Whatever You Do, DON’T Do These Ten Things—

And DON’T miss the special announcement at the end of the post!

Aw, you know all the things you’re supposed to do. There are a hundred posts on the things you should do when you decide to take that old website of yours and revamp it for the new era of much more web-savvy customers.

That’s no fun! But just how many Experience Designers will let you in on every ugly bit of what *not* to do, gleaned from client work, from clients’ deepest fears and most troublesome phobias, and—shining brightly in our very recent memory—from the occasional lesson learned the hard way in our own tip-to-toe company website overhaul?

Without further ado, what NOT to do:

1. Jump in at the construction stage. Why do you think architects make plans before they build buildings? So they can make sure they know how traffic will flow. How you’ll get in and out. Whether there’s enough space for the intended purpose, and whether they’ve left room for growing. Where they’ll put the bathrooms.

You probably don’t need the bathrooms, but you need a plan for your site’s todays and tomorrows that takes all the rest of that into consideration. Just as with architecture: if you’re picking out the pretty curtains and deciding what kind of theatre system you want before you know how many rooms there’ll be, you’re doing it wrong. Know your goals. Plan the structure that suits the goals. Build long-term flexibility into the plan.

2. Hand over too much control. Yes, pestering your design and writing teams too much will make you look bad, but you need to make sure you’re in the loop. If they’re not keeping you informed on their progress, make that your job.

3. Go for all the gadgets. If it’s been a long time since you did any major renovations at your website, you may have amassed quite a list of features that you’ve seen on all the hottest sites. Don’t be tempted to trick the site out with all of them. Follow the guidance of your designers and show some restraint—most sites will be as fancy as your customers need and as fresh as they want, with the addition of just a couple of bells and whistles.

4. Forget about the Ideal Customer in your enthusiasm—their Internet speed, their screen size, their top questions before they buy, their interest in or annoyance with those wonderful bells and whistles. Who is your Ideal Customer? Do fancy tweaks get in your customer’s way? Or does your customer need you to signal your hipness to them to tempt them to buy? (In other words, do they care if you’re hip, or is it only what you want?)

5. Get distracted from the object of a revamp.

Which is?

To get you to Yes quicker.

Only you know whether it’s the Yes of a new reader or subscriber, the Yes of a call or request for information, or the Yes of a direct sale that you’re looking for. If you’re putting time, heart, and money into a site overhaul, getting that Yes quicker has got to be the object. Any part of the plan that doesn’t help you achieve that, might be discouraging it, and *is* distracting you. Be very careful with distractions on such a crucial journey.

6. Think like the owner.

What? I can’t think like the big boss that I am?

Nope. Because when you’re thinking like the boss, you’re thinking of whether your logo shows enough on the home page and whether they mentioned your stint at Boeing in glowing terms or whether you’re protecting your reputation enough or…

You get the point. Instead, think like the customer. What did I come for? What was the problem that led me here? What would I want to do or see next? What would move me to action? What action would I like to take?

Not what action would the owner like me to take. What action would I, the customer, like to take.

More time is wasted in website redesigns, trying to be gentle with owners’ egos or get customers to take the actions the owners would like them to take, than in any other timewasters. Find out what they’d like to do and help them do it.

7. Skip taking notes. Oh, maybe you don’t need the three-inch file we accumulated on our latest project, but you need notes detailing the steps you’re taking. That way, if you forget Why? you go back and read the thought process; if you discover a problem, you can back up to the day when it was caused; and Heaven forbid, if you have to repeat steps, the more detailed your notes, the quicker your recovery. Which brings me to…

8. Dump your nearly finished database.


(Otherwise known as… If your host asks you, “Do you really want to do this,” there’s probably a reason for that warning message. In my defense, they’d changed the look of the interface and I misunderstood what I was looking at… but now, I think I maybe should have handed over a little more control. *sheepish grin*)

And if you do dump all your almost-finished work, please please please, I hope you’ve been backing up your project daily. Then you won’t add weeks to your project needlessly. Egg on my face was a little easier to take when it was a 5-minute process to restore everything.

9. Avoid user testing. No matter how much testing you do, glitches will still be discovered, even after your newly renovated site goes live (thanks, friends who took the time to email about a few). But the more testing you can do before the site is up, the fewer hairs you’ll be pulling out while the world watches. The idea of letting users test their site seems to scare some folks, but once the site’s up and running, users are testing it every day at your expense! The great thing about “formal” testing, is you get to hear what they’re saying. So banish that fear.

When should you start the testing? Way back in the planning stage.

What are you testing? Different structures for the site, how your copy reads, what selling points or offers work best, different computers, browsers, users of different ages and interests and different Internet abilities… and of course, you’re looking for those glitches. Believe me, they’re hiding in the strangest places.

10. Wait too long. I did, and we all do, so pardon my whistling in the wind for a moment. Back to those architects—the time to do the reno is before the roof is sagging and the three teens just can’t fit in your one bathroom anymore. When you wait until the need for the overhaul is too great, you end up with a task list that’s too long (yep), a timetable that’s too short (yep), and a lot of late nights if you want to make your tight deadline (*yawn*).

Which we didn’t… make the self-imposed deadline, that is. Um, twice. (Client deadlines are always going to take priority!) But that’s no reason not to crow…

I promised an announcement:

The hotly anticipated revamp is here—Please take a cruise through the new VisionPoints. As always, VisionPoints is here to make great (Maximum!) Customer Experience part of your plan to grow your business. In this redesign we’ve aimed to make Experience Design a little sexier, a lot less of a mystery, and a critical tool for you to deliver delight to your customers and drive real, measurable results.

Your raves, your comments, and your suggestions are most welcome—just send an email to kellye (at) visionpoints (dot) net and let me know what you think.


Need one more “don’t”? Don’t miss the Welcome and Welcome Back post on the new site, which has a great overview of the site and also makes special mention of a Grand Opening discount… just in case you don’t want to wait to get your project started!


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll subscribe by email or by RSS (it’s free), and please tell a friend! Give it a Tweet, a link, a Stumble, or otherwise bookmark using the “Share” button below. (And of course, get on over to VisionPoints’ newly relaunched site to see how we did in following our own advice on what NOT to do.)