Anyone who has gone through a website redesign, or created a new site altogether, knows it’s no easy feat. It takes many months of research, strategy sessions, content development, design reviews, and development testing to get to the moment you go live. Once launch day arrives, a celebration is definitely in order. And while taking pause to celebrate is rightly justified, this isn’t the end of your website work. In fact, the work is never quite “over.” I like to think of websites not as projects with finite completions, but as products with continuous lifecycles. It’s important to know what’s coming your way post-launch.
Websites are living and breathing representations of your organization, and should be built to evolve with you. Over time, your organization will inevitably change—new strategic plans may form and goals may get refined—and in turn, your site will need updating. These changes might be as small as updating a name on the staff page or as large as restructuring an entire section. Either way, there will be a need for some level of ongoing website work.
Whether your organization decides to maintain your site in-house or via an ongoing relationship with an agency, here are five strategies you can use post-launch to keep your website fresh, relevant, and most importantly, true to the goals you set out during the redesign.
User Research & Testing
Web designers use their expertise to make educated decisions, but dedicated user research and testing of your site features with your audience goes a long way in confirming the site is serving its intended purpose. If you haven’t done this during the website redesign, it’s a good idea to do it in the first year of your site going live to ensure you’re getting expected outcomes and ROI.
It can take different forms—interviews, card-sorting, usability and A/B testing—but ultimately it’s to gain insight into how people are using your product, what usability issues they’re facing that they may not be able to articulate, and how to make their time on the site more enjoyable and effective. For example, we’re currently working with our partners, TCTMD, to reassess the site’s user experience. In the two and a half years since their new site officially launched, TCTMD has grown as an organization, leading to new initiatives and content that now need to be accounted for in the sitemap and architecture. By using a variety of user testing methods, we’re aiming to find pain points from real users and update the site’s information architecture with things like more intuitive navigation and design choices to address the newly identified needs.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Analytics
In the same vein of “getting to know your site better,” concentrating on SEO and analytics will give you insight into how your users find your site using search engines like Google or Bing (i.e., organic traffic) and how users navigate around your site (i.e., engagement metrics). You can take these findings and implement specific content and technical changes to improve the way people find and engage with your site.
This work can get a bit technical—tinkering with backend keyword metadata and analyzing Google Analytics trends—but you can come out of it with more users and engaged visitors. For example, you can use Google Tag Manager to set scroll tracking which shows how far down on a page your readers go, or scroll, before moving on. Knowing this information can be really helpful in determining effective information architecture and design system tweaks that will better engage users, especially with content-rich sites.
Ensuring accessibility for audiences of different physical and technical abilities should be a priority for all websites. But for social impact organizations whose mission is often to serve these communities and champion inclusivity, an additional level of accessibility for your audiences is an even more pressing priority to focus on.
Most websites are built with a baseline of standards-compliant coding, but taking a dedicated approach to a higher degree of accessibility through design research and development may be a worthy investment. For example, installing screen readers on your site enables visually impaired users to interact fully with your content—this software reads the webpage text aloud, including descriptions of the associated images, if you’ve added image alt tags (which you should!).
New Features & Functionalities
Often times organizations don’t have the budget or time to accomplish everything they’d like to during the website redesign. Maybe you wanted to weight your search results, create a newsletter popup, or add a third-party integration. These design features and technical functionalities that were put on the back burner can be revisited, now with a new lens.
With a fuller picture of how your audiences are interacting with your new site—hopefully, one that takes user testing and analytics into account—you can make strategic decisions about how these features would take shape. For example, after the University of Chicago’s Air Quality Life Index website launched, we added a new function to customize which reports loaded on the page, based on IP location. This change allowed them to deliver more relevant, targeted content to their distinct audiences around the world.
Other Digital Properties
Sometimes organizations build upon their digital footprint not by adding and updating features on their site directly, but by extending this new design to other properties. If you find yourself cross-linking the redesigned site to another website you own, consider the connection between the two.
You’ll want to think about your brand strategy across platforms—consistent design presence and user experience assure users that they’ve clicked to the right place. For example, we helped a legal services client create an online Annual Report, one that complements the traditional print version, but is interactive and shareable, garnering a wider reach. This Annual Report microsite is linked from their organizational site and uses similar design systems, while having its own unique experience.
Prioritizing Your Post-Launch To-Do List
As you may have picked up on, these initiatives aren’t simple to-do’s that you can quickly check off a list. For the most part, they’re longer-term commitments that take time, energy, and reflection. But taking the time to invest in any number of the strategies above really stands to benefit your organization internally and externally. It might seem overwhelming, but luckily you don’t have to rush to address all of these right away! In the year(s) to come, you can put any of these strategies to use to better understand your website’s current performance in greater depth and make continual improvements. And remember, these aren’t one-time tactics—you can (and should) revisit them regularly. Just as you took the time to redesign your website, it’s important to take the time to keep up the work after you go live. The site launch may be finished, but you’re just getting started!