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6 Do's & Don'ts of a website update.
Cindy Willmann

Cindy Willmann

Cindy Willmann is the vice president of operations at Global Impact. In her role, she wears many hats: overseeing internal and external facing technology, leading our Charity Services team and wrangling content for our board so they are equipped to serve us well. It’s a varied portfolio and keeps her on her toes! Cindy is a Boston native, but you wouldn’t know it from talking to her (she hopes!) and currently lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband and black pug mix, Chloe. In her spare time she loves reading to keep up with her 2+ book clubs and catching live music when she can, especially her husband who plays guitar. 

By
Cindy Willmann

Last year Global Impact did what many dread – a website update. But it was much, much more. We needed to upgrade from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8, which is a significant technology update. Additionally, our website hadn’t been updated in many years and we needed to completely overhaul our messaging and site structure because our business had evolved. And, for good measure, we were in the middle of a rebranding exercise. We certainly did not make things easy on ourselves doing this all at once. In fact, the project internally was called “Convergence” because it was the convergence of so many different elements, or projects, in one massive undertaking. 

DON’T tackle too much at once.
That leads me to my first DON’T. I definitely wouldn’t advise anyone to rebrand, refresh, and upgrade their website, their public persona, all at once. Because we were updating the website while we were figuring out how we wanted to talk about ourselves in the future, there was a lot of time lost and back and forth. Certainly doing any one of these three things would have been much easier individually.

Global Impact's old logo compared to the new logo.


DO settle your rebranding before re-launching a website.
If you are rebranding, I would suggest that you DO work out all the elements of your messaging and logo, and have the language tested and fully vetted (as much as possible) before dropping it in to your website. We ultimately spent the most time on this area of the Convergence project, and it had a big impact on everything else. If we had been solid on our branding and messaging going in to the website project, we could have been clearer in our requirements and reduced rework along the way.

DON’T shortcut requirements discussions.
Speaking of requirements, DON’T shortcut the requirements discussions – they are critical. Early on in the project, we found a template that we liked in Drupal 8, our new platform. It was full of pictures, much more modern than our old website and everyone liked what it seemed to be able to do for us. However, we used this to bypass real discussions about what we wanted the website to do and how we wanted our users to interact with the site. This affected small things, like where a user would click to enter a case study (anywhere on the tile image or just on the title text?) to larger discussions about where and how we would actually acquire all the images that would be required to support this template. As someone with a software development background, I have long appreciated the importance of requirements for any technology project, and I wish we had not cut short that dialog when we found a template we liked.

DO get buy in along the way.
One of the things that went really well for us was that we got buy in strategically along the way. In the rebranding portion of our project, we started with staff and an outside consultant considering many elements including renaming the organization, developing our brand personality and creating our logo. Getting internal agreement on the brand personality was very encouraging because we were unanimous that our brand personality resonated with us, which helped drive the rest of the project. Additionally, there was unanimous agreement that our new logo represented our brand personality well and was a much more modern look for us. We took these elements to our board and they agreed with us that both fit us extremely well. With the board’s support, these items formed a great foundation for the rest of our work.

DO be clear about responsibilities and revisit them throughout the project.
The next DO is to be clear about your roles and responsibilities – and revisit them as needed. As the project manager, I created a RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) chart at the beginning of the Convergence project. These charts are helpful to have clarity about roles across large project teams and ensure everyone is on the same page about their roles. About halfway through our project, roles shifted for various reasons, and we did not reconvene on the RACI chart. This caused a little heartburn and churn that we could have avoided if I, as the project manager, had taken a step back and reset expectations across the team.
 
DON’T overthink it.
Building on the roles and responsibilities lesson leads me to the final one. DON’T assume you are carving your website in stone. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that in order to stay fresh your content needs to evolve and change. (I’m about ready for our home page header image to change any day now!) Another thing that tripped us up at times was obtaining agreement about all the words on the new site. Our culture is very inclusive, which is great, but in a project like this, getting everyone to agree on every word can slow things down. (Remember all those fun group projects in college!) Realizing that you are creating a living thing that will grow and evolve can alleviate some of that pressure. Acknowledging the reality that things will change creates space to try some things and see what works. Also, along these lines, we learned the laws of diminishing returns, or what Craig Groeschel calls GETMO (Good Enough to Move On). This was beneficial for our team and we used GETMO as a verb in many discussions to keep things moving. 

I hope these lessons learned are helpful to you as you consider updating your website and that you might be able to benefit from our experience. While you’re here, I hope you will take a poke around the website that we worked so hard on and that you learn more about Global Impact along the way!

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