By Sally Dew
There are many considerations to take into account when deciding whether or not your enterprise CMS website needs a refresh. Some of these include the visuals, the content, the site's responsiveness as well as the ever-changing trends and expectations of internet users. While a complete redesign may be a few budget cycles into the future, a "refresh" may be just the thing to tide you over. But before we get too far, let's define a few terms...
A website redesign involves overhauling all, or nearly all, of the code as well as the look-and-feel of a website. This effort is more comprehensive than a refresh and could involve complete replacement of an outdated CMS system or the integration of marketing features or other third party tools.
Alternatively, a website refresh involves modifying some elements while leaving others intact. Typically a refresh involves "re-skinning" a website to give it a new look-and-feel. Often, a refresh project also includes adding or updating structural elements of your system. A refresh project can be implemented in specific areas of a website or site-wide. In all cases, a refresh offers the possibility of extending the life of your current website in the interim between full redesign efforts.
To be clear, this discussion does not touch on upgrades which refers to the process of replacing hardware, software or firmware with a newer version to keep technology current or to improve its performance. While an upgrade may coincide with a website redesign or refresh project, it is not always the case.
Why refresh your enterprise CMS website system?
Your website is not responsive
Most importantly, is your website responsive? If not, a refresh is definitely recommended. Mobile-friendly sites are mandatory in today’s business world and if your existing website is not responsive you are missing the boat. Today’s UI tools have baseline support for responsive coding and make creating an awesome mobile experience for your customers and prospects is well within reach.
Your website is visually dated
Visual cues offer the most obvious signs that a website is in need of a refresh. Narrow page widths that don't fill the browser window and dense blocks of text with small images are obvious indicators that a website is dated. Design trends over the past decade have moved to wider pages with full-width banners, large type, generous white space and big-as-life images. Just by refreshing the visuals to take full advantage of the luxurious space afforded to modern day websites, you can bring your company brand to current times.
Your messaging is off target
Review your content and messaging to be sure you are speaking directly to your target customers and prospects. If your content is lacking, consider developing personas of those who are primary audience as well as secondary audience and be sure you are addressing their needs and speaking their language. Trends change quickly and it is critical to keep messaging and calls to action clear and relevant.
Your brand has become diluted
When a website launches, all content has been designed to fit the CMS templates and containers. Over time as new content is added, CSS styling and containers can become limiting. It is realistic to expect as content changes on a website, styling and containers will need to change as well. The CMS and design system is extensible to a point but eventually new containers and styles will be needed in order to present new information in a way that is consistent with your brand. This is perhaps the best reason to invest in a refresh project.
The ROI proposition
With relatively minor effort, your UI framework can be refreshed to support a new user experience without the investment of a full-on redesign effort.
So, I'm convinced, what needs to be done?
Get together with key team members and ask what's working and what's not on your current enterprise cms website. Shed any stale, unused content and put energy into new content.
Analyze your framework. Review templates for overall page layout – focus on header footer, max width, grid system. Take a look at the navigation and rework as needed; certain items may have increased importance and should be highlighted. Review container and styles and look for opportunities to update existing containers as well as add new ones.
Analyze your content. Any refresh project is a great opportunity to review your content and refine your messaging as needed.
Explore look-and-feel. Redesign by component so you can understand the impact of visual changes you are making to the site. Review options for visual changes and get approval before committing to the HTML and CSS changes.
Create wireframes, If needed. Map out the flow of any new content or features associated with the refresh in wireframes to ensure a smooth and positive experience for your visitors. Look at how the design looks on multiple devices.
Get approvals and revisions. Make sure you include decision-makers in at every level of the refresh project so that when the time comes to "go live" everyone is on board and invested.
Develop an implementation strategy. Depending on how the existing site was built, you may need to do more or less UI development work to realize your vision. UI coding standards change frequently and a website that has not been updated to current industry standards is obsolete, or soon will be. Think Bootstrap, Foundation, JS, etc. Getting the framework updated will make future changes much easier and more efficient. In addition, these tools make responsive layouts much easier to attain.
Coordinate go live. Depending on how long the updates take and how active your site is, e.g. commerce, registration, membership, etc. You may need more coordination to pull this off.
Congratulations, you’ve made the investment and your enterprise CMS website looks new again. You also have the tools in place to keep the momentum going. Remember: growing your website over time while keeping it current to industry standards offers one of the best valued and most authentic channels of communication with your customers and prospects. Make the most of it!
If you would like to learn more about the process for engaging in a refresh for your enterprise CMS, join us Tuesday June 7th for a live webinar where we will dig in to the details and walk through two examples of recent "refresh" projects. 2Plus2 is a Kentico Gold Partner with certified developers on staff.
But, if you just can't wait for the webinar to ask all your questions, please feel free to connect with us now at 510-652-7700.