Webinar: Planning for 2017- Website Redesign Tips & Tricks Transcript

With 2017 around the corner, many companies are now beginning to plan their website redesign project. Let 2017 be the year you redefine your company online and how you manage your web presence - begin by joining us for our last webinar of 2016 where we will focus on topics relevant to your next website redesign & redevelopment project.

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Pete: Thank you everybody for joining us today. What a topic we have to talk about today. With a bunch of content to go through, we only have an hour, and we started a couple minutes late. Let's just get right to it. We're going to go through, slide by slide, all this interesting information that we have put together. I have a co-host with me, Sebastien.

Sebastien: Hey.

Pete: At the end, we're going to have a little Q&A. Thanks for everybody that took time out of a busy holiday week to do this. Maybe not the best week to do this, actually, but we're doing it anyway because this is what we love to do. Let's just get started.

What are we going to talk about today? We're going to be talking about introductions, going through who we are. We're going to talk about who you are and why you're here. Talk about the phases of a website redesign, which includes planning, technology, planning design, then technology and development. We're going to talk about the budgeting and economics of redesign projects. Talk about some predictions that we have and then open it up to a little Q&A. If, at any point, you have a question, in the interface on the right, the GoToWebinar control panel, you can put in a question and it comes right to us.

Introductions: going to start with myself. My name is Pete, CEO, co-founder of the New Possibilities Group. We've been in business since 2001. Our specialty is highly customized design and development of web applications and custom content management systems. That is my email, if you want to reach out to me with any questions. Sebastien, go ahead and introduce yourself.

Sebastien: Hey, I'm Sebastien, the art director here. I've been working here for about eight years, doing this, as I love. As you can see, my email's there to contact me directly. I manage and maintain any products going out, in terms of the website, from the user experience perspective.

Pete: Cool, thank you, Sebastien. Talk a little bit about our experience. Like I said, in business since 2001. We started with small and medium businesses. We still work in that space. We had some larger customers as well. Some of these you might have heard of. Some of the newer ones we're working with, we're really excited about, the United Jewish Alliance in New York City. We just did a project for Verizon. International Data Group, we redesigned and put their website up this year. Lot of great stuff's been going on here that we're really proud of.

Who are you and why are you here? Well, hopefully, you're here because you're planning your website in 2017. We're going to talk about design, technology, and obviously, the phases that go into such a project. We're going to talk about common reasons why people redesign, which are these. You know, typically, the design's out of date; you might be out of style. Maybe your content is massively disorganized on the front end, maybe on the back end too. Your CMS might become vulnerable or difficult to use. You might be attracted to some of the newer technology that's out there. Then there's always the people who are, "Hey, it's been two years, it's just time to go ahead and redesign." These are common reasons. They're not all great reasons, but you know, there are reasons that people come and approach an agency such as.

Our goal for you in 2017 is to make this your last full-scale redesign. Your last one. We're going to talk to you about how that's going to be possible with a mixture of new techniques and new technology. Just to go through how these projects work, we're going to begin always with a planning, architecture, and discovery phase. Sitting down, understanding what a project is. What are the goals and objectives? We're going to talk about that in a little bit. From there, projects go through a design phase, user experience, user interface. From there to development, where we actually build out how these websites work. Finally to deployment, which is where we push it live and everybody has a drink and takes it easy for a day.

Basically, starting with planning, preparation, the most important phase of the project is the discovery. It's getting a sense of why you're doing this and what particular features you're going to want. What's the scale of the project? It should be relatively simple if you know how your business runs. I'm always surprised—and Sebastien, always interrupt, if you feel ready. I'm amazed at how many people do this based on their own perspective or on their management's perspective as opposed to the customer perspective.

The customer is coming to you for a certain reason. You want to turn them from a lead into a customer. That's where you have to be focused. With that, you have to think about the goals and objectives. Are you trying to get people, just from an awareness perspective, to know who you are? Are you trying to actually get them to buy a product? These are things that you have to set out to achieve in your redesign. This means you need to consider all those points of possible conversion and how you're going to get people to accomplish those goals. These are the things you need to focus on during the discovery phase.

