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Should we kill the website relaunch? Or reimagine it?

Molly Duggan

Molly Duggan

When it comes to things keeping marketers up at night, few inspire the subtle but unmistakable anxiety as the website relaunch.

“Do we have the resources? Do we need someone outside the team that can handle it better?”

“How long will it take?”

“Will our current site function normally, or do we run the risk of implementation without testing?”

These are all valid questions and just the tip of the iceberg in what could be choppy waters ahead if an expansive website ‘relaunch’ is in the making. The truth is, the devil is not so much in the details as it is in trying to handle all of these details in one gigantic swoop as opposed to taking on changes with strategic intent and an agile approach that prioritizes the most pressing business outcomes.

Companies that win at digital marketing don’t bet all of their budgets on the mythical website relaunch project. They work as product teams: align on goals, and then iterate their website weekly with focus.

Zack Rosen, CEO/Founder at Pantheon Tweet

Is relaunching your website an answer to the problem?

If the mountain lies ahead and you’re staring at its peak, it may defeat you because that journey can look too arduous. If you take on the challenge week-by-week and abandon the notion of a 1 to 3-year ‘relaunch’ – in favor of systemic targeted improvements worked on by cross-functional teams addressing specific customer and persona concerns – the relaunch can become a virtuous cycle of testing and iteration that does not have an ending per se, but instead builds a continuous spirit of testing and incremental improvement fostering the creation of an optimal site experience.

Zack Rosen, CEO of Pantheon, says, “Companies that win at digital marketing don’t bet all of their budgets on the mythical website relaunch project. They work as product teams: align on goals, and then iterate their website weekly with focus.” — Pantheon Blog 

Aside from time, website relaunches often attract many people in your organization to come out of the woodwork requesting changes that could benefit their teams without seeing the bigger picture or their place in it. The result? A sprawling spec list forms, and far too many teammates are trying to drive the proverbial bus. Even worse, a waterfall approach to a marketing asset that is critical to your organization’s success all but ensures that some of your work becomes outdated while waiting for other deliverables to be… well, delivered.

Breaking the cycle

Rather than work linearly, you can enable your designers and developers to be active participants in the process of developing and building an overall website strategy. With that, they become active collaborators instead of being relegated to transactional tacticians. 

This approach allows for creativity and agile thinking that can only benefit your organization in the long run, where adjustments are based on actual user feedback and data. Everyone in the organization sees the website as critical to the overall success and provides evergreen ideas.

Let’s work on optimizing our website and not account for market realities or real-time data, and we’ll achieve great things!

— said no marketing team ever Tweet
By the time you get to the long anticipated ‘launch’ of your new site, your current site — already far from up-to-date and presently ill-serving customers — has been static the entire time and probably costing your company business while underwhelming your existing customers.

Born out of agile principles, WebOps encourages teams to use solutions that automate complex tasks such as deployments, backups, and regression tests. With these tasks automated, cross-functional teams have the freedom to create quick iterations and make data-driven decisions that keep the website fresh while driving conversions.

Sarah Fruy, Director of WebOps at Pantheon Tweet

The goal is to launch faster and more often to see what works and doesn’t work, which accelerates improvement. But these changes don’t happen if an organization is married to the monolithic waterfall approach, with each team siloed and waiting on the other to deliver their ‘part.’

We can’t fail with WebOps

The agile, iterative approach to website development is what we call WebOps. It represents the marriage of marketing, design, and development towards the unified goal of seeing the website as a growth driver in constant need of change and innovation. 

It requires specific organizational changes to facilitate the best results. Still, in the end, it can’t be beaten because its purpose is to fuel a fast-paced growth engine of ideas.

Collaboration and cross-functionality between teams is the driving force behind a site operating at peak effectiveness. Without it, you are behind and likely struggling to catch up.

Molly Duggan, CEO at Molly Duggan Associates Tweet

Marketing needs to own the website and view it as an evergreen digital asset tied to specific business outcomes. Those outcomes can be reverse-engineered to drive the prioritization of the work done and the website roadmap overall. Although developers, marketers, and designers are each subject matter experts in their own right, they will need to have ‘T-Shaped’ tangential knowledge of what their collaborators are focused on to work at peak efficiency. 

“Every organization wants its most valuable marketing asset — its website — to operate at peak performance. That’s why effective marketing leaders embrace and nurture a mindset of continuous improvement through WebOps,” says Molly Duggan, CEO of Molly Duggan Associates. “The most successful organizations establish rinse-and-repeat practices and effective governance to monitor changes constantly. Leaders that nurture a culture where team members work together on clearly defined metrics — referred to as the North Star Metric — while continuously tracking the revenue impact of site changes are the clear winners.”

Every organization wants its most valuable marketing asset — its website — to operate at peak performance. That's why effective marketing leaders embrace and nurture a mindset of continuous improvement through WebOps.

Molly Duggan, CEO at Molly Duggan Associates Tweet

A developer will need to understand marketing strategy and design and not just think of their work as the transactional implementation of other people’s ideas. Designers should work with developers to understand the production costs of their concepts, so they can do things like modify the layout by leveraging existing components and go to market faster. Many revisions can be avoided by pulling developers into the concepting phase for a new digital experience. Marketers equipped with the basic fundamentals of the design and development process will be better-suited to see their vision carried through — instead of getting lost in the woods. 

When brought together, these changes can transform your organization into being adaptable and capable of creating targeted website solutions for business problems without the bloat of a website relaunch that could take years to realize — or is DOA before ever seeing the light of day.

Curious about Autopilot or WebOps? Get in touch with us to learn more or just to ask a few questions. Sign-up for a Pantheon account here, it’s free! Get support for your WordPress or Drupal projects and more from Molly Duggan Associates.

This post was co-written with Molly Duggan, Erik Cochran and George Komsky of Molly Duggan Associates, and Sarah Fruy and Elaine Green of Pantheon.

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