Really, it’s a relaunch. You need new everything: copy, photos, navigation and CMS.

At many colleges and universities, a website redesign is a campus-wide initiative that is broadly inclusive and requires getting buy-in from multiple internal players and stakeholders. On other campuses, the marketing and communications team is fully charged with the redesign and can move swiftly, bringing in key partners like admissions and advancement. Regardless of where your campus falls in that spectrum, you need to prepare.

If a website redesign is on your mind, I have some advice:

Set goals.

Perhaps you want to infuse new messaging from a recent brand platform into the site. Maybe you need better navigational paths, but the site’s information architecture is pre-2010. Maybe your academic program pages fall short. Focus on what you want, not on what you have. Spend as little time as possible cataloging what’s wrong with your current site. Instead, spend that time establishing a vision with concrete goals.

Start with content, it is the fuel for your brand.

Pour a cup of coffee, silence your phone, and read through the top-level landing pages on your current website. Well? Does it reflect the school you know and love? I’m guessing not. You should consider a more detailed content audit of marketing-critical pages. A look at 25 or so pages will tell you a lot about where you stand with content. You want your website to be authentic to your campus. Your web content should be infused with brand messaging.

Make it better.

We all start a website redesign filled with high expectations and excited by possibilities. As you’re working through the challenges of committees, tendencies toward the status quo, and vanilla content, keep in mind that you don’t want to end up with the website you started with. You will need to advocate for improvement and take some risks to get there. Don’t lose sight of what you set out to do.

Stop thinking about your website like a project.

It doesn’t make sense to focus on your flagship communications platform once every five years. The website is not a once and done proposition. With this redesign, create a plan for staffing, funding, and governance to sustain and enhance your site into the future. Make this your last redesign project.

You might like: Leading a campus-wide initiative: What can go wrong?

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