Photo: Man at desk creating a website redesign project plan

Organizational Audit

The decision to redesign a website usually results from the fact that the look and feel of the site has become dated. Visual styles evolve over time and web standards and technologies are continually being innovated.

As a general rule, therefore, you should look at refreshing your website every three years or so.

This is a good time to re-evaluate your website beyond its visual appeal.

If, in the past, you have planned the organizational goals you hope your site helps achieve, this is a good time to determine the extent to which your website has been successful.

On the other hand, if you have considered a website a must-have but have not considered specific business goals that it could help achieve, now is the time to do so.

Setting Organizational Goals

Organizational Goals

The goals for your website will be dependent upon the organizational type. A nonprofit’s website will have different goals from a governmental website and an educational institution’s website will have different needs than a business’ website.

A business that sells goods will have different goals from a business that sells services. So, obviously, your organizational goals will address your specific needs.

That said, here are some common goals to consider:

  • Marketing – Building greater awareness of your organization and extending the reach of marketing messages
  • Sales – Support sales staff by generating leads or drive sales directly through eCommerce applications
  • Customer Support – Answer customer questions and resolve customer experience issues
  • Internal Operations – Update and streamline maintenance of the site; automate workflows and tasks
  • Information Technology – Improve security and performance of the site, add interactive applications, or integrate with other systems
  • Talent – Support human resources’ ability to recruit employees

Your goals should be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-specific.

Deliberately listing organizational goals and understanding how your website can help meet them is crucial to evaluating whether your past efforts have been successful and determining where you need to improve upon them or to plan for the future.

Identifying Website Stakeholders

Photo: Stakeholders

You’ll need to determine which groups of people have an interest in and/or will be effected by your website redesign. There are three obvious groups you’ll need to consider:

  1. Direct Stakeholders – The people you will be dependent upon for the project’s success
  2. Indirect Stakeholders – Members of your organization at large
  3. Users – Existing website visitors/users

Direct Stakeholders

These are the people who you will depend upon for your website to be redesigned successfully. These are the people whose explicit buy-in you will need or whose talent will be required.

They include anyone from whom you must obtain approval for the project generally and for its budget, specifically.

They include the people who will be required to execute the redesign project. They are likely to include people in the IT department and, depending upon your organization, they could include people in human resources, marketing and public relations, analysts, internal subject matter experts, and third-party vendors or service providers.

It is from these direct stakeholders that you will be able to solicit the goals of your website.

Identify who these people are, get their buy-in at the outset, and then include them in a small website redesign planning committee.

Indirect Stakeholders

Indirect stakeholders are everyone else within your organization who do not directly affect the outcome of the project but whose opinions and sentiments matter.

If your website looks badly outdated, there are likely employees who complain about that fact.

These people should be brought into the redesign process so that they know that their concerns were heard and considered.

The extent of this group’s knowledge of websites is likely limited to using websites themselves. They will be aware of what competitors’ websites look like and what a modern design should be. They often will have strong opinions but may be ill-informed about other important considerations such as business objectives and technical considerations.

Their primary complaints are likely to be focused on the site being an embarrassment to look at. Which, of course, is what a redesign should solve. It is important that these peole feel they’ve been given due consideration so they don’t bad-mouth the project along the way.

There may be others, however, that can help you uncover functional issues with the website beyond its visual appeal.

There may be internal, employee-specific functions of the site that are broken or don’t work as well as they should, for example. Customer service reps may be hearing a common complaint from customers who use the site.

This is valuable insight to be considered.

Set up an internal focus group with the loudest of the complainers. Ask them to come prepared to discuss what they like and don’t like about the current site. Ask them to also provide examples of sites that they do like and to explain why they like them.

Set up a separate focus group for people who would have insight into feature- or function-related issues, such as the customer service reps noted above.

Organizational Dynamics

Some of these people may have a vested interest in the existing website, so there could be some tricky negotiations and/or diplomacy required.

A common example is where a member of the IT staff had been tasked with designing the current website years ago but whose talents don’t match the needs of the redesign.

That person is likely to have a strong sense of ownership and could possibly prove defensive with regard to the redesign.

GIF: Danny Devito says no

I have lead a re-design project in which the person who built the previous website had blinders as to some of the issues with the site.

Some of the content, for example, was very difficult for a core user persona to find. This webmaster confidently rebutted such an assertion by clicking through five different menu items to arrive at the crucial piece of content.

Because the webmaster was so familiar with all of the content on the site, it was easy for her to find but she was blind to the fact that it was not at all obvious to the rest of the world how to find that content.

Such organizational dynamics will need to be considered and finessed during the redesign process.

Website Users

Your current website users have an obvious stake in the outcome of the redesign.

The first step, if you haven’t previously done so, is to identify the types of people who visit your website and create personas for each type of visitor.

Common types of website users include:

  • Current customers or clients
  • Potential customers or clients
  • Current, former and future employees
  • Vendors and service providers
  • Members of the media
  • Competitors

Each of these types of visitors will exhibit their own distinct behavior on your site based on their own specific needs.

While a lot of insight into your users can be gained from examining your website analytics (which I’ll address in a subsequent post), there is a lot to be gained by inviting users in for a focus group examining how and for what purpose they use your site, what they like about it and what frustrations they have with the site.

This will help you build personas for each important user type and keep your users top of mind with your team as you plan the redesign.

The personas should include a composite sketch of who the user is demographically and technographically as well as what their mindset is while visiting, the paths they take to arrive at and browse through the site, and the content they seek.

By understanding what organizational goals your website can help meet and identifying the stakeholders involved in your redesign project, you can now begin to dive deeper into the planning process.

After you’ve completed this organizational audit, you can move on to the standards audit, which I will address in the next post in this series.