The battleground otherwise known as the company website
Throughout my communication career there's one area of activity that seems to have created tensions and raised blood pressure more than any other, and that's the relaunch of the organisational website.
It seems to have endless potential for unleashing differing opinions and priorities, and bringing old bones of contention back up to the surface. Departments' objectives shouldn't really conflict with each other but at times this kind of exercise can certainly make it seem as though they do.
There are some key ways to minimise the pain and maximise the gain.
1) When a redesign is clearly needed, try and steer the business away from putting this off endlessly. This will just result in the site degrading and, at some point, in everyone wanting everything immediately.
2) Put together a factual, evidence-based rationale for the proposed re-design.
3) Establish a robust consultation and approvals process but avoid this turning into a general free for all, otherwise objectives will become muddied and long delays will result.
4) Ensure the goals and key features of the website are discussed with and clearly conveyed to stakeholders before the design process begins. Don't railroad, be empathetic, negotiate over the negotiable but be clear when something just isn't going to be possible and what's essential to ensure the site meets business objectives. It's also important that relevant individuals understand constraints of resource and time and how this will affect what's practical.
5) Assign clear responsibilities with no ambiguity. This should align with knowledge and experience, as well as who's got the capacity to do it, rather than being influenced by who shouts the loudest.
6) Leaders should be ready and willing to step in quickly if there is a significant impasse around business objectives or approach, but otherwise leave the work to those who are closest to it.
7) Ensure frontline staff who deal with the site on a daily basis and resulting enquiries have their say on the spec and design to increase effectiveness of and positive engagement with the finished product.
8) Spec requirements out carefully at the outset. This is important in selecting the right supplier and will avoid mistakes and omissions that slow the process down and take you over budget further down the line.
9) Consider a staged approach where some changes are desirable but not achievable in the short term. Check with potential suppliers that this will be practical and affordable with their systems.
10) Set a deadline for completion that's challenging but not unrealistic – it's easy to over-estimate how quickly tasks can be done or buckle under pressure from those who don't actually know how long it can and should take.
Managing a re-design and relaunch is challenging but a great opportunity to put project management, interpersonal and communication skills to the test, learn in the process and, hopefully, produce a great website.