Website Requirements and Giving Stakeholders a Voice in Redesign Priorities

By Cathy Hodson

The logistics of a website redesign and migration can strike fear into the most experienced web editor. It’s not for the faint of heart.

As a web editor, to have a successful content migration and website redesign launch, you have to be incredibly organized, know your content and your website backwards and forwards (and backwards again), be able to represent the varied requirements of your company’s content, and remain calm through some of the most stressful weeks or months of your professional career.

Something you need to consider at the outset of a website redesign are the requirements for your next site – what do you need to have from your new website that either doesn’t work well on your current site, or that doesn’t exist there right now?  What needs updating? Could you use a better search engine? Could you streamline or reorganize your navigation? Do you need more graphics and visual presentation to break up vast quantities of text?  Do you need more interaction with your audience(s)? What will help improve your website, make it the best it can be, and most importantly, make it worth all the effort you and your team are about to expend in improving the company website?

It helps, in gathering this information, to talk with your many different stakeholders: fellow staff members, members of your audience(s), students working toward your profession, even someone who has nothing to do with your business or your profession. How well does your website perform for someone who knows nothing about what your company does? If you tell them to find three specific things, can they find X, Y and Z? Does your navigation make sense to them?

Prioritization by Stakeholder
You can gather together and ask your stakeholders to help prioritize desired features into the various stages of the redesign process. Perhaps some of the features you are considering include building a meeting registration module, or developing an area of the website where members can update their own contact information, check their continuing education credits or provide feedback to the staff. You can divide a piece of paper into quarters, and mark the upper left quadrant as High Cost. Mark the lower left quadrant as Low Cost. Mark the upper right quadrant as High Priority. Mark the lower right as low priority. Give each stakeholder a copy, or break the stakeholders into groups and give each group a copy of this breakdown. Use sticky notes to show the location of features that have a high cost and are a high priority. Which ones have a low cost and a low priority? Put them in the appropriate slot on the grid. Which features fall in the middle?

In this manner, you can determine prioritization. Perhaps by consensus the high priorities and low cost desired features will be slotted for Stage I of the redesign. Perhaps lower cost, lower priorities would be slotted for Stage II or even Stage III of the redesign.

Of course, there is the old adage that too many chefs spoil the pot, but having all of your stakeholders represented in these early stages can also help foster buy-in to the final result. They have been able to have a voice and be represented by their peers. Their concerns and interests have been voiced. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go by what they project are your priorities, but at least they can say they had a voice in the process. Very often having a few points of view outside of the staff’s point of view helps bring some perspective to the project. Staff remember who the website is truly there for, and begin to see what is important to their audiences. The same holds true for the stakeholders – to see what the staff recommends or can explain as their rationale.

Perspective and decision
There can be situations where this can become contentious between stakeholder factions. Many people feel they know best which features would serve the various audiences, or they insist on the priorities of their own special interests (i.e, come with an agenda) – this includes the developers and even web editors. What can help is to have an independent voice – a consultant or someone outside of staff (a project manager, perhaps) to moderate or even police this process. In the end someone has to have the power to make a final decision. Whether that is the CEO, the executive director, the president or a board of directors, at some point a decision has to be made – hopefully based on recommendations from the stakeholder group, the staff, a consultant, or a combination.

There may not always be a meeting of the minds, but sharing opinions and having the opportunity to explain those choices can provide a well-rounded project where more options are considered and discussed, and ideally, the best solution comes forward.

Next up: Taxonomy – Say What?

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