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Websites Are Like Gardens — You're Never Done
I’ve learned to plan for site redesigns and rebranding to take at least two quarters to see through, but for good measure, I tell people to expect three. Many of my clients and students give me an incredulous look when I tell them that; “how could it possibly take that long?” is what the look conveys.
I haven’t been keeping count of all the website redesigns I’ve been a witness or advisor to, but 200 or so is probably a low count between all of my friends, clients, and students. It’s rare for people to say “it went faster than I thought it would” unless they’re talking about just the visual aspect of their designs. The visual part, I’ve learned, isn’t the part that takes forever. It’s the content. It’s always the content. (A few hundred web developers and designers just gave me a collective “Thank you!” for saying it.)
The part of the website redesign process that so many people underestimate is updating all of the content, such as:
getting snippets of content where they need to be
creating or editing pages that are revealed when you change website flow-throughs
optimizing cornerstone pages
creating new graphics (with new content)
creating new autoresponders
fixing things that you didn’t realize were broken until you looked at them with fresh eyes
Granted, you don’t have to do all of those things, but not doing them would be much like moving into a new house and trying to keep everything exactly as it was in your old house. It might work, but it’s likely going to raise the question of why you moved in the first place. Even giving your site the equivalent of a new paint job requires moving some “furniture” around to do it -- and if you’ve ever pulled your refrigerator or stove out, you know how you just can’t unsee some things and push them back into place.
I’m bringing this up now because we’re approaching the end of our recent major redesign, which we accidentally kicked off in November with the move to the Rainmaker platform. It was an accidental kickoff because I didn’t realize until we were already in transition that our old design wasn’t going to work and we’d be starting from the ground up. And though we technically unveiled our new home page at the end of March, it’s taken us until now to get the website in a place where we can call it done, as far as websites go.
Websites are like gardens -- they’re always growing and needing to be tended. (Tweet this)
The garden analogy bears even more fruit because it accounts for the fact that website redesigns get harder as your website and experience mature. When you’re just starting out, you have six really hard pages to create. In our case, we have over a thousand posts, pages, podcast episodes, and so on to replant or tend. If you count downloads, well, it gets out of hand pretty quickly.
You’re never done with a garden. At best, you’re done with gardening for now. And that’s where we find ourselves: happily done(ish) with major gardening, for now.
I’m sharing this in case you find yourself in the midst of a website design, whether that’s actually getting your website up, redesigning it so that it better reflects your vision or what you do, or just being stuck in the middle of a web project that seems to be like quicksand. The process always takes longer than anticipated, and it’s not just you.
The upshot is that it is creative work and you are creating something -- it’s not just a distraction. The fact that you’re never going to be done working on it can be a gift and a curse. Which will you make it be?