How to project manage for a website redesign?
August 21, 2008 6:37 PM   Subscribe

I work for a performing arts ensemble/non-profit. We need to start a full redesign of our website (with a huge emphasis on multimedia). I will be project manager, but I haven't gone through a website redesign project like this before. This makes me a bit unsure about how to proceed. Lots of associated questions inside...

So far, I've begun looking at other companies for benchmarking (mostly bands and arts organizations) and taking notes about companies that designed sites I liked. I've also made a wishlist of features/functionality. My colleague and I have approached several peer organizations to ask about who designed/manages their websites. I've just purchased the book Web ReDesign 2.0: Workflow That Works, with hopes that it will explain the planning/managing process.

My questions:

Any recommendations (books, websites, etc) for ways I can prepare to manage this project?

How do I plan a timeline for this, since I don't have a good sense of the milestones or completion time needed for tasks? Or will the company we hire do this?

What questions should I be asking when talking to companies and designers and deciding if I should get bids from them?

How do I go about soliciting bids? We're a company with a reputation that is much bigger than our budget. I don't want to waste time or mislead companies we cannot afford.

Our previous designer had bad communication / follow-through skills, despite good design ideas. What to watch out for / ask in order to avoid this next time?

Suggestions for a CMS that handles multimedia well, and is flexible? Or will the company we hire worry about this type of thing?

And finally, any recommendations for companies I should check out?

Misc relevant info:

My background is in communications/marketing. I'm fairly tech-savy, so I'm not too concerned about my ability to understand things during this process. Management strongly wants to work with someone in San Francisco / Bay Area.

Most of the recommendations I've been getting from peers are of the "my neighbor Joe makes websites on the side" variety. We want to avoid that type of thing, and I was hoping for "here's an established company who does this full time."
posted by soleiluna to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
This group is located out on the West Coast. They did pretty good work for me with an educational site analysis and re-design.... SiteTuners. They come with a pretty good portfolio of satisfied clients. It would probably be worth your while to at least hit them up with a call outlining what you want to accomplish and how much it will cost.
posted by bkeene12 at 7:04 PM on August 21, 2008

I'm afraid I don't have any god answers to the actual questions, but I do note some questions you are not asking (I hope because you have already asked/answered) and that is-- what do your clients, users, customers, and donors need? How do you find out? Which set of users are you aiming the new website at? Why? Are you just looking for a cool website, or do you have an actual business reason for the redesign? What is the reason-- promotion, profile, attracting clients, attracting donors, some combination of that? Your website will fall flat if it is aimed at the wrong audience, or if it is aimed at the right audience, but in a way that they aren't comfortable using.

Just an aside-- if your neighbor Joe has some good websites, don't discount him. His budget may also not be an indication of his quality either. If he checks out, vet him like you would anyone else. My current place of employment has a perfectly useless website done by a company that specializes in this stuff. My prior employer hired my bro-in-law freelance and under the table and the site is brilliant.
posted by nax at 7:11 PM on August 21, 2008

I don't have any good answers either. I'm afraid god had nothing to do with it. (Damn, I want an edit option)
posted by nax at 7:11 PM on August 21, 2008

Best answer: Any company you speak with should be fairly used to walking people though their process: what to expect, when to expect it, how much it should cost. You'll want to know whether they charge a fixed rate or hourly.

Timeline: ask the design co. to help you develop this once you've laid out your basic needs for the site. Then add 3 months. (People who work with you (and probably you yourself) will inundate you with minor changes and tweaks to the design once you've gotten a first draft (repeat for all revisions thereafter). You will help everyone out immensely by being the sole point of contact with the designer, but chances are the little changes will add up to a lot of extra time. )

Questions to ask: I think it's best to go with a company who comes recommended from either another organization or friends. You should look at portfolios and also ask the designer about the breakdown of work for the sites in their portfolio: how long the project took, what they did in the backend for content management, etc.

Also be sure to ask if they have any tips for ensuring a smoothly run project. You didn't go in to specifics, but if you guys want to be able to upload your own content once the design is done, that's going to require a fairly easy to navigate back end CMS unless you have some very web savvy people on staff. You should definitely look for a company with experience in that, and ask for demonstrations of the CMS options they suggest.

CMS: definitely ask the company about the options. You may need something custom built for you depending on your needs. If you can pin those down, I'd suggest reading through previous AskMe's and posting a separate question on the CMS front if none of them are close enough to what you're looking for.
posted by nerdcore at 11:21 PM on August 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

"How do I go about soliciting bids? We're a company with a reputation that is much bigger than our budget. I don't want to waste time or mislead companies we cannot afford."

Then please just be up-front about your budget and ask companies to consider what they can deliver to meet your objectives within that budget. You can then directly compare what's on offer.
The whole coy thing where people pretend they don't have a budget in mind or that it's a trade secret is silly and just makes quoting for work more about guessing the budget than focussing on the project.
posted by malevolent at 11:56 PM on August 21, 2008

My design and development collective have a web design process document on our site that you might find useful.
posted by tingting at 6:17 AM on August 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

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