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James Royal-Lawson

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The complete website redesign: why you should avoid it

Never do a complete redesign & rewrite of your website in one go.

Many companies are still locked in a 3-5 year redesign cycle – a point is reached when the unhappiness with their website reaches such a level that a total redesign is ordered.


The website redesign cycle

While we’re at it

A “while we’re at it” attitude comes into action.

While we’re at it…

  • we’ll redesign the look of the site…
  • we’ll change the interaction design…
  • we’ll rewrite all the content…
  • we’ll change the navigation and structure…
  • …and what the hell, we’ll change CMS while we’re at it too.

Sounds like a good idea doesn’t it? Well, not really. There are very few situations where I’d advise an organisation to do a complete and utter redesign, rewrite, and rebuild of their website all at the same time.

Much more complex

Not only do all those changes executed at roughly the same time require quite a sizable heap of cash, they also increase the complexity of the project by several orders of magnitude.

The increased complexity often translates into; the overunning of the project in terms of both time and money, poorly researched decisions, difficulty in making sensible decisions.

Furthermore, we’ve got the poor old user. If your repeat visitors make up a significant segment of your visitor base, consider what a complete re-working of your site will do to their world.

Search Engine impact

Finally, the big one. Something regularly under appreciated is just how symbiotic the relationship between your website and the internet really is. Everything you publish is analysed and indexed by the search engines. Other sites link to your content – perhaps many of them deep link to content beyond your index page.

Digital fingerprint

This presence, your old website, is a digital fingerprint. Google webmaster tools (and similar services) can give you an idea of what that fingerprint looks like.

What Google (and other search engines) think about your site is made up from all the words you use across all the pages on your site, its URLs – as well as; page titles, internal links, incoming links, the anchor text of all those links, and numerous other signals.

If you rewrite all of your content, change all your URLs, and redesign all your pages – all at the same time – how do you think that impacts on your fingerprint?

Minor surgery

So if a complete redesign – a full monty – is out of the question – what should you do?

Minor surgery, rather than heart surgery. Tweak. Constantly evolve. Change a few pieces at a time. Measure and test how well those pieces work. Adjust them, rewrite them, tweak them. Measure again.

Support network

If you for whatever reason can’t avoid the big bang, or you come onboard too late to steer the ship clear of the iceberg – then make sure you’ve got the right support network. The complete website redesign is the biggest challenge web management can throw at you.


is a freelance web manager and strategist based in Stockholm Sweden.

Sweden Social Web Camp ticket giveaway

When it became clear that I wouldn’t after all be able to make it to SSWC, I had to decide what to do with my ticket. What easier way to deal with it then to give it away?

No easy decision!

It wasn’t so easy at all. Not because nobody wanted it, quite the opposite – there were a whole load of people to choose from – but because choosing which one individual would get the ticket was a much tougher thing than i’d ever considered.

I’d set out my terms and conditions for the giveaway on Google+. In short I wanted to give the ticket to someone who hadn’t been in the “web” industry for years and would learn from the experience – to give someone a little lift and perhaps help them over the garden wall.

Karmapriya

After quite a bit of thought – and a number of changes of mind – I decided the ticket should go to Jessica Muschött, @Karmapriya. Jessica has been involved in the branch previously, but has spent recent years doing voluntary work in India. She’s looking at making a comeback in this exciting world of digital communiction. So, She’s going to be off to Sweden Social Web Camp 2011 as part of that climb back over the garden wall.

Thanks to everyone who nominated someone, or nominated themselves. Everyone had a good case, and I wish I could send you all. Maybe next year!

12 Articles worth reading… (Spotted: Week 22-27, 2011)

For your reading pleasure this time, a collection of links (with summaries) including articles related to: web management, SEO, intranet, UX.


Web management

The web is critical. The web team is not

‎”According to a McKinsey report, From 2004 to 2009, the Internet’s contribution to GDP in mature countries averaged about 20%.” – just think how much it could be if more organisations made good, well managed use of it!

