We’ve all been there. Someone at your company takes off for a three-day design conference and returns with a travel mug and tote bag full of design ideas to freshen up your web presence. They get signoff and engage with an agency that incorporates all the “latest and greatest” that looks stunning as comps, but how well is it going to work with your existing site and content? Here are some common “gotchas” to look for and consider to avoid a disaster.
Get The Team Together
Perhaps the easiest way to head off trouble is to involve the folks who work with your website every day: the content team. Your content authors can look at a page comp and visualize how they’re going to use your CMS to make those ideas come to life. Your team will also be the first to notice when something is amiss and can act as a resource to get things aligned. Don’t be afraid to collect and ask questions about how the authoring process around design changes will affect the amount of effort and workflow of your authoring process.
Avoid Keeping It Too Simple
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When the comps provided are not interactive it can be hard to tell exactly how certain design elements will function. Be sure confirm things like how deep your primary navigation menu goes, how links to content captured in modals or other windows will work, and most importantly is your new design responsive and how it will display at different breakpoints for mobile devices.
Mind Your Content Gaps…
Keep an eye out for subtle changes in the way your content is both structured and presented. Look for gaps between your existing content and its future state. For example, does your new resources page filter your content items using a taxonomy you currently don’t have? Do you have Open Graph tagging set up so your new social sharing features will make deliberate choices and not random ones? Do you have enough company news and press releases to reliably stock a “five most recent company news items” listing so it doesn’t look dated? It’s important to catch differences like these sooner rather than later. You want to have enough time to either tweak the design or figure out the additional resources involved to make your content match.
…the Structural Gaps…
Take time to consider how any new templates or components will affect the information architecture of your site. This ensures that your content is organized and named in a way that’s sustainable and effective. Are new components and page templates named something that your organization will recognize? Do you need to reshuffle your Media Library to accommodate new marketing asset types, and provide a clear folder to set as a datasource? Would it be better to let new items exist loose in their own folder in your Content Tree? Or do you need to bucket items alphabetically or by date? Making a discussion now focused on how the authoring side of your site will look six months to a year from now, can help you to avoid dealing with an organizational mess later.
…and Your Technical Gaps.
Be sure to account for how design changes may affect the “less visible” technical aspects of your site too. For instance, lead generation and SEO. Do you need to make adjustments in your MarTech stack to accommodate lead generation? Will your URLs need redirects? How about tweaks to your metadata keywords and descriptions for internal and external search? What’s the potential impact to your site analytics and reporting? Informing your SEO team of these kinds of changes will help smooth over any “analytics anomalies” and ensure that new changes are being tracked properly for reporting and optimization programs.
Unexpected “gotchas” come in all shapes and sizes. It’s important to anticipate and plan for site changes accordingly to avoid surprises and scrambling at the last minute. Hopefully, this list provides a good starting point to inspire further discussion with internal teams, but I’m sure there are some Gotchas lurking out there that I missed. Feel free to share yours and how you did, or should have, planned for them in the comments below.