Now, if we go to the next one. The better alternative, you know, to some of those mistakes: study your user behavior. Think about how you can improve user conversions. There's an acronym out there, CRO, it's called conversion rate optimization. That's going to be something that you have to focus on. How can you optimize the rate at which people convert. Aim for establishing credibility for your business. When people come in, there's going to be a first impression; it’s the lasting impression. Aim to establish some level of credibility. When people come in, they see you and they think, "Hey, these are people that we want to do business with." All this, it should really be data-driven. Study analytics and make informed decisions. Don't just do it because somebody that you want to impress at the company says, "Hey, I really think it should be this way." Try to back it up, come up with data.

Sebastien: So many design decisions are made off of what a certain person in the company likes rather than basing it off your actual customers. When your customers come in, they're looking for this sense of credibility. Making design decisions based off people's opinions is not always the best approach.

Pete: How do you properly plan for these things? There's two ways to do it. You can do it yourself. You can plan for a series of internal discovery sessions. We have a bunch of blog posts that'll actually tell you how to do this. Or the other thing is, you could hire someone to do it—typically, an agency. We do this service, I'm not going to shove it in your face, but it's something that you could always come to us for help. You have to go through this phase.

Sebastien: Have to. Yeah.

Pete: If you don't, it will result in bad things for everybody.

Sebastien: Absolutely. One thing goes wrong with the project, especially when you come in, you have everything done and everybody's not on the same page. We've done so many projects where we've had approvals go all the way to 90% of the site is done, and the one person that wasn't included in the beginning comes in with feedback that totally derails the whole project. Making sure everybody who has a stake in the website is involved from start to finish is very important.

Pete: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. If you have prepared properly, hopefully, you're going to assemble the following materials.

You'll have a findings document. This will be your specification. This will be your blueprint. It will talk about your goals, your objectives, who the users are that are coming and what they're going to do. When you're talking to an agency, you should have a list of design inspirations as a product of this process. Websites you like and you don't like. Maybe not even related to what your business is; it doesn't have to be. Just something that gives an agency an idea of what it is you're trying to achieve.

Here's a couple of thoughts to live by when you're planning and going through the phases here. Your number one is: your website is a preview of what it's like to work with your company. This is more and more important every day that goes by. When people come in and they're getting a top-level view of who you guys are, if it's a horrible experience, they pretty much assume that working with you is going to be terrible too. It's true. Sebastien's laughing here, but he knows, it's true. It's absolutely true.

Buyers today are more advanced now than ever. You have to start to think about the generation of millennials; they've been on the internet now for 20 years. For me, I'm 38 years old, the Internet wasn't a big thing when I was in high school. It was just starting out. We used to use dial-up. I've sorted of nurtured with the industry. Sebastien, I think I have 10 or 12 years on you; for him, it's a little bit different. He's been online since at least middle school. Behavior there is totally different. The experience is different, but the expectations, they're very high. So these buyers are much more technically advanced.

All devices require equal attention. It's not just about your computer. I'm speaking to higher management here. People that are probably a little bit older than me. We were talking about the fact that PCs are just one way of gathering information today. A lot of people are doing the nurturing and awareness phase of the buying cycle on their cell phones now, reading blogs, getting a sense of who you are. Every device requires equal attention. It's time now to stop thinking about your website as a brochure. You really have to think about how you can integrate your website into your sales process with your sales team. It's a living, breathing thing. It's not something that you just set it and forget it.

These are things that you have to remember throughout the entire process. We're going to take a quick look back at 2016 design trends. I'm going to let Sebastien take the floor here. Go ahead.

Sebastien: First thing we'll talk about here is, we're going to talk about these past trends that happened 2016. You have the card-based design, you have minimalism, you had gradients, you had the long scrolling pages, and you have the infamous hamburger menu. Let's dive right into it.

