Demystifying the Website Redesign Process: Here’s What You Can Expect

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ou’ve partnered with the perfect website design partner and it’s time to hit the ground running on your new site build. It’s an exciting time, but it’s also challenging to ensure that your site looks beautiful, meets your goals, and is functional across multiple platforms.

At Hawthorn Creative, we work to make our clients’ lives during this time as easy as possible, and that starts with asking questions, gathering information, and setting expectations for every step of the process.

We also assign every web project a dedicated account manager and project manager, because experience has taught us that if our clients are fully prepared and guided throughout the process, it can ease fears, relax tensions, and eliminate some of the trepidation that comes with such a large project.

Along the way, you can expect revisions — it’s a normal part of any website development process. An experienced agency like Hawthorn, however, can anticipate where those are most likely to occur and make tweaks along the way to ensure a smooth process. Here’s a peek at how we build a strong foundation for website redesign projects:

First, the Project Scope

Like any solid strategy, the first step is homework, research, and information gathering. It’s where all of the expectations are set (with a nod to potential flexibility) and puts both the client and project team on the same page at the same time. Here’s what we discuss as part of the project scope:

Client Responsibilities
You’ll be asked to provide all of your assets to your designers, including photos, logos, and any other relevant brand documents or files, as well as logins and passwords to your current site. If you’d like any integrations or enhancements, like e-commerce or a new blog, now is the time to define these in detail. (Don’t worry, you’ll be guided through each of these steps by way of a thorough onboarding questionnaire.)

Revisions, if required, are our opportunity to work together to improve the site during the design phase, but the number of rounds baked into your overall project price will depend on your individual agreement and needs. (We typically include two rounds for each of the various stages, like wireframes, the homepage, and interior templates.) We put this under client responsibilities because it will be your job to provide feedback in a timely manner in order to stick to the established timeline.

Agency Responsibilities
As your agency partner, we’re responsible for defining how many pages (within a range) you anticipate building, as well as who on our project team will lead each part of the process: writers and editors, photo researchers, asset managers, UX designers, developers, and more.

We also guide clients through discussions around goals for the site, the capabilities it needs, future expansion goals, and how much of the maintenance they do (or don’t) want to do after the site is live.

Once we have all of this information, we build a sample sitemap to help determine the range of page count, and that’s what we use to give you a price quote. The project is still in the proposal phase at this point, and the final SOW happens after the kickoff call.

Kickoff Call
This is an important part of the process, and everyone who attends should come prepared with questions pertaining to their roles. From the agency side, kickoff calls may include copywriters, designers, developers, QA team members, project managers, and anyone else who may be involved at some point during the project.

A good kickoff call will align everyone to your goals, answer outstanding client questions, and clarify any additional information the creative team needs to get started.

Project Scope, Management, and Timelines
Once we fully understand your goals, we’re able to create a project scope. This is a robust document that details all of the project phases, including hours estimates for both production and administrative work (think: client calls and project management), timelines, an expected launch date, scheduled checkpoints, and expectations for what happens if the project goes over hours or budget.

Copy, Design, and Build Phase

Design and UX
This is one of the most exciting phases of developing your site, because you start to see it come to life on the page. The first design you’ll see is a wireframe, which is a basic outline of how your various pages will look and how the content will flow. It’s nothing fancy, but it allows you to focus on user experience and the structure of your site without worrying about the actual words and pictures just yet.

At the same time, we work together to finalize the site navigation and a full sitemap. Both of these steps are crucial to the rest of the project, because they set the foundation both for the best user experience and a framework that will lead to conversions.

Once the wireframes and sitemap are approved, we craft messaging and website copy that’s tailored to fit the space. We provide a number of options regarding copy — we can provide you with SEO keywords and you can write, we can refresh your existing copy, or we can start from scratch and create all-new content for you. Once a draft is complete, the copy is reviewed in a Word document before it’s flowed into the website — this is the stage for making any major revisions.

During this phase, we’ll also review your current Google Analytics and optimize your site (and any new copy) according to critical search keywords.

Once the wireframe is approved, you’ll get the first peek at your designed homepage, where you’ll be able to see many of the design elements for your site as well as some basic functionality (what happens when you hover your mouse over a link, for example.) We focus on the homepage first — not only is the homepage the first thing visitors see, but it also sets the color, fonts, design elements, and messaging tone that guide how we design the remaining interior pages. Typically, we use the look and feel of the homepage to create templates for interior pages, although the interior page content sometimes requires custom design.

Development, QA, and Launch
This is the stage where web developers take design concepts and bring them to life online (they take the designed CTA buttons and make them actually click to their locations, for example). Usually, you’ll review changes on what’s called a staging or beta site — one that you can see with a password but isn’t viewable to the general public.

The final stage before launch is quality assurance. That’s where we test your website on a number of different desktop and mobile browsers, note any issues, and send them back to the developers to fix. QA targets errors like broken links, typos, issues with mobile responsiveness, and other technical problems. They’re considered the final gatekeepers before the site goes live. (In some cases, the QA team also checks the site once it’s live for any errors that happened during launch.) The client isn’t usually involved in this process; our goal is to present you with a final, working, live site.

Post-Launch Support

That said, you will have time to review the site live and make any last-minute changes or call out any errors. From there (and depending on your SOW), our development team can offer support in a number of ways: they can provide a custom training guide to your team so that you can make any updates to your site on your own, manage plugins and monthly updates on the back end to ensure that your site continues to function properly and securely, regroup with you once a year for the chance to edit your copy and design, or be on-call for any live issues that need to be resolved quickly.

To see some of the work we’ve done, check out our portfolio. If you’d like to work with our creative and experienced development team, let’s talk.


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