Website Redesign

August 21st, 2006 by Team Member


This is a re-post of a blog entry I made to my internal blog on August 18. Internal blogs are one of the ways we communicate process and progress with one another at Exbiblio, and I thought I’d share it on our main blog as well since it’s about a process that many other small companies face at some point or another. So, without further ado, the post. — Ariel

What’s happening in my world (long)

Perhaps it’s hubris to think so, but maybe there are one or two folks out there who wonder what the heck happens on my side of the office every day. Well, among a couple of other smaller projects, I spend the majority of my time working on the website redesign.

Traditionally, web presences for small companies have been built as an afterthought. Many of these entities don’t want to devote time and resources toward building what is seen as simply a static brochure, so a site is launched with no planning or concern for the needs of its audiences; the goal is to just have a web footprint. I’m sure each and every one of us has been directed toward a company’s site hoping to learn more about it, only to find vague text and a directive to call the company for more information. How many of us pick up the phone?

This is not the case for Exbiblio’s existing website, but there is a strong consensus among the internal and external folks I’ve asked to review the site that it is somewhat vague, redundant, and lacks concrete, juicy information that would inspire enough interest for someone to get involved. Changing this is what I’ve been charged with. Martin, unlike heads of many companies, is willing to let me enact the crucial steps of doing the planning and doing the research and doing the thinking that many web design efforts overlook, and which many teams don’t seem to value.

But let’s get more concrete. I started the process with first making sure this work was wanted and valuable to the company. Then I proceeded to talk to people, research our audiences, talk to people some more, and develop a list of requirements for the site. I interviewed some of you as part of the requirements gathering effort. The goal of these interviews was to find out what you would change about the current site, what you thought the website should communicate (what its purpose is), what you’d like to see the website handle in terms of building interest in Exbiblio and our products. I have a fat list of guidelines that I’m using as I design the new site’s architecture and functionality.

My second step has been to inventory what content we currently have on the site. This has meant reading every word on our current site, coming to understand the intent of it fully, and then classifying each page. I then did the same with the previous iteration of the Exbiblio website. Then I compared and classified the content we have on hand, and matrixed these against the requirements I’d gathered and against plans for the future in order to produce a new scheme for the site.

Here’s a photo of the results of my content inventory:

Content inventory

And one of the preliminary site diagram:

New site schematics

So far I am really happy with the redesign. I think the site is going to be much easier to navigate and comprehend. It’s going to generate interest and make it very easy for folks to learn more or get in touch with us, all the while making our values and unique culture explicit. Now comes the fun part: Turning these new specifications into a great site design and truly engaging content. I’ll keep you posted.

By Ariel van Spronsen

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