Greenpeace R2D2 QR Code

I’ve read a fair few good things have been said about aspects of Greenpeace’s “Volkswagen” campaign – but they haven’t done a good job of using QR Codes. Yes, it looks good on R2D2’s side, but (amongst other problems) the code leads to a non-mobile version of the site…

Härmed anmäler jag Riksdagen för brott mot lagen | Emanuels randanmärkningar

The new “cookie law” came into force on July 1st here in Sweden, basically making pre-approval of cookies a requirement for a website (with some fuzzy not clearly defined exceptions). Have you adjusted all your (Swedish) sites? A draft recommendation of what to do to comply is available from IAB Sweden.

The Web Is Not A Farm! It’s Time To Tear Down The Silos

All hail the generalist! Conferences covering every “Silo” seem to be talking about how the Silos that exist in web [well, business…] have to be broken down. Unfortunately a lot of time, it is the Silo topic of the conference that paints itself as “right” and it’s all the other Silos need to be broken down. Thankfully, Kristina Mausser writes some sense. All hail T-shaped people and generalists!

A Comprehensive Website Planning Guide

Some nice parts in this Guide from Smashing Magazine. Unfortunately, it’s missing some really important aspects. What about migration? Most companies aren’t start-ups with no existing digital presence. What about SEO? Keyword research? Taking care of redirects? And then a big miss – usability testing?

Five years from now, there’ll be no such thing as a webpage

Well, no – but kind of. Yes, social (networks, content & search) will continue to make huge changes to how we consume (create and share) content – but the hub of the internet will still be pages.

UX, IA & Testing

“Come as you are” – Part 1: The Reckless years

A series of blog posts sharing stories and experiences from 13 years of working with Information Architecture. Martin is currently the lead IA and UX architect for The Guardian.

Changing the Guardian through guerilla usability testing

Examples of Guerrilla usability testing from the lead UX/IA at The Guardian newspaper in the UK. Although it’s a compliment to “proper” testing, there’s really no excuse for doing no testing at all when it’s so simple, quick (and low cost) to just get out there and collect some data!

SEO

Getting “Pure” Search Results

Some tips about how to get “clean” non-personalised search results. Useful for research. I particularly like Scroogle – allows you to search Google as a “Google virgin”.

Why Google SERP CTR studies are a waste of time

We all know how “ranking number 1 in Google” is a silly phrase these days. This article does a good job of looking at patterns in click through ratios of SERPs and analysing the behaviour. You even get a reminder of some good housekeeping tips for improving your snippet.

Intranet & Collaboration

Does your intranet make a difference for your customers?

Nice reminder from Jane that the intranet should be helping you help your customers. In particular I like the example at the end of the post where she quotes a large bank that broke their workforce down into 3 groups: front line, back office, and analytical. All of which have very different expectations and needs from the intranet – and require different strategies (and tactics)

The multiplier effect

A blog post on the Economist Blog about social collaboration platforms as a talent-centred ecosystem for organisations. They talk of “T-shaped brokers” with deep specialist knowledge (the vertical bar) and a desire to collaborate (the horizontal bar). I’ve dubbed a variation of such people as “super-creators” previously.

QR codes: how not to use them in your campaign

During the summer months, Sveriges Radio, the public service broadcaster here in Sweden, broadcasts a series of programmes featuring talks by guest presenters. Sommar i P1, or “Sommarpratare” (“Summer talkers”).

On my metro train this morning, there was an advert for the radio series. What caught my attention was that it featured a QR code.

SR advert on the Stockholm metro featuring a QR Code

Armed and ready to scan

Naturally, this meant just one thing. I had to take out my phone and try to scan it. Being who I am, I know exactly what one of these funny little square codes is – I also have a barcode scanner installed on my mobile and my tablet. I’m armed and ready to go.

I was sat on the train (which is pretty normal for my journey) and the advert was about 1.5m to my right, on the inside of the window.

