How to Launch a New or Newly Redesigned Website
Updated: Dec. 31, 2019 | Categories: Website
Your website no longer meets your chapter’s needs. You’ve heard it countless times from the board and your members, and maybe even prospects and sponsors:
- You can’t take online payments
- It’s hard to find the membership benefits
- Those interested in joining must print out a membership form and mail it in
- There’s no listing of sponsorship information
- The design is outdated
The list goes on.
Knowing this, you’re getting ready to overhaul the site. You have a plan, the commitee is ready to go, as are those who will develop content for the new pages and sections.
Before you start, take one last look at your plan. (If it’s not written down, start there). Does your plan include the following steps? Without them, the new site may not serve you or your audiences any better than your old one.
Timing is as important as you think. But not the way you might think. Yes, setting a go-live date is important. But for the most part, the date itself isn’t critical.
Many organizations, for example, pick January 1. But does that date make the most sense for the chapter? If many of those involved in the site review will unavailable over the holiday break, is January 1 feasible? Or maybe you’re thinking September 15, but that happens to be a month before your big conference and around the time that a new bill affecting your industry is being voted on. Will those you need have the time and energy to get it done? And will those you want to see it be available around that time or will they be focused on something else?
Launch it internally first. Release the site first to your members. This will help build engagement and loyalty, by making them feel you’ve captured their needs and given them an opportunity to weigh in. Otherwise, you could get resistance after it goes live, and pushback from those who were happy with the site as it was. To eliminate some of that pushback, consider communicating internally in advance of the launch, to explain the changes, the reasons for making them, and the benefits they provide, to them and the whole chapter.
If your existing site has members-only areas, let members know in advance about any stored information that will, and won’t, transfer. Include steps they’ll need to take once the new site is live, such as updating their username and password.
Make a formal external announcement. A new website is wonderful, but not if your audience doesn’t know about it. Contact your sponsors and those guests who’ve attended events but haven’t joined. Discuss the benefits of the new site to them and point out areas they’ll want to visit. Include the links in the communication, to save them time searching for them.
Brand it to your other assets, online and print. Did you change your logo? Your colors? Your mission and vision or how you refer to new members? Include time in your schedule to update any other relevant collateral as well, to keep everything uniform and branded. This includes updating any social media profiles with new language and any graphics, as well as:
- Email signatures
Before you go live, build momentum around the launch, internally and externally. Don’t wait till the site goes live to announce it. Let your audiences know what’s coming and get them involved early, to build excitement and engagement. Give them something to share – like a tweet or blog post that they can post on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.
There’s no reason to do all the work yourself. Get those who will be using the site to share the changes – before, during, and after – as well. Encourage your sponsors to write blogs that discuss how they benefit from your website and how that will continue with the new site. And ask your members to share the news in any online networking and discussion groups they’re part of.
You believe your new site will be exactly what’s needed. But that greatness won’t matter to those who matter if no one knows about it, or if they know but aren’t happy with what they see. Incorporating these ideas can help keep your audiences engaged and excited about the launch and make your move to a new website go just as you hoped, or better.