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I'm about to embark on a website re-design. I'm trying to get an idea of the tasks I should be doing prior to wireframing. The site is a large corporate site and the reason for redesigning is the client believes the site is hard to navigate, it's difficult to manage the site's content and the site doesn't effectively promote it's many sub-brands or show it's global presence. Since the site is already existing I believe one of the first tasks I should do is examine the site's content to get a better understanding of scope and quality.

  1. Content Audit

What other tasks should I be doing? Asking for existing user research?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

A corporate site re-design is full of more design by committee pratfalls and pitfalls than you even realize exist just yet, which include:

  • Deprecated content that still needs to be supported
  • Brand guidelines you have to adhere to
  • Political history behind the current design (which will affect your ability to make changes)
  • All those sub-brands that need to be considered in your approach

I'm a little shocked they're having you do this on your own if it's as big a redesign as you seem to be suggesting -- this is a big task, and there are companies that make a lot of money both doing and teaching what you're asking for free advice on.

You owe it to yourself to do the following:

  1. Ask as many questions as they'll stand to let you ask, including:
    • Who designed the original site (and where are all their notes)? If they're no longer with the company, ask why, and make sure "because their design sucked" or "we refused to pay them" isn't the answer!
    • Who was involved in the original design decisions? Are those people still with the company? Will they be involved this time around? Who's involved this time? (Asking all these folks why they made the decisions they did / want to make the changes they desire is useful!)
    • Why are they interested in changing the site? (This is where you'll get clues on what to actually change!)
    • Who uses the site currently? (HINT: you can interview them to ask them more questions about how and why they use the site, and what changes they suggest!)
  2. Document everything -- because you'll have to defend your choices to SOMEBODY in the chain of command, you need to come prepared.
  3. Find any sort of research, from website analytics on up, that can tell you what users are actually interested in and focusing on. If the appropriate research doesn't exist, you'll need to produce / procure it somehow.
  4. After you've done all the legwork, decide what changes need to be made (e.g. New CMS? Adjustments to make the site responsive?), and how you'll implement those changes, which may or may not include a content audit. Past this point you'll likely have to argue with a small committee or five before proceeding.

Content audits are only useful if they're planning on keeping all that content --they likely are, but make sure of this first, before you waste all that time! There's a heap more legwork worth doing before that point.

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Great answer--my only quibble is on the last line about the value of a content audit. In my current project, I am new to the organization. I performed a content audit on their internal and external site even though a simple analysis of the last modified dates told me that most of the content was probably junk. But it was like a forensic analysis of the org that helped me ask better questions, taught me about how the org USED to see themselves, and lets me relate to various departments because I can feel their pain in some cases. –  Charles Wesley Dec 11 '12 at 17:56
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Charles is your current project a re-design? If so? which steps did you take? –  user19592 Dec 11 '12 at 17:59
    
It is a redesign however I would say it's more of a complete reset. So not just changing some templates or changing the visual design but defining content types, redefining goals/outcomes, and then crafting wireframes and a design to support that. There is also a new CMS implementation in there too, so it's a bit bigger than just a redesign. I would agree with all of the steps in Rachel's answer. Particularly about learning the (political) lay of the land, which in a larger environment can impact your design more than any requirement or usability study. –  Charles Wesley Dec 11 '12 at 18:29
    
Charles: I would argue that an initial content REVIEW of the website in question (like you described) is valuable enough to do at the onset, but a full content AUDIT (with a line-by-line summary of content, site navigation, and so on) should be saved for when you actually need it. –  Rachel Keslensky Dec 11 '12 at 18:37

I am actually in the middle of a large redesign project for Cisco.

The first thing I did was ensure I had a master list of all pages. Most pages are templates, and have the same page structure. So I could group similar page structures together.

I then analyzed our site analytics database to see what users are using. This may not be as straight forward, so working with some users and asking for feedback of what features they like or don't like about the current site would be useful. It will also be useful to ask the team who manages the site, what their experiences have been through upkeep on the site.

Then it begins. If it is a corporate site, there tends to be some corporate guidelines for colour choices, and hierarchy of fonts, ect.

The site Im using gets accessed by international users. TO make sure the changes that we were making were good choices, we conducted several user testing sessions on each chunk of pages.

Hope this helps! :) Feel free to ask anything! Im finally in my development phase!! WOOO!

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