Settings Goals and Missing Targets in a Website Redesign

By Joshua Gross, 07 November, 2022

At Planetary, we do a lot of website redesigns for companies that haven’t meaningfully updated their site in several years and, time and time again, I find clients coming from non-tech-first businesses committing the same core mistake.

First, some context: we’ve redesigned websites that are anything from only a couple years old to 10+ years and desperately showing their age. Many companies we work with still treat their website as a cost center, secondary investment, or afterthought, rather than an investment that can serve as a lead source, reputation builder, or primary customer channel.

The mistake is simply this: trying to remedy every single issue raised over the life of the current website from all stakeholders across the organization immediately at launch.

The client knows their funnel is broken, their site is poorly optimized for search engines, they have a high bounce rate, they have new departments or verticals not well-represented—I could go on. Concerns fly in from across the organization over months and years, and the Digital or Marketing Director is giving the mandate to redesign the site and fix all of these problems.

I understand the impulse to want to do this since a new website is considered a big investment that they want to “last”, the person responsible for working with the agency has a lot of stakeholders to report to, and they want to make an impression on both their internal team (internal "customers") and the business’ customers.

The reality is that by targeting this goal of fixing everything by launch, they are setting themselves up for disappointment or even failure.

We try to talk our clients down from this position, instead of over-promising and under-delivering. We’re not trying to lower the bar for ourselves, but rather set it at a level that lets our clients get measurable, meaningful wins.

There are two parts to this:

  1. Target only two or three of these goals for launch. Identify the most important ones, or the ones that address the most stakeholders.
  2. Gain the understanding that a website is not a static entity but a living thing that needs to continuously evolve to perform well. You will need to plan and budget for an ongoing relationship with an agency to continue updating your website.

    (If you work in a tech-focused business, this seems exceedingly obvious, but in industries where the web hasn’t been a core part of the business, this is still being learned.)

The second point is the most important, and also the toughest pill to swallow for most: you can’t budget for just a “website redesign” and call it good. A website that serves the business is an ongoing investment. Just like a car, if you want it to serve you well every day, it needs to be maintained, refueled, and upkept.

When thinking about a website redesign for a non-tech business, we use the following question model to prioritize and realign thinking:

  1. Who are the key stakeholders, what are their roles, and what are their goals?
  2. What are the 10 top things you want to improve about the website (clearer funnel, tighter information architecture, better calls-to-action, more lead gen opportunities, etc.)?
  3. Of those 10, which two or three would address at least one concern for most of the stakeholders?
  4. If we addressed two more after launch, which would you want to tackle as an immediate follow-on?
  5. What metrics will you use to measure outcomes of these goals?

This mental model helps focus the client, and the stakeholders, on what they feel is most important to the business. It also realigns the thinking from “get it all done now” to “build and improve iteratively.”

When it comes to the post-launch relationship and iterative improvements with an agency (whether it’s the agency that designed the site, or another one), the key is to consider (a) what business needs may be changing in the next 12-24 months and (b) what metrics do you want to see improve over time?

The business can then plan out a monthly or quarterly retainer that provides the flexibility to change priorities and continuously make improvements, with a steady budget line-item. At Planetary, we set a number of hours per month or quarter, and schedule regular meetings to plan the next 30-90 days ahead.

In helping change the way our clients view the web, we’ve seen them move from treating their website as a secondary item to a core part of the business and begin shifting away from the mentality of ‘web as cost center’. A company’s website can be a primary, critical part of any non-tech business, whether it is B2B, B2C, or B2B2C-focused.

By focusing the goals of a redesign on a limited number of critical targets, and planning additional, ongoing improvements after the initial launch, it is possible to double the ROI and reap the benefits for considerably longer than a single launch.