Delivering Results with Agile Website Strategy
The Challenge: A 10,000-Page Beast
We were approached to solve a big challenge.
Our client had a large website – nearly 10,000 pages large. The website had around 500 core pages, and thousands of other events, blogs, and posts that had eventually careened out of control.
The menu was clunky, content was outdated and the organization’s tone of voice was jumbled. They lacked a cohesive identity and web presence.
Navigating the website was a confusing (and often disorienting) experience.
It was time for a revamp, but there were challenges to this massive undertaking. The website had to serve the needs of many teams and house hundreds of content types.
Plus, there was the risk of spending years on the revamp, only to find it didn’t meet the client’s needs — or was already out of date. (This had happened in several of their past website redesigns.)
The Plan: An Agile Roadmap
To create a vision and roadmap, we first needed to do a full audit of where the site was at. But we didn’t want to get bogged down with a rigid plan that eventually ended up out of alignment with the organization’s ongoing efforts. Instead, we decided to take it one step at a time, with a flexible approach to each phase of work.
To implement this agile website process, we partnered with a communications consultant and website design and development firm. Success would be a team effort.
Phase 1: Laying the Groundwork
In phase 1, our team got to work understanding the goals of the client, the people they served, and the different functions the website needed to perform.
The discovery and research phase included:
- Discovery calls with stakeholders
- Auditing hundreds of URLs
- Analyzing current content
- Reviewing the structure of the site
- Identifying the types of pages we needed
- Solidifying key messaging
We chose ten key “marketing” pages to revamp first.
We re-structured the pages, rewrote the content, and our design partner overhauled the look and feel of the new pages. These ten pages were the new “front door” to the website. Then, we pared down the navigation and restructured it to be easier to navigate.
We also determined many of the site content could be housed in a resource hub: a filterable, searchable database that could be tagged and that featured multiple types of media.
But what happened to the other thousands of pages?
As part of this agile strategy, we moved most of the old site to an archived domain. Everything was still reachable here. The ten strategic pages on the revamped site linked out to the older content on the archive site – essentially forming a satellite to the old website.
The new, pared-down “satellite” site gave a renewed focus to the client’s website.
The structure was clear and a foundation was laid for robust search functionality, department-specific microsites, and easy website updates.
With an updated entryway, it was time to repaint the inside of the house.
Phase 2: Agile Steps Forward
As part of the ongoing, agile website revamp process, we began work with individual teams within the organization to develop their sections of the site.
We helped finesse the key landing pages for each team and organized efforts for the client to produce some new, on-brand content that was more engaging and actionable.
With the vision and roadmap in place, the team had a common goal.
The new sections of the website were tailored to each team’s specific needs — while still being in line with the brand’s goals and tone.
Our team put together a plan to migrate older content that was still relevant, ensuring that only the important information was transferred over to the new, simplified site.
We also started working on a tagging/taxonomy structure that would allow all the ported content to be easily searchable.
Pitfalls we avoided
Because phase 1 was a pared-down “MVP” site, we learned some important things.
01) There were key stakeholders who had specific requests and needs that had not been communicated in the initial discovery phase.
Had we launched an entire, fully-complete website, we would have missed some important requirements, and the client would have wasted significant resources.
02) We also discovered our structure for the resource hub was off-base.
By digging into the new features with more stakeholders, we were able to identify a tagging structure that was more conducive to everyone’s needs. Thankfully, we had not built out the full resource hub yet—so changes were easy to make, and we could shift the strategy.
Overall, the agile website approach allowed us to adjust our strategy and scope in phase 2 to deliver site improvements that were truly valuable for the client.
Ongoing Obstacles to Success
Implementing a large web platform like this comes with a unique set of challenges.
01) People aren’t familiar with the process.
Most people expect a website revamp to happen in one fell swoop. That’s how it has happened for years, and many institutions aren’t familiar with a phased approach.
This can cause significant discomfort, which is why…
02) Communication channels need to reinforce the strategy.
While the stakeholders closest to the project may understand what’s happening, there are many other layers of stakeholders in large organizations. With years of a clunky website, people can grow used to where their “stuff” lives on the site — and be thrown off when things start to shift.
In this process, we discovered key relationships needed to be nurtured, and more communication needed to happen around why we were doing things this way.
Repetition is key, and drivers of the project need to be equipped with an understanding of the strategy, key talking points, and answers to frequent questions.
03) It gets worse before it’s better.
Just like decluttering your home, everything gets messy before it gets cleaned out. For large organizations, the chaos can be disconcerting. Everyone is finding their bearings and learning to adjust.
We learned that it was important to normalize this feeling in the process. Discomfort didn’t mean failure. In fact, it was the opposite. The organization was moving toward something that would be beneficial in the long run.
Staying the same can be comfortable, but it has long-term downsides.
The Future: An Flexible Tool For All
As we continue to iterate and clean up the website, the website has stayed clean and modern.
The search functionality has continued to become more robust.
The client is learning how to create and manage content in their new platform and ecosystem.
More and more stakeholders are buying into the approach and carrying the strategy with their teams.
With a strategic foundation in place, the client is poised to keep the site clean, produce relevant, engaging content, and use the website as a valuable organizational tool to accomplish what matters to them.