February 7, 2013, 11:06 AM

Site redesigns go better in steps

An IRWD speaker shares tips on planning and arranging contracts for a successful project.

Lead Photo

Darren Mauro, director, product management, online experience at CustomInk LLC

In order to get the most out of a web site redesign projects, retailers should plan to do it in iterations rather than all at once, says Darren Mauro, director, product management, online experience at custom T-shirt seller CustomInk LLC.

And when they work with outside design firms, they should structure their contracts to incorporate those steps and provide opportunities to make changes based on what they learn in the process, he says.

Mauro will be sharing his advice on how to plan for a successful web site redesign together with Dean Harvey, president of online baseball cards store Dean’s Cards, during a Feb. 13 session at the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference entitled, “Negotiating tests and trials: How to test redesign progress and change developers if things aren’t working out.” Mauro will give perspective on the process based on his experience working with large redesign teams at CustomInk, National Public Radio and a boutique design firm, he says. Harvey will offer tips for smaller businesses.

Proceeding in stages is important in a redesign because retailers always learn things along the way, and being able to adapt to that new knowledge makes for a better outcome, Mauro says. “Even the best team doesn’t have all the answers up front,” he says. One way to break up a project into useful chunks is to look for places to incorporate various types of testing at set points, he says, for example launching a new feature to just 10% of site visitors first and getting feedback before making it live to everyone. By piloting many small changes separately, retailers will validate each element’s effectiveness.

“There’s often a mentality that a web site redesign has to be a big bang launch,” he says. “But in a lot of ways, that puts more risk on a project than needed.”

When retailers use a stepwise strategy for redesigns, they should mirror that in their contracts with the design and development firms they hire, Mauro says. That way, they’ll have incorporated decision points throughout project to reevaluate how it’s working and ensure they haven’t overcommitted to a vendor when something is askew.

For example, at a previous job Mauro once structured a redesign in two major phases with separate contracts, he says. The first was a design phase and the second was for building and implementation. In the course of the design phase, his business decided it wanted something slightly different. So, for stage two it used a different approach to the redesign, which required it to switch vendors, he says.

Internet Retailer’s editors asked Mauro to speak because of his long and successful track record in web site redesigns both at CustomInk and in his previous roles at NPR Digital Media and at Boston-based interactive agency BigBad.

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