new ones along the way. It’s crucial to enter this process with a mindset of flexibility and learning. As we define the scope of your redesign, remember that it’s a dynamic process. I encourage everyone involved to be prepared to adapt and adjust as new learnings and insights surface. This approach keeps your project agile and ensures that the outcome is not just good but great – a result of continuous refinement and responsiveness to evolving needs.

With this philosophy in mind, let’s explore some key questions that will help you navigate and define the scope of your redesign project:

How deep will the creative process go?

In website redesign, the depth of the creative process can vary greatly. Think of it as a spectrum: on one end, there’s the ‘re-skin’ approach, suitable for projects like updating an annual event site. This might involve refreshing elements like headers, footers, and the homepage – akin to a quick home decor update.

On the other end is the full-scale revamp – the complete transformation of your primary website. This extensive process goes beyond aesthetic changes, encompassing a comprehensive reevaluation of content, structure, and user experience.

Determining the depth involves balancing your goals, the website’s current state, audience expectations, and resource constraints. It’s crucial to clearly define and communicate these creative boundaries right from the start. This clarity ensures everyone involved understands the extent of changes and helps keep the project aligned with its intended scope.

What are the riskiest deliverables, and how early in the project can we resolve them?

Identifying and tackling the riskiest deliverables early is crucial in a website redesign, especially as project optimism or a lack of shared understanding can make thorns a little less prickly if attacked early. These high-risk elements often include challenging timelines, complex integrations, or new functionalities.

  1. Early Identification: Quickly pinpoint potential high-risk elements, like technically complex features or new integrations.
  2. Open Discussion: Facilitate a candid conversation among team members to uncover any concerns and clarify the complexities involved.
  3. Expert Input: Bring in specialists early to assess and provide insight into these challenging areas, ensuring realistic planning.
  4. Prioritization: Tackle these risky deliverables first. This could mean prototyping a complex feature or testing an integration in the initial stages.
  5. Regular Reviews: Monitor these areas continuously, adjusting strategies as needed to address emerging challenges.

By focusing on these aspects early in the project, you can more effectively navigate potential obstacles, paving the way for a smoother and more successful redesign.

What sort of SEO impact do we expect, and how will our scope mitigate that?

Understanding and planning for the SEO impact is critical in any website redesign. SEO isn’t just a box to be checked; it’s a crucial factor that can significantly influence your site’s visibility and, by extension, its success.

  1. Anticipate SEO Changes: A redesign can shake up your site’s search engine performance. This might be due to changes in content, structure, or technology. For example, if you’re moving to a new content management system, updating URLs, or altering page content, each of these can impact your SEO.
  2. Mitigate Negative Impacts: The key to mitigating negative SEO impacts lies in strategic planning. This includes maintaining URL structures wherever possible, implementing proper redirects, optimizing new content, and ensuring all pages are mobile-friendly and load quickly.
  3. Leverage Opportunities: A redesign also presents opportunities to enhance your SEO. This can involve optimizing new content with targeted keywords, improving site structure for better crawlability, and enhancing user experience – all of which can positively influence your search rankings.
  4. Continuous Monitoring: Post-launch, monitoring your site’s SEO performance closely is essential. Use analytics to track changes in traffic and rankings, and be prepared to make adjustments as needed.

By factoring SEO into your redesign scope from the outset, you can not only minimize potential downsides but also capitalize on opportunities to boost your site’s search performance. This proactive approach ensures that your redesigned website isn’t just visually appealing and functional but also competitive in search engine rankings.

Is our timeline realistic for capturing feedback, gathering content, or testing that new functionality appropriately?

A realistic timeline is the backbone of a successful website redesign project. It’s the golden mean between being too aggressive and too prolonged, each bringing its own set of challenges.

  1. The Risk of Aggressive Timelines: Setting a timeline that’s too tight can be tempting to keep momentum. However, it often leads to shortcuts that might solve immediate problems but create long-term headaches. Hastily made decisions, insufficient testing of new functionalities, or inadequate time for thorough feedback can result in a final product that falls short of its potential.
  2. The Drawbacks of Protracted Timelines: On the other hand, a timeline that stretches too far can drain the energy and enthusiasm of your project team. It risks falling into the trap of ‘analysis paralysis,’ where continuous revisions and second-guessing hinder progress. This can be just as detrimental as rushing, leading to endless tweaks that unnecessarily delay the launch.
  3. Striking the Right Balance: Aim for a timeline that allows sufficient room for all critical stages – capturing feedback, content development, and thorough testing of functionalities – without stretching too far. This balance ensures that decisions are thoughtful and deliberate, but also that the project maintains momentum.
  4. Embrace Iterative Delivery: In the world of web design, ‘perfect’ is often the enemy of ‘good.’ A more effective approach is to deliver iteratively. Launch a well-functioning, aesthetically pleasing site, and then refine and improve it over time based on real-world use and feedback. This approach aligns with the principle of measuring and iterating, allowing for continuous improvement and adaptation to user needs.

A well-planned, balanced timeline respects the complexity of the redesign process while keeping the project on track and the team motivated. It avoids the pitfalls of rushing or over-deliberating, leading to a successful, sustainable launch and future iterations.

How will my team best learn to use new website capabilities?

The ease of use for your team is a critical consideration in any website redesign. You want a site that’s powerful and feature-rich, yet not so complex that it requires a master’s degree in content management.

