Website Redesign Process: Approval

We’ve just launched a new website for Mach-1 Financial Group. The experience reminded me of the issue of approval in redesigning a website.

We’re getting to launch our own redesign, and it’s just a matter of getting the work done. For a regulated industry like financial planning, though, it’s essential to get approval from compliance officers to be sure that the website is not breaking any SEC rules.

For other clients, we sometimes have to have content vetted by lawyers, or run things past a board or larger institution committee before launching, posting, or tweeting.

Here are some points to consider if you need approval for your new website:

  • Less is more. If you’re a politician or in a regulated industry, you probably need all the approval you can get. If you’re just nervous, avoid having too many people on the “must approve” list — it’s very easy to end up with design by committee. Requiring approval from everyone can also delay launch severely. Identify the people who really have to approve the site before launch and limit the list to the essentials.
  • Keep a paper trail. If you truly need approval, make sure that you have that approval in writing,with dates. “We took legal advice on the use of the speaker’s name and received approval from the Legal Department on the 25th” sounds way better than, “That’s how we usually do it and nobody objected.”
  • Distinguish between input and approval. Like many organizations, we at Haden Interactive respect the talent of our team, appreciate different perspectives, and value plenty of opinions. We believe in taking the time to get input from stakeholders, and we’re up for brainstorming. Trying to get consensus on everything, however,  leads to compromise, which can lead to a poorer quality product. Have a decision-maker who is responsible for final approval.
  • Be prepared to measure. If someone is concerned that a design decision will slow load time, use a load-speed tracker and find out. If someone worries that a change will reduce conversion, set up goals in your web analytics and monitor it for the first week or two post launch. The less your decisions have to depend on people’s feelings, the more efficient the process will be.
  • Get specific. We worked on a site for a hospital that involved interviewing and writing about 81 surgeons. Each surgeon approved his page; having each one approve all 81 could have delayed the project significantly.  There’s often a point early in the process when someone says, “We can just pass it around when it’s finished and make sure everyone is happy” without thinking about what’s involved in coordinating that many schedules.

Speaking of happiness, The Happy Manifesto: Make Your Organization a Great Workplace by Henry Stewart has an interesting discussion of the value of pre-approval, specifically looking at the example of a company website. We wouldn’t encourage a site owner to wait until after launch to approve a site design (and that’s not what Stewart is advocating), but signing off on the design at the appropriate time and identifying one best person to sign off when the completed  website is ready for final approval makes sense.

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