On the Metro here in Stockholm, the seats are grouped in clusters of four. This meant I had three other people sat around me. Standing up and getting a closer shot of the code wasn’t going to happen – if I was going to scan this code, I needed to do it from my seat.

So, out came my phone and I pointed it discretely (as discretely as you can on a morning train into the city) at the QR code and waited for the app to focus and get a lock. Nope. Nothing. It was just too small to scan from this distance.

Linking to a non-mobile site?

Not wanting to give up, I entered the URL included on the advert. It was good that they’d included a link (as well as the QR Code) – at least this meant I wasn’t totally dependent on the code – presuming that the code contained the same link!

I entered the link into my mobile’s browser and erk! Everything ground to a halt, my smartphone pretty much locked up. I hadn’t been automatically redirected to the mobile version of the page, instead I ended up at the full standard version of the site – complete with built in radio player – was loading and trying to come to life. Not the mobile experience I was hoping for.

When I got to the office, I brought up the picture of the code (that i’d uploaded to Flickr during my journey) and managed to scan it off the screen. It decoded to the same URL as on the poster.

This isn’t helpful.

Think mobile

You always scan these codes from your mobile. It’s an advert on a train, there’s not really any other option! Any content they contain has to be useful, accessible, and relevant for a mobile user.

The saddest part of this story is that SR do have a mobile version of their website – including a programme page for the summer programme.

Offline meets online

It’s crucial that you consider exactly how people will consume your advertising. If you are going to join the offline and online worlds together – which you should – then QR codes is a good tool, but if you don’t think mobile, you might as well not bother.


James Royal-Lawson+ is a freelance web manager and strategist based in Stockholm Sweden.

Twitter users in Sweden: demographics

Intellecta Corporate have presented some additional findings based on new analysis of their data collected from Twitter during December 2010. In the previous presentation they came to the conclusion that there were 35993 active Twitter users in Sweden.

The new analysis focused on segmentation of the active twitter accounts. How many were companies? how many were people? how many were women? what professional is most common?

Location

They analysed the location given for each account. Unfortunately the majority of of the 91316 Swedish Twitter accounts didn’t give any location, or any useful/specific location. So even though there were 11000 Accounts that listed Stockholm as their location, it’s impossible to say anything more than at least 11000 Twitter users are in Stockholm.

Age

There’s no direct way of establishing the age of Twitter users, but Hampus analysed the names given – which can give you an indication of the generation of those tweeting. Many of the most common names are names that you would generally associate with people born in the 1970s. (that is a personal guess by me, without any checking of official name data.)

Gender

Next up was one of the more interesting statistics – the gender of Twitter users. Of those accounts that could be determined to be human, and that had a name where it was possible to determine the gender – 33284 accounts had a male name, and 26119 had a female name. this equates to a 56/44% male female split.

Amongst active users (those who have tweeted at least once a day during a 30 day period) the split tilts even more towards men. 61/39%. Active Swedish men on twitter made more updates, followed more people, and were followed by more than their female counterparts.

Occupation

A list of the most common occupation related words used in bios was also presented. I don’t think this can be taken too seriously, due to the way in which the bio field is used by people. Some people use it to describe themselves, others to describe why they are on Twitter (what they are interested in).

Some people have professions where there is a universally accepted term to describe that profession. Others perhaps work with something that has a large variation of titles. Never the less, journalist was the most common occupational word. Followed by student and manager. One thing I found interesting was that the list contained 6 English words, 3 words/phrases that are the same in Swedish and English, and just 3 that were exclusively Swedish.

Who Tweets?

Last up was – who is it that Tweets? 85% of the accounts analysed were people, 11% were companies, organisations and public authorities. Twitter in Sweden, unsurprisingly perhaps, is a very human thing.

The presentation can be found on Slideshare (in Swedish) and the video of the presentation (also in Swedish) can be found on Bambuser.


is a freelance web manager and strategist based in Stockholm Sweden.

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