Life After Redesign: Setting the Stage for Website Success
We lay out what actions your marketing team can take post-launch to establish a proper post-launch content strategy and governance plan that sets up your website for long-term success.
Launching a new site is a triumphant moment for your marketing team. It is the cumulation of months or even years of hard work and is the beginning of a new chapter for both your brand and your audience. But what do you do after relaunch to ensure your website stays on brand and true to the strategy and vision?
Your Website Just Launched! What now?
After a long project journey, your new website finally launches. Yay! But now what? Your team might start to get inundated with feedback, requests, and comments, both from internal team members and external visitors. While it's always important to keep this feedback in mind, don’t panic. Your team worked hard to get the new site up and running, so take a deep breath and don’t go running to implement every little change that someone might mention.
Establish a Website Governance Plan
But how should you take this feedback into consideration? In the months after launch, the most important way to maintain a healthy site is governance. Proper governance should ensure that a written plan is in place to keep your site healthy and to support your goals for continued success. A governance plan must:
establish ownership and accountability for different tasks
create guidelines for appropriate and inappropriate content
define roles and responsibilities across campus for content publishers, editors, contributors, and decision makers
include a system for tracking the incoming feedback and requests for site updates from your team
Launch Governance with Your Website
Before launch, document and communicate the governance plan to external teams and stakeholders, so that when they request new content or changes to existing pages, there are no roadblocks or miscommunication to prevent content optimization. This might be done through training sessions or technical writing that documents this process and details how content can and should be updated or published in your content management system (CMS).
Keeping Website Quality High
Establish healthy habits early on to promote long-term website health and success. Develop a cadence for conducting quality assurance and auditing content. By setting aside a couple hours, one day a month to proactively review content for outdated information, gaps, and opportunities, you will reduce the possibility of bigger, more urgent problems emerging down the road. To make a site audit more manageable for your team, consider a divide and conquer strategy by segmenting the site up into smaller sections and assigning team members to review each section.
Assessing Your Site and Refining Your Training
About six months or a year after launch, once your governance process is successfully in action, you are able to begin adjusting your message architecture and implementing editorial plans.
Connect Your Stories to Your Message Architecture
To create a message architecture, identify what your brand’s key messages are and identify supporting themes in your content (existing and potential) that will help communicate these key messages. From there, you will know what types of stories you will want to produce and then monitor how they are resonating with audiences. To craft an editorial plan, develop a calendar for when new content should be launched and balance the supporting themes over time to continuously convey your key messaging.
Take Action from Analytics
Remember the system you set in place to track requests and feedback from external visitors and internal team members? Well, now you have a robust data set to analyze. When going over your data, look for patterns in requests to identify which issues have the most volume around them. From there, your team can start adjusting strategy to optimize the website or modify internal processes based on the highest priority issues.
Establish Regular Trainings
You will need to train other internal teams on how to use the CMS (if it is new to them) and how to produce website content. Before training team members on how to publish content through the CMS, they should learn the best practices for web writing. Understanding how to publish good content will lead to more effective content that won't have to be re-worked and optimized as often.
If you have a larger institution, consider shifting this training to a learning management system (LMS) with self-learning modules or leveraging other training resources from your HR professional development calendar.
Remember, untrained editors lead to increased risk.
Auditing and Updating Your Content
Now you’re a few years down the road from site launch. While you’ve been doing a good job at sticking to your governance plan and assessing what types of content and messaging resonates best with your audience, your team should dig deeper into your analytics data to extract more actionable insights. Using analytics tools such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console, your team can uncover which areas of your site are getting the most traffic, which are underperforming, and which pages users stay on the longest. Your team will also be able to discover more granular insights, such as which content topics perform the best, what the optimal text length for a page is, or how video or photo-heavy pages compare to those without media assets.
For the content you find to be underperforming, ask yourself if the content on the page is necessary. If so, optimize it or add to a page that garners more traffic. If not, remove it. A healthy site shouldn’t have any pages that are unnecessary, so pruning, or periodically removing content, should be part of your ongoing content strategy and site governance.
Over time, both our and our users’ design and experience preferences change. What worked for your website at the time of launch might not be as effective now. Within your CMS, look at your component library to see if there are components that can be removed or can be optimized to fit the new content needs of your site. Implementing small visual design changes can not only help refresh the look and feel of your site, but also extend its lifespan.
When is it Time for Another Redesign?
Once you get to the four year mark post-launch, your team might feel that another website redesign is on the horizon. Depending on your team's goals for the site and its current state and performance, the nature of another website redesign will vary according to your unique circumstances. A new website could come from a pure aesthetics point of view — meaning that the visual look feels outdated — or your team might want to move in a whole new direction and do a complete overhaul of the content strategy, information architecture, and user experience of the site.
When your team is approaching your variation of a new redesign there are many questions that you’ll want to consider. Is your CMS working for you or do you need to look into other options? Are there new experiences and features you want to provide through your site? Do you have new requirements for what your CMS should be able to support?
It is always a good idea to conduct an audit of competitor’s websites to gain insight into the experiences that your competition is providing prospective students through their sites. Reviewing other websites may not always help you uncover new ideas, but it is a good step in the discovery process for informing the overall strategic direction of your website redesign and content strategy.
Olivia Abele, Digital Marketing Analyst, contributed to this blog post.