Planning a Website Redesign

Designing, building, and launching a successful professional services website is an enormous investment of time and money for any firm. But with more and more potential clients using websites and social media to “try before they buy,” it’s an investment those of us relying on outdated sites and strategies can’t afford to put off if we want to stay competitive in today’s marketplace.

Today, we’ll be talking with Josh Miles, principal of branding, design, and marketing agency MilesHerndon, about what marketers need to do, know, and discuss before approaching a website redesign for your firm.

That website is going to be the number one validation tool that your firm has. So I think spending the time to get the strategy, and the positioning, and the story right is essential.

CQ: “Recent reports show that 100% of Communiqueso hosts are currently undergoing a website redesign in their dayjob. And we’re not alone. It seems everyone we talk to these days is working on a new website, or planning to in the near future. What do you think is driving this trend?

JM: I think there’s a lot of things driving the website redesign trend right now, not the least of which are responsive design and the extreme push for mobile content. Google had this whole idea last year called the Mobilegeddon, so if your site didn’t have mobile-friendly content you started getting ranked lower. I think that’s had some impact.

CQ: What are some things you would suggest marketers do, and have prepared, before reaching out to a consultant for web design?

JM: In the AEC world, we understand that building a building or structure is more than just the design time that it takes to design that space. That once you have a building, there are the things that go into it also, like furniture, and artwork, and staff to support the space, and technology requirements.  I think building a website is very similar to that.

I think an internal marketing team should consider:

  • How are we going to use this site in the future?
  • What’s our current level of quality on content?
  • How much copy do we have that needs rewritten?
  • What stories do we need that we’ve never published online?
  • What does our photo library look like?
  • How old and boring do our head shots look? Do they well-reflect the culture of the firm?
  • Are there other types of content you want to have on the site, like video?
  • Are you actually ready to take this on?

I think it’s important to wrap your head around the fact that this is more than just a website build, this is an ongoing piece of your marketing.

CQ:  How important do you think the upfront strategy and discovery phase is to the process?

JM: We are first and foremost a branding agency, so things like positioning and how you tell your story, and how you want to talk about your firm are some of the most interesting things to us. I think the website is really how your brand is most simply expressed in the world. That website is going to be the number one validation tool that your firm has. After they get the referral, after they decide to put you on the shortlist, the website is the place they’re most likely to go back to over and over again to see if you’re the right fit for them. So I think spending the time to get the strategy, and the positioning, and the story right is essential. Some of our favorite ways to do that is to do some internal interviews with the firm, and then talk to some of their best clients. To plan for that to be a six week project is pretty healthy.

CQ: What is the shelf life of a website and how long can we set expectations with our leadership for their investment to last?

JM: I’ve seen most sites in the AEC industry last anywhere between 3-5 year on the high side, and I’ve seen redesigns taking place as soon as two years after a site went live. In our experience, we’ve done sites really quickly before, and our land speed record for a new website is about ten weeks. Typical is somewhere between six months and twelve months. The only way a site can happen that fast is if everyone on both sides of the table are completely committed to that date, and you’ve got your content in line before you start. Because 101 out of 100 sites are going to be late due to content reasons.

CQ: How do you recommend a marketer find the right consultant match for their firm?

JM: I have found that almost all of our clients and prospects like to buy in the way that they sell. AEC is so used to doing big proposals to win projects, that when they want to hire someone to do something, they do the same thing. I would like to propose that this is a horrible way to do business. What I would recommend is that you go hire someone that you like and trust. If you don’t have someone that you like and trust, go have some conversations. Talk to them about their past successes. Talk to them about their favorite sites and what they would have done differently, how they could have done it faster, or what they would improve. What are the things on their favorite site from last year that they would do differently now? I think you’ll get far more insights doing this than from reading about company history, resumes, and similar projects. I think getting out there and having conversations is a way better use of your time and it’s going to be a healthier idea of who you want to work with in the future.

Having an idea of what you want to get out of the project, and the scope of the project, your goals for the site, and a budget range will help consultants respond more accurately with proposed ideas to match your expectations.

CQ: What are some red flags that marketers should be looking out for during the initial selection process?

JM: Things that you’re going to want to watch out for are:

  • The extent that a consultant is relying on templates or canned projects. Is this going to end up looking like every project they’ve ever done before, or do they start from a blank slate and build something completely fresh?
  • Be a little bit concerned if a consultant is recommending a proprietary system. It could be anybody’s system, but I would highly recommend that it’s not the consultant’s system. It’s really tough to be a marketing consultant company AND a website software company all at the same time.

CQ: CQ: As a consultant, what are some red flags that you look for when deciding whether or not to take a project?

JM: Ultimately, we want to deliver holistic solutions for a company. I don’t want to come in for three months and be gone. I want to come in for the long haul. We are branding focused and we want to help from a branding and positioning standpoint even if that’s not the first step we take. So maybe the emergency in your firm is a new website. Great, let’s knock that out first. But then what else can we do longterm? What does six months from now, twelve months from now look like? So a red flag for me is the word JUST. “We just need you to put together our ideas.” “We just need you to execute the thing that we’ve already solved.” That may sound like a worthwhile project, but maybe you just need people with hands and feet that are willing to knock it out. We want to bring our heads and hearts and point of view to the project, and not just…not JUST.

CQ: What are some current marketing and design trends that marketers should be aware of when planning a new website in 2016?

JM: One of things that we’re seeing that we think will be an even bigger trend in the future is whether or not your site is optimized from a page load standpoint. Meaning, when I open your site in my browser, how long does it take to load? Google has already told us this is something they’re adding to their algorithm, and it’s going to be an increasingly silent, but important, part of your website and how it ranks in the future.

From more of an aesthetic trends point of view, we see less of a need to worry about content “being above the fold.” When people land on your website, they are used to their thumb doing lots of work. It’s okay if a little of the story happens below the fold, or way below the fold. People are willing to scroll, but they will not scroll on a bad site. And they will not keep looking at the content if the content is not very good. So I’d be much more worried about the content and less worried about the scrolling.


Want to hear more from Josh? Listen to the full podcast to hear more from Josh about his opinion on budget expectations and what he would love to see from prospective clients when responding as a website consultant.

Music by SONGO 21 – Studio sessions 2003 by SONGO 21 is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes to get your weekly dose of hot, delicious Communiqueso delivered right to your phone.

Links and Resources:


Josh Miles

Josh Miles is a caffeine and Twitter addict, and principal of Indianapolis-based national branding agency, MilesHerndon. His role consists of leading brand strategy, business development, and firm-wide marketing.

Josh speaks from coast to coast on branding, digital marketing, and social media, and is a past TedX presenter. He was honored as 40 Under 40 by Indianapolis Business Journal and ENR Midwest’s 2015 Top 20 Under 40, and is the author of the Content Marketing Institute book, Bold Brand.

Josh is an advisory board member of the Purdue University Brian Lamb School of Communication, and is involved in several start-up tech companies based in Indianapolis.

Have questions or want to chat more with Josh? Post your comments below or connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Join us Thursday on the podcast when we’re back with Josh to talk more about his story, protecting firm culture, and how his obsession with design continues to drive and shape his career.

“It’s so easy when you have two agencies in the same room that you suddenly have West Side Story in the conference room. It was not like that.”

Music by SONGO 21 – Studio sessions 2003 by SONGO 21 is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.


Next week, we’ll welcome Stacey Ho, CPSM, senior marketer with Brown and Caldwell to talk with us about the benefits, challenges and rewards of a functional customer relationship management (CRM) system.

Tagged with: