- General Best Practices
Deployment: it's our word for the process that takes your website from an initial idea to live. For some, the process is exciting. For others, it can be stressful. For most, it is a combination of the two. But that's why we are here.
So, you've signed on the dotted line for a website redesign project — now what? Here's a quick overview of what you can expect from what we refer to as Deployment.
You Get an A-List Team
Based on your project, we hand-pick the best-suited people for the job.
Your project will get assigned to a designated deployment team, which is made up of a project manager, designer, and front-end developer (and potentially some additional specialists, depending on the scope of your project).
Your team serves as your coach, guide, task master, cheerleader, and on occasion, your therapist.
Designer Natalie working with a client at our annual user conference, FinalsiteU
Once your meet your project manager — or PM for short — they'll become your day-to-day contact from kick-off-call to the day your site is built and complete. During the kick-off-call, you'll discuss priorities, timelines, milestones, and more.
You're basically building the roadmap together.
The Website Redesign Playbook
First, You'll Have a Little Bit of Homework
Once we have the logistics out of the way, you'll jump right into our deployment process.
First, you have some homework. Before you jump on that exciting kick-off call, we need some assets from you.
The discovery and design phases will get a big jump start if you arrive at the kickoff call with the following items ready to hand off to your project manager:
Sitemap: Hand us current sitemap with edits or a completely new sitemap based on your needs and purpose for redesigning. This will be further revised, but at least serves as a starting point. Think about main pages and lower-level pages, and how a user navigate your website. Make it easy for a prospective family to find key information or parents to get news, etc.
Photos: Help our designers learn about your school. Show off everything that is great or unique about your school. Do you have an active social media community? Make sure to share that with the design team! We need at least a dozen of your best images to get started. Don't worry – you'll add tons more yourself during the deployment process, but for now, we just need a small batch.
Logos and other Branding Guidelines: Logos, colors, fonts, mission statement – all of these are important to know at the start of a project. Do you have a style guide? If so, we want a copy! Having clear branding rules and guidelines ensures that there is consistency and continuity throughout the website
Timelines for Training, Content Editing and Migration: Scheduling time internally for training makes sure that key personnel are available when the time comes to do training, content editing and all the other little things that keep a project on schedule.
Final decision-maker/tiebreaker: Three members of the committee want to use the horizontal logo and another three want to use the vertical version — who will break the tie? Determining the person that will make the final decisions or break ties in your committee is another way to keep the project on schedule.
Then, The Real Fun Begins: The Deployment Process
Discovery: This starts with the kickoff call. But we also need lots of assets from you before we can start the design phase. Let's call this your pre-discovery-call-homework.
After the call, you and your stakeholders will be asked to fill out a design and marketing survey to help us understand your school's brand, positioning in your market, distinctive features, other sites you love (and don't love!), vision for the website, etc.
Design: This is where your vision for telling your school's distinctive story online becomes real (imagine architectural drawings for your new house).
Training and Content: From the moment the kick-off call ends until you launch, you and your team will receive training on the Finalsite platform to ensure a successful launch. Our training consists of full schedule of live webinars for our suit of products, in addition to on-demand videos that you can watch during times that work for their schedule.
That's Amy — you'll get to know her pretty well during your training
For your convenience, we've built a Deployment Resources portal specifically for clients who've taken the plunge. The portal includes our Website Redesign Playbook, sitemap examples, online training, informational documents, and more. (We can't give away all our surprises on the blog!)
To ensure an on-time launch, begin entering your site's content the moment your site map is ready in Composer.
As a best practice for content, focus on your top twenty most important pages first: homepage, tuition, employment, giving, etc. Then, offload those dozens of those nitty-gritty-but-necessary interior pages to our content migration team.
Keep in mind: a website is never truly complete. It is a living, breathing marketing tool that shifts and changes — so don't waste time droning over the tiniest of details. Focus on great design, improving critical messaging, and getting the rest done over time.
Build: Your front-end developer builds the approved design for the home page, interior pages, and any special treatments, turning the beautiful designs into fully functioning web pages (imagine building the actual house).
Review: Our nit-picky team of perfectionists won't unveil your website to the world until we've reviewed every last pixel twice over.
Launch: Time for the big reveal!
It's All About Content
We can't emphasize this point enough. Without your great content (photos, words, quotes, videos, infographics, and more) your site is a gorgeous house with no furniture inside.
So one of the best things you can do now, before the process even begins, is start lining up your new content — how are you rephrasing, rethinking, reorganizing the admissions section of your site, the athletics section, and others?
Project Manager Ashley sits down with a client at FinalsiteU to discuss best practices
"Are We Almost there Yet?"
We all know those long family car trips, with kids in the back seat asking "are we almost there yet?" every 10 minutes, so we want to give you a little head's up on how long this redesign trip is likely to take.
Our most successful clients invest about 3-5 hours per week on the project. The more effort you put in along the way, the better the outcome will be.
From the kick-off call to the Review phase, here's what our most successful clients have achieved:
- Theme-based designs: 1 month
- Package 2 designs: 3 months
- Package 3 designs: 4 months
- Best in Class designs: 5+ months (Unless you're Purnell School, who conquered this feat in under 100 days)
As a reminder, the "launch" date is always in your hands.
Our most successful clients have most of their training and content completed prior to the end of their review phase, which allows them to launch soon after the review phase is completed. This benefits current and future stakeholders, and makes for the smoothest transition managing their site on a go forward basis.
- Web Design