  1. Sensible Automation and Defaults: Early in the redesign process, discuss what aspects of the site can be automated or set with sensible defaults. This approach helps streamline tasks, making the site more user-friendly and reducing the learning curve for your team.
  2. Training and Usability: Ensure that any new features are not just added because they’re the latest trend. Each functionality should be evaluated for its actual utility and ease of use. Plan for training sessions that are focused and practical, equipping your team with the knowledge to use these features effectively.
  3. Defining Clear Responsibility Groups: It’s essential to establish clear responsibility groups within your team. Who is responsible for content updates, who handles the technical aspects, and who manages the overall site? Clear roles and expectations help in efficient site management and utilization of its features.
  4. Avoiding Overcomplication: While it’s tempting to incorporate every new and shiny feature, which can lead to an overwhelmingly complicated site. Start with a simple, clean design and functionality. Embrace the philosophy of ‘start simple, iterate toward complexity.’ This approach allows your team to grow with the site, gradually introducing more complex features as they become more comfortable and as the need arises.
  5. Continuous Feedback Loop: After the launch, maintain a continuous feedback loop. Gather insights from your team on what’s working and what’s not, and use this feedback to make iterative improvements. This ensures that the site evolves in a way that aligns with your team’s capabilities and the needs of your business.

By focusing on these aspects, you can ensure that your team is well-prepared to use the new website effectively, making the most of its capabilities without getting bogged down in unnecessary complexity.

Aligning Redesign Goals with Business Objectives

In my journey through various website redesign projects across different industries, I’ve encountered a myriad of justifications for undertaking these ventures. One that always stands out in my memory is the “we have grant funding that has to be spent” rationale. While this might seem like a lucky break at first glance, it highlights the importance of having clear, impact-driven goals for a redesign project.

  1. Understanding Business Objectives: Defining what you want to achieve is essential. For instance, a client once had grant funding that needed to be utilized. While the funding was a boon, we steered the conversation toward how this opportunity could truly benefit their organization in the long run.
  2. Translating Objectives into Design Elements: Align every aspect of your redesign with these defined objectives. This approach turns your website into a tool that actively works towards achieving your business goals.
  3. Stakeholder Involvement: Involving stakeholders isn’t just about getting approval; it’s about ensuring that every decision made during the redesign process is informed by and contributes to your business objectives.
  4. Measurable Goals: Setting clear, measurable goals is like having a compass during your redesign journey. It helps keep the project on track and provides a clear benchmark for success.
  5. Flexible and Scalable Design: A redesign should meet current goals and be adaptable for future objectives. This foresight was particularly crucial in the grant-funded project, as we had to ensure the design remained relevant and scalable.
  6. Consistent Branding: Maintaining a consistent brand image is key, no matter the project’s origin – strategic planning or an unexpected funding opportunity. This consistency is what builds and retains trust with your audience.

From personal experience, projects like the grant-funded redesign taught me that having clear objectives makes decision-making easier and more effective for everyone involved. It’s not just about spending the budget; it’s about creating a real, lasting impact.

Involving Stakeholders in Defining Scope and Expectations

In a website redesign, stakeholder involvement is crucial, and this becomes even smoother with data-driven insights. Analytics plays a key role in informing decisions and making the feedback process more objective.

  1. Data-Informed Decisions: Bring an analyst on board early in the project. Their insights into user behavior, traffic patterns, and conversion rates can guide stakeholders in making informed decisions. With hard data in hand, discussions become less about opinions and more about what the numbers reveal.
  2. Identifying Stakeholders: Identify key stakeholders, including those from management, marketing, IT, and customer service. Consider also involving end-users for their direct insights. When informed by analytics, each stakeholder’s input contributes to a more rounded understanding of the project’s needs.
  3. Transparent Collaboration: Use data as a common language for collaboration. In meetings or workshops, present analytics to explain design choices and project direction. This approach aligns expectations with actual user needs and website performance.
  4. Balancing Opinions with Analytics: Refer back to the analytics when divergent opinions arise. Let data guide the conversation, helping to balance different viewpoints and keep the focus on meeting user needs and project objectives.
  5. Continuous Communication: Maintain open channels for regular updates, sharing ongoing analytics and insights. This keeps stakeholders informed and engaged, reducing misunderstandings and aligning their expectations with the evolving project.
  6. Setting Goals and Expectations for Post-Launch: Clearly communicate that the project includes a post-launch phase of measurement and iteration. This sets the expectation that the website will continuously evolve based on user feedback and performance data, reassuring stakeholders that adjustments can be made even after the initial launch.
  7. Embracing Iteration: Highlight that ongoing analytics will inform future iterations. This approach ensures that the website meets current objectives and adapts to changing user needs and behaviors over time.

Incorporating analytics into stakeholder discussions transforms the redesign process. It grounds decisions in objective reality, facilitates more focused discussions, and sets a clear path for continuous improvement post-launch. This data-driven approach helps all parties involved understand that a website redesign is not just a one-time event but an ongoing journey of adaptation and refinement.


In wrapping up, remember that the success of a website redesign hinges on more than just aesthetic appeal. It’s about strategic planning, aligning with business objectives, involving key stakeholders, and leveraging data-driven insights. A well-defined scope sets the stage for a redesign that looks great, performs effectively, and meets your organization’s needs.

Through collaboration, open communication, and a focus on analytics, we ensure that every decision is grounded in objective reality and aligned with our goals. And by embracing a mindset of continuous improvement, we recognize that a website is a living entity, evolving with your business and its audience.

So, as you embark on this journey, keep these principles in mind. They’re the compass that will guide you through a successful redesign, ensuring your website launches successfully and continues to thrive and grow in the days and months that follow.

Ensuring Success

Some veteran advice on crucial aspects like content management sanity, compliance from the get-go, and fostering forced communication.