Ready-to-Launch within 5 months
Today we are celebrating the successful launch of a 600+ page website for RoboVent! This site was completely reorganized and designed custom from the ground-up. A team of nearly a dozen people—developers, content reviewers and graphic designers—worked together to make the site ready for launch within 5 months.
Launching a major website like this is no simple task, but with the right planning and communication, anything is possible. Let’s go through the major steps in the development process to understand how such a large site can be tackled in a relatively short period of time.
Organize the Sitemap First
Before thinking about your project timeline, the first step is to take inventory of the entire existing website and plan the new sitemap. First, start with a data scrape of the existing site. Then, organize all of the (possibly hundreds) of pages into a list and plan how you would like users to navigate to each page. This is the time to make any changes to the site hierarchy or reorganize certain pages into different sections. From this list, a timeline can be created and the budget for the website can be made clear.
Separate Work into Parallel Task Groups
Major websites have many, many different sections that require unique designs and functionality. When creating your timeline, the most efficient way to organize your work groups is by having teammates with different skill sets (developers, content reviewers and designers—all preferably supplied by the same vendor) working simultaneously on different sections. Each section of the site is reviewed by a content reviewer, then designed, then built by a web developer, filled with content through data entry, and so on. The completed sections move down the funnel until arriving at the new website. Once all sections are complete and all team members are finished, the site is ready for launch! Efficient organization of the project timeline can shave months off a website project schedule.
Building New Features & Functionality
There’s a good chance that a new design will improve on navigation and bring additional new functionality into the website. The large RoboVent site had a lot of new features: a massive catalog for all of their products, search functionality incorporated in more areas of the site, cross-linking between more relevant content than before, a Media Center for PR uses, and an Employee Portal where teammates can log in and download employment documents. These all required a significant amount of design, development and conceptualizing to reach the desired outcome. It’s important to choose a developer that will ask the right questions when developing these new features.
SEO Retention During Site Redesign
Search Engine Optimization is one of the primary concerns for a new website design. If the structure of the site is being changed like RoboVent’s was, it’s important to take good notes along the way. If you are reorganizing the page hierarchy in the site, chances are that the SEO will benefit from it. There is usually a reason for these types of structural changes and if you can keep similar content together, then it will benefit. Do not forget to organize URLs in a way that presents a clear structure for how the site is organized. This will benefit the sitemap and will present a clear path for any site crawlers to navigate and organize pages.
Internal linking is also key. Relevant content needs to be shared across the website through links. This is one of the most prominent ways for a crawler to distinguish the importance of content on a web page. On the other hand, it’s important not to overdo it. You don’t want 500 links on every page for a 500-page website. Instead, select a small number of very relevant pages to link to.
The initial SEO shock of a website redesign is a common occurrence in web development, and it’s something that search engines are getting better about every day. The goal is to set yourself up for success through design and cover yourself with good notes to build a redirect list, if needed.
At the end of the day, there is no way to cheat your way to better SEO rankings. Search engines like Google are making changes constantly, all centered around a single goal: to give the users a better experience. If you can achieve a good experience for your users, the session times and the interactive browser behavior will benefit your ranking with Google.
Start to finish: RoboVent’s 600+ page site was made ready for launch by our team in just five months.
Communication is Key
Weekly scheduled calls with the developer are a necessity, and communication could be even more frequent depending on that week’s tasks. Large websites will create a massive number of questions throughout the duration of the project. It’s important to select a developer that has a majority of their active staff working in-house. Throughout this latest project, the ability to pull a designer into a developer’s office and discuss the possibilities for site functionality was crucial to success. Working with too many remote teams presents an unnecessary obstruction to finishing the project. At Triad, our designers, developers, and project managers all work together in the same location.
Lastly, communication works best with the right tools. Using automatically updated sheets and documents through Google Sheets and Google Docs helps reduce the risk of using outdated information. Task management systems also help keep teams accountable to perform the hundreds and hundreds of tasks that must be completed to finish the site.
It’s time to launch the site! Depending on what features and functionality you’ve chosen, there may be features that wait until launch to officially be implemented. Make sure your new site is sustainable on your current hosting plan. If you are adding hundreds of pages or large images, then you may want to consider getting a server upgrade to enhance site speed. A successful launch will have the following:
- Redirects from the old URL structures set up and pointing to the new pages.
- Fast site speed, comparable or better than the previous site.
- No broken links or images.
- All sections and subdomains are functioning correctly.
- New features are tested and in proper working order.
- SEO must be monitored closely for any sudden changes.
A successful launch must be celebrated appropriately, often with champagne and pats on the back. But your work isn’t done yet! The content of a large website is never finished. There is a good chance that during the months of development, the website owner has produced more content to add to the site. Thus, the cycle of content is continuously strengthened moving into the future through a clean, new website.
If you are looking for a partner to help with your large website redesign, drop us a line at email@example.com.
For in in-depth look at our work on the RoboVent site, check out this case study.