Webmaster’s Corner – Cosmetic Surgery

If you are a website developer and you’ve been around longer than 12 months, you’ve undoubtedly experienced the dreaded redesign. This strange phenomenon usually happens when the majority of people in your organization reach a kind of boredom flash point. Shields up! They’re coming for you…

Rule #1 – Don’t panic! Think of revamping your website as a facelift. You keep all the core components – you are just [hopefully] enhancing the appearance.

Rule #2 – Coordinate effectively. All the back end stuff and most of the textual content won’t be altered, and if it does, it’s someone else’s job anyway. You will just need to ensure it is coordinated properly with the the new design. Schedule as many meetings as required to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Rule #3 – Design. Shut your door, put on your headphones and go for it. Consider putting a note on your office door that says “Do not disturb. Deep thought in process.” If you just have a divider, call in sick and work from home. When you are ready, present the new design and hope for sign-off. [If unsuccessful, return to Rule #1]

Rule #4 – Convert. Cut or slice your design into HTML. Try to use SSI (server side includes) wherever possible. This will make your life much easier down the road. Incorporate your existing back end tools and content wherever possible.

Rule #5 – Implementation. Now that you have a successful design, you are ready to replace the existing site with the new one. Work closely with your back end programmers and content people to ensure a smooth transition. A good trick is to develop in a test area on the web server, and when ready, rename your test area to replace the existing one.

Rule #6 Test! Go through everything at least 3 times front-to-back. Ask your development team to look for any potential issues.

Congratulations! You have given your site a brand new look and feel, hopefully without having to rebuild your tools or revamp textual content. The key to success with a redesign is consistent focus on the job at hand. Try not to get distracted with too many new tools and/or content – save that for another project…