Behind the scenes of the new ContentPlus website

January 17th, 2013

Months of planning, strategising, designing, writing and developing came to fruition yesterday when we introduced our new branding and launched the revamped ContentPlus website.

As project manager, I’ve learned a great deal along the way and thought it would be good to share some of the most important lessons here so our customers and readers can benefit from them.

ContentPlus helps businesses grow online with content

Planning is everything

Right at the start of the redesign project, we conducted research to determine who our target audience is, what they expect from the site and how they are likely to use it. We made sure we knew what we are trying to achieve with the site and how it fits into our marketing strategy.

This information was invaluable during a process that required hundreds of decisions to be made. When it comes to web design and branding, it’s never an exact science, but making informed decisions is crucial on the path to success.

But don’t let planning get in the way of doing

As with any organisation, we have a number of internal stakeholders who have different uses for and expectations of our company website. As such, I’ve met with scores of people who offered their insights and opinions at various stages of the process. As ever with design, many of these suggestions were … shall we say diverse. It wasn’t possible to marry all of these in a cohesive design and sometimes it is tempting to spend hours debating the options at hand.

This interactive tree above the fold on the homepage gives visitors a good idea of the breadth of the services we provide.

This interactive tree above the fold on the homepage gives visitors a good idea of the breadth of the services we provide.

In the end, final decisions boiled down to conclusions drawn from our research and conversations with experts in each field (i.e. taking on board feedback about user experience from someone who is an expert in user experience, and maybe paying less attention to their opinion on aesthetics, but rather taking the graphic designer’s lead on that).

It is up to the project manager to be decisive and keep driving the process forward, rather than become overwhelmed by a multitude of options leading to decision paralysis.

Be flexible

Remain agile and ready to adjust plans and strategies. No amount of planning can account for what will happen when the big green button is pushed and the site goes “live”.

When our new site was set live yesterday, the homepage unexpectedly took upwards of ten seconds to load. This is unacceptable at any time, but probably more so when you’ve published countless articles on how quick load times are imperative from a user and search engine point of view!

Instead of panicking, we all remained relatively calm as the developers worked frantically to uncover the cause and remedy the issues at breakneck speed.

Remember that no matter how thorough your planning, you are dealing with machines and servers and robots, and sometimes they like to play all sorts of silly games with us humans and our plans. So be prepared for things to go wrong and make sure all hands are on deck so that your team can respond to any glitches as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Surround yourself with genius

Don’t tell my boss, but managing this project was relatively easy. Why? Simply because I had access to people who are experts at every element of web design, content, graphics and development. Of course I’m lucky in that these people are my colleagues – content marketing is what they do day in, day out – so it was great to be the beneficiary of their knowledge and expertise.

My advice for any small business looking at redesigning their site is to determine their priorities clearly beforehand and be realistic about the resources at their disposal. What can you do yourself at minimum cost and what is better being done by external professionals?

In conclusion

I’m really proud of the new site. It paints a much better picture of the people who work here and the service we’re all so passionate about. It tells a story about how we help businesses grow online with content – and it does so in a way that is visually striking and appealing.

The job continues now. We need to monitor the site’s performance, check Google is indexing the new pages and everything is working as it should. And of course, no good website is ever “done”. Content needs to be added continually, calls to action updated and information kept fresh and up to date.

I look forward to bringing you more updates and improvements to the site in the coming weeks and months and would love to hear what you think of the redesign. Share your thoughts below or tweet me: @webber_karen.


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