A few weeks ago during a website redesign pitch, one of our prospective clients posed an important question: “We have hundreds of people that work for our organization that care deeply about the design of our website. How will you involve the staff and ensure that they are part of the process?” The question speaks to a thorny reality of the process—managing key stakeholders and their teams is tricky, yet essential.
Our answer outlined three major tips for involving all in a productive way:
Start by educating the broader team about user-centered design
In my experience, tension about internal change comes from stakeholders putting too much weight on their own needs and opinions and not giving enough thought to the needs of end users. One way to build solidarity across internal teams is to communicate research-driven details about the website’s target users. Personas, or fictitious characters that represent broad user groups, are a great tool for encouraging your staff to empathize with a large group of otherwise nameless, faceless “end users.”
At the onset of a redesign project, call a companywide meeting or publish an internal website that shares the details of these personas and the objectives of the redesign. Make sure your entire staff is informed up front about the change that is coming. Give them an opportunity to ask questions and provide input before design begins.
Present design options after usability research has been conducted
While key project stakeholders should see a design evolve from day one, it’s not a good idea to broadly share designs to your entire staff before validating the designs through usability testing. By sharing design solutions after usability testing has been conducted, you’re putting the focus on satisfying user needs with the redesign. This makes it less likely for staff to get hung up on what they like or dislike due to personal taste.
People fear change – prepare your staff for the backlash
People don’t like change. No matter how great your redesigned website may be, it’ll encounter criticism, and a lot of it. There will most likely be a portion of your end user base that is unhappy with the redesign, and of course they’ll be the most vocal group—for example, when we redesigned People Magazine’s homepage, dozens of comments from site visitors proclaimed their, shall we say, lack of approval for the redesign. It didn’t matter that we had conducted user research and testing and received positive feedback during the design phase—those at the front lines receiving these comments were upset. Fast forward a year later. The redesigned homepage is doing great, end users love it, and engagement is strong. The project is considered a success. Were all those readers that left negative comments wrong? No, they just didn’t like change. The executive leadership at People Magazine understood this and were patient through the transition.
So, prepare your teams that there may be a backlash. That way, they won’t become demoralized when the inevitable complaints come rolling in.
Follow these three tips, and you’re much more likely to have a website redesign that rolls out with results that match expectations, and keeps internal and external audiences satisfied.