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Website rebuilds: what we learned the hard way

May 9, 2024 #Our news
Website rebuilds: what we learned the hard way
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It’s been a busy couple of months here at Cast from Clay – a new cohort of {AIM FOR IMPACT} is about to start, the {CLAYBOT} is in testing mode, and we’ve (finally) relaunched our website. I wanted to share three mistakes we made in case you’re planning a website refresh and want to make your process less painful.

Mistake 1: Not prioritising the web build

This one was not by choice; we just couldn’t park client work for a couple of months. But that added two (!) extra months to the process and quite a few late hours to our working week.

If you work in policy or research comms, exercise your power to focus. Websites are a lot of work. They require commitment, attention to detail, and great internal coordination. Things will pop up that you didn’t plan for: you might end up rewriting your posts, checking your privacy policies, and arranging last-minute photo shoots.

Three ways to avoid this mistake:

  1. Focus: Make it your priority for this month – you will save a lot of time.
  2. Process: Make sure you follow a tested and refined process. If you don’t have one, create one.
  3. Decision-making: Form a steering group, but be prepared to take executive decisions. Yes, we even had to tell {TOM} that curved corners on images will be staying; you can’t design by committee.

Mistake 2: considering the brand identity finished

A brand is a living and breathing thing, used by many people in many contexts. The fact that you have a well put-together brand book (and we really did create a beautiful one!) doesn’t mean that you’ve successfully rebranded.

You need to know your brand inside out to make it work, and that comes with using it. So many things will pop up when you start deploying it on your channels.  Not to mention that everyone will use it differently.

Once you’ve done a refresh, give your brand space to be used. Test it with different people and different formats. Keep the conversation going between designers, developers, and content managers. Then, make changes to the brand book.

But make sure you expand the brand, don’t contract it.

Mistake 3. Starting on content too late

You know when your designer tells you: ‘{NATALLIA}, we really need the copy for this page’. It means she really needs the copy.

Instead of replying ‘It’s on my list, can you put a placeholder?’ and forgetting it until the deadline approaches, put aside whatever you’re doing and spend one hour writing the copy. It will make a difference.

Firstly, it will make the designer happy. Secondly, it will save you an enormous amount of time before the launch. Thirdly, you will avoid tedious, time-consuming, and expensive changes to the structure of the website once it’s already built. You need content to be able to see your website in full glory. (Plus, developers get upset when you haven’t thought things through…)

Websites are all about good content; prioritise it.

Hats off to all our clients who have been through a website rebuild, it’s really hard.

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