7 Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Redesigning Your Agency’s Website

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
– George Santayana
A friend of mine recently joined a new agency, and one of his first tasks was to reboot the agency’s website. He asked me if I could think of any common pitfalls that agencies run into when undertaking this task, and boy howdy did that trigger some memories!  So below I summarize for you the same feedback I gave my friend, all hard-won lessons from difficult, painful website development processes. Don’t repeat these mistakes!
1. Keep the committee at bay.
Design by committee has negative connotations in the business world for good reason, don’t let your website fall prey to this dynamic. Instead, a website czar should be appointed and charged with the responsibility of (and culpability for) making decisions when the team can’t arrive at a consensus. A committee can rehash any lingering debates after the site is launched, just don’t allow them to slow down the production and launch process.
2. Lorem ipsum and FPO photos are time bombs, don’t use them.
Don’t put placeholder content in mockups and think you’ll fill it all in later after the site is designed and mostly working. You’ll regret the limitations you’re stuck with by that point. Flesh out all of the pages and their contents in wireframes before anyone ever touches code. This will allow the front end developer to setup adequate styles and structures to support the variations in page content you’ll need at launch.
3. Portfolio sections naturally become time sinks, manage them accordingly.
Getting the right presentation style and content working seamlessly together can be tough, especially when multiple people within the company are pulling in different directions, trying to highlight different capabilities. Avoid a stressful run up to the launch deadline by keeping the portfolio small at first. Plan to add more content after launch, which will also force you to choose a more flexible presentation method. And that is definitely a good thing.
4. Look at the design on lots of different screens.
You’ll see why content must be reflowed for different screen dimensions. Your designer should prepare layout variations for desktop, tablet and mobile as part of the wire framing process, helping you to define how the content should reflow.
5. Try to avoid thinking of content as being above or below “the fold”.
This concept is borrowed from newspapers, and it’s really only fit for newspapers. Screen sizes vary, so the content will have to adjust to fit.
6. Focus on calls to action towards the top of every page if possible.
Visitors to an agency site are looking for agencies, so make it easy for them to give you their contact information and get something they want (white papers, ebooks or other give-aways).
7. Web design is ultimately fashion, it should be treated as such.
Fashionable people know that you don’t have to buy a new wardrobe every season, you just need good basics and accessories that can stay on trend. Those fancy parallax designs are all the rage this year, but next year it’ll be something different. Focus on content  and calls to action first, those are your basics. Then dress up that content with whatever aesthetics you like for now, but keep in mind that you’ll want those to change as soon as what was fashionable is now passé.
<cue the wrap it up music>
Designing a website isn’t rocket science, but it can be a source of unnecessary stress and division within your agency if not conducted carefully. Hopefully these cautionary notes will help you avoid the mistakes I and many other developers have seen repeated throughout our careers, good luck!
Do you have advice to share about redesigning your agency website? Please chime in below! And if you’d like some help with your web reboot, let us know!

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