Why Rushing Your Website Redesign Project is a Mistake (And How to Avoid It)

posted this in
Web Design
on September 19th, 2013

Last Saturday I was watching a cooking show (I was bored and channel surfing). They were explaining how to make homemade bread (I think it was a specific type, but I don’t remember now).

After they described which ingredients to use and in which order, further instructions were given in specific amounts of time, such as:

  • “Let dough rise for one hour.”
  • “Form into loaf and let dough rise for about 30 minutes.”
  • “Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.”

This got me thinking about a speech I watched a little while back by Erin Kissane on (among other things) the importance of craftsmanship in web projects. She uses the analogy of baking bread to show how certain things (like web projects) need to take a certain amount of time or you won’t get the same outcome.

In other words, if you don’t let the dough rise all the way or don’t cook it long enough, you won’t be satisfied with your homemade loaf. In the same way, rushing a website project can give you subpar results.

A Recipe for Great Handmade Websites

When you’re baking, you have two things (primarily) - ingredients and a recipe. The ingredients are the raw elements and the recipe is a specific set of instructions.

For a web project, these ingredients could include the people on the project (designers, developers, project managers, content strategists) as well as less tangible things like years of experience, intuition, compiled research.

All bakers know this: you can have all the right ingredients, but if you don’t follow the recipe, you won’t get the desired outcome. And the recipe includes important instructions— like time.

Yet, so many website projects (whether because of poor planning, unexpected delays or scope creep) get rushed to meet a deadline. But is this the best way to approach a time crunch?

Stop Waiting for Your Website to be “Done”

We’ve found that most of the problems with website projects that revolve around a lack of time result from a misunderstanding of a website. The myth is that you should complete the whole project before launching any part of it.

But the truth is: a website is never done.

This is where the baking analogy breaks down a little bit. You should never check off “create website” on your to-do list and move onto other things. As your company grows, your users will grow and your audience will likely evolve and the content of your site will need to evolve with them.

(Your website doesn’t HAVE to evolve. The alternative is a stagnant, useless site or a business that doesn’t grow and change.)

So if you are waiting until your website is “done” to launch it, you’ll be waiting forever. Literally.

A Better Way to Launch Websites on a Deadline

Of course, we know how the real world works - you have deadlines that you must show some sort of “finished product” by. That’s why we often recommend doing your website project in stages.

For example, let’s say you have a large website with lots of information scattered about but your users have told you again and again they can’t find the information. So you need to restructure your site and possibly look at a redesign.

But you also know there are additional features you want to add. Perhaps a calendar to show your users upcoming events. This is not on your current website, but you want to add it to the new one since you’re redesigning it anyway.

It’s a reasonable enough request, but add in the complexity of a fast-approaching deadline and it may not be feasible. What we recommend in these situations is a phased approach that might look something like this:

Phase 1: Here we’ll look at your existing content and see how we can better organize it so your users can find it. This was, after all, your primary reason for updating the website. If we have time, we can also redesign the site in this phase or consider doing that as a separate phase. We’d complete this phase and launch the changes so your users can reap the benefits.

Phase 2: Once phase one is complete, we can move on to the additional features you’ve been eyeing (like the calendar of upcoming events). Separating this phase from the first one will let us focus more completely on your and your user’s needs. And because we knew about this beforehand, we built phase one with an idea of where this calendar should go and how it will work in your new site.

Benefits of a Phased Website Approach

This is a simple two-phase website example. Depending on the size of your project and the timeline you have available, there could be many more phases. For example, NPR recently redesigned their website to be responsive.

As you can imagine, redesigning an entire news site like NPR’s is quite an undertaking - so they broke it into phases. Since a large portion of their visits are people landing directly on stories from search engines, they started with the story pages, where people actually interact with the content. Then they moved to a new homepage. Next, they will be tackling the section pages.

By breaking your website redesign project into phases you, like NPR, can realize a few benefits, including:

  • Quicker time to launch - By focusing and launching the website in phases, you have something to show your boss (or customers) sooner. This is important because it also allows you to:
  • Get real results and feedback - There’s nothing like getting a product in the hands of users to see how they actually use it. It’s like a beta phase for software; it allows you to make adjustments before you launch the next phase (rather than designing the whole thing, launching the whole thing and then having to adjust the whole thing).
  • Better focus - Rather than having to nail down the layout of every page type at once, a phased approach allowed NPR to really focus on each individual page type and get it right. Similarly, by breaking down a project into distinct phases, you can focus 100% on making that part the best it can be before moving on.
  • A better understanding of a what a website is - By launching in phases, you’re understanding that a website is never completely 100% finished. There’s less talk of old vs. new and more about how to make what you have better.

Is This Approach Right For You?

For small website projects of a few pages, you may not need to break your website redesign or creation into phases. However, if you have hundreds or thousands of pages on your current site and you know you have a tight deadline, it might be time to start thinking in terms of steps.

Have a question about how the website design process works or how long it takes? Contact us online, and we’ll be happy to answer.