Being our own client – lessons we re-learned

It happens every couple of years. We stop long enough to breathe and realize that our own website needs a refresh.

By Cathy Dew

It happens every couple of years. We stop long enough to breathe and realize that our own website needs a refresh. Messaging, design, interaction and experience could be improved. Trends change and technology keeps getting better, which is great, but here we are again -- time for a website update. 

With a slight lull in activity over the holidays, we took advantage and enthusiastically launched our project. Committed to doing this right, we are following our tried and true methodology DeliveryPlus. Things are going well but I am reminded of how important the process is. Here are the top three takeaways as our project nears completion.

Content matters 

Starting with IA, you need to get your content organized into a structure that makes sense and reflects your company within the context of your industry. Then comes the hard part, making sure that the copy, images and other assets communicate (to your audience) what you do, how you do it and why you are a leader.  

  • Start planning early. Develop a strawman and let it sit for a bit. Review and refine. Allow for multiple iterations and involve experts from across your organization.  
  • Work in multiple formats to get the best result. Start with plain copy, minimal formatting. Focus on the words. Move to wireframes, emphasis on “wire.” The schematic lets you better understand screen real estate. You can more easily identify headlines, callouts and start bringing in visual assets and other media. 
Commit to a visual design system

The beauty of the web's fluid format is that things can change. Information and features can be added, modified, reorganized and removed. This is true at all levels -- sections, pages, paragraphs. Having a rich and comprehensive set of visual treatments and standards (rules) allows content to morph easily without requiring significant time or compromising the integrity of your design. This part requires discipline. 

  • Identify content types (buckets) across your site. Determine the essence of each including the components and formats that comprise the type. 
  • Based on the wireframes, develop page layouts including grid usage, global elements, and container options. 
  • Understand that the CSS will evolve throughout the design.  
Get some perspective

While you are the expert on your content, you are not (in most cases) the target audience. Look around, check out your competitors and see what they do. Recruit advisors that are experts in sales and marketing. Leverage your family and friends network for individuals that represent decision makers in your target customer base. Remember that you are probably too close to your project to be objective. Get feedback, don't take it personally and set your project up for success.

We say all of this to our clients, but I will admit that it has a slightly deeper meaning as we wrap up this project.

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Cathy Dew
Cathy Dew – CEO + Information Architect
Cathy focuses the company on our mission – Real results. Every time. Information architect and strategist, Cathy is passionate about making software work well – the function, the feel, the result.