Since Citymeals has two main audiences – supporters and meal recipients – it was important to serve them both with equal attention. For those homebound seniors looking for meal deliveries or help, we built a simple "Get Meals" module with eligibility and meal centers, searchable by zip code. For supporters, the new site has rotating widgets for news, engaging meal recipient stories, as well as an easy and attractive donation form.
This being my first full "idea-to-launch" website redesign at SankyNet, I wanted to share some of the lessons I learned along the way!
Set a timeline and stick to it! This is the core of any project that relies on the coordination of many kinds of work. From concept, to design, to coding, each step pivots on the one before it. And when you hit snags, remember that one delay can lead to a domino effect.
When setting a timeline, leave in some padding to minimize the impact of small delays. If you set a few dates that you know are easy to hit, that means that you can make up time if another part of the project is delayed, while still hitting your final launch date.
Bring in all stakeholders early – but not too early
Everyone at an organization will use the new site, but in order to make decisions, the whole process cannot be purely democratic. Bringing in everyone at the right time is important.
Waiting until after the full site is launching to the public to show it to the staff means missing the chance to correct any specific issues they may have. A slow roll-out to the people inside of, or important to, an organization gives everyone a chance for their voice to be heard.
Find a simpler way
Fretting over multi-step functionality? Looking to have a complex, interactive flash slider? Want a "Title" field on a donation form with every kind of formality known to man? Here is a hint: Don't. We all love interesting and modern web sites, but the key is that they that do what we need them to.
The problem is getting too caught up in flash – both in design and programming – and missing a simpler way to achieve the same goal. With every decision of function and design you should ask "Can we make it simpler and keep the same effect?" If so, you should. You will save time, money and a lot of future technical problems if you do.
Not everyone uses your version of Firefox! Give yourself time to test every single page of your site in every single browser. It can be tedious, but catching a key mistake – especially on a critical page – can be well worth it.
Keep everyone connected
Because a full website redesign involves many kinds of people – designers and developers, clients and constituents – you need to keep everyone on the same page. Every design should go to a technical person before it ever sees the light of day, just to make sure it is feasible. And every technical decision that involves fonts, buttons or web safe colors should go by someone with an eye for design. You should also be connected to the client. Tell them about where you are in the timeline and let them know what to expect next.
Also, don't miss this chance to share big news be to the constituents! Let the donors and supporters know you are getting ready for a new site – that way they won’t be surprised when they click the same URL to see a great new site
Finally, the most important thing is being honest and upfront. This goes along with the previous point. Keeping the communication lines open is great – but you need to be 100% honest about everything that is being said. Even if the news it bad, or "That won’t work". Without honesty, the timeline won’t hold, people will be disappointed, and no one wins. The best part of working with my team was is the honest feedback on what is possible, when to expect it, and how we can do it better. Because we were able to trust that each part of the project was being done how and when it needed to, everything fit together smoothly in the end.
The end result is a beautiful, easy to use site. Our team at SankyNet came out better and stronger for it, and – most importantly – our relationship with Citymeals continues to be a great one. Hopefully, with each website redesign I can learn a few more lessons, all while delivering a site that everyone can be proud of.