Building Better Websites
Re-designing the RD website was a bit like peeling an onion. Maybe a strange analogy to start this blog on, but a perfect one to describe the journey.
The website’s redevelopment began when Col – RD’s CEO – suggested making a couple of basic changes to its aesthetic. However, once we began unpeeling that first layer, we realised that we had been seriously underselling ourselves.
RD has a raft of industry, knowledge and innovation experts sat in the office every day – but the old website wasn’t showcasing that talent.
So, what started as a website touch up soon became a re-think of RD’s core DNA – a recentring to spotlight who we are, what we do, and how we do it. Now completely revamped, the website provides a little glimpse into our culture, thoughts and work.
Building the website wasn’t without its fair share of challenges. And since there’s nothing as wonderful as hindsight, from me to you, here’s a mix of tips and learnings so that you too can create a content-driven site that shows who you are. Because gosh, I wish I had this knowledge before we started.
Think audience first.
It’s easy to jump to the latest design trends or funky functionality when looking to redesign a website. And as a designer at heart, this is exactly what I did.
But always take a step back. Think about who is looking at the site and what journey you want them to go on. There would have easily been five drafts of the wireframes before we created the right user experience with the right content. But by refining, reviewing and re-designing with the audience in mind, we eventually came out with a simple, intuitive experience.
Consider search engine optimisation (SEO) from the start.
Your website might be beautifully designed and packed with great content, but if no one can find it, what’s the point?
With a wealth of content on our site in the guise of case studies and industry blogs, we wanted people already searching for industry news, insights and opinions to find our website and come back. Time and time again.
But to do so, we had to make sure it was SEO-ready. This meant creating a sitemap, checking page speed, ensuring compatibility with multiple browsers, conducting a SEO audit to test for broken links, duplicated content and missing metadata, adding alt tags to images and making sure all copy was optimised with the right key words and images.
Give your people a platform to shine.
People will always be an organisation’s greatest asset. So, to showcase the vast array of talent we have, we developed a section on our website where our staff can create and curate relevant ideas, topical news and opinions in the form of blogs – and also show the ways in which clients and industry are always at the forefront of RD’s thoughts.
Keep it simple.
As my Mad Men advertising hero Don Draper once said, ‘make it simple but significant’.
At the end of the day, the work we do is all about providing clean solutions to complex problems. From a design perspective, our new branding is all about conveying this simplicity.
If something is not needed, remove it. Focus on making your clients, work and culture the heroes of your site. This gives current and potential clients a look at the way you work, and for anyone thinking about working at your organisation, creates a window to look into the culture in the HQ.
Don’t put a timeframe on a website overhaul.
I know, I know. This sounds like a typical designer’s way out of a deadline. But with a project like this when you’re re-positioning a site as a space to come and gain insights and industry news, you have to give it the time it deserves. Don’t expect to be able to rush it.
We wanted everyone at RD to feel proud of the site we created – so giving time for feedback on UX, UI, design and positioning on the infamous brady bunch wall was crucial.
Understand a website is never finished.
Once you love the site, you’ve launched it and it’s ranking well, your work is still not finished.
Actually, it will never be finished.
Because insights into user experience are always evolving and hopefully your organisation will be constantly evolving too. Once you have data from your new website, use it to figure out which pages work better than others and why – and adjust accordingly.
If you keep these tips in mind – put the audience first, keep it simple, understand good websites take time – I truly believe your site will soar.
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