The card design. The card design makes it very easy to create a singular style on your website that's very uniform. It allows the user to scan the website very quickly. There's some downfalls to it. Number one being, it's really hard to establish a hierarchy or singling out important content when everything is listed out with the same style and size. This style, you can see it, was being used a lot with Pinterest, I think brought to the scene. It was big on product sites, big on social media sites. Right now, I think it's kind of fading away as marketers and designers are looking to really create a sense of hierarchy in terms of what content is more important than the other.

Pete: I gotcha. Go ahead.

Sebastien: Minimalism. This is a style that's actually—I would guess I'd say it's a rebellion against the idea of gradients and making complex, decorative designs. It was about letting the content speak. I think this trend is still good, but it's really for certain brands and products. Like Apple does a great job of minimalism because they have such a great device to show, so why distract the user with fancy design and decorations when you can just put up beautiful pictures of your product? Or if you have a great product like this one right here, let the product speak for itself, don't distract users with complex designs. It's still valid, but it's something that people are still embracing, but you need to also make sure that's applicable to your brand and product.

Pete: Cool, next one.

Sebastien: Gradients. Gradients are almost considered the Comic Sans of colors, if it's not used correctly. You saw a resurgence of this, especially from Apple, when they redesigned all their application icons. They really brought back gradients and showed people how to properly use gradients. I feel gradients are great when used correctly. However, if not used correctly, they come off as tacky and ugly. Again, if used correctly like Apple does it, and you can take a look at their mobile icons, how they've reintroduced it. It could look really great to add a little style to your site that you're looking for.

Pete: I'm a little tired of it. I feel like everyone's doing it. Go ahead.

Sebastien: Long scrolling pages seem like a great idea. You know, put all the content where everybody can access it without having to reload the page. However, these pages are good for maybe people who are looking for detailed information. But for high-level thinkers, for people who are looking to make quick decisions, for people on mobile devices, it quickly becomes a burden to scroll through all this content.

People need their experiences guided when they come to your website. They need funnels. They need places to go. This idea of having this open range—choose what you want, scroll down the page, and get more and more information—is good for technical people. It's good for people who are actually doing the work. For managers and marketers who are looking to make quick, snap decisions, they really need a guide. They really need to be guided through your site. This has its pros and cons, it's really a case of when to use it and who you're targeting.

Pete: It's also a lot of problems with people trying to integrate into content management. These pages, the way that they're organized, I don't think there's really one CMS that does a great job of it or really thought about this as a possibility.

Sebastien: Absolutely.

Pete: We have so many different modules, but we're going to talk about that in a second. I'm a big ... I am against this, you know it. Go ahead.

Sebastien: The hamburger menu seemed like a great idea. You think you created a universal symbol for people to access, especially on mobile. A lot of people ... we've tried this on a couple sites, even on desktop. Now, there was a big move in 2014, 2015 years to actually push this to desktop. I do think it does have its downfalls. We've tried it on a couple sites and we've seen the data. People miss it. People don't understand what it is. People don't want to click it. There's many ways you can probably approach a navigation, a lot of options, but the hamburger menu's not proving to be successful. Even on mobile, it's not proving to be that successful. Definitely, it's actually removing options away from the user.

I think—maybe we'll talk about this moving forward—is keeping your navigation simple. Four items max. Creating a funnel for them, rather than showing every single option (ten menu items up top), you keep a simple navigation of four key items you want to funnel your users through. It’s a much better approach than hiding the entire navigation. Now, again, it's debatable, depending on what site you have, what's your brand, do you want people to actually access your menu? These are all things you should consider, but overall, from a UI perspective, people are missing the hamburger menu. They're not even acknowledging it.

Pete: We're going to let hamburgers stick with Five Guys—and we're not going to be doing it here. New trends to consider—and I'm going to be interrupting on these because I think some of these are ... I definitely agree with a few.

Sebastien: Absolutely. Stock images. There's a place to use them, but it's fading. People can spot a stock image from a mile away. Especially if you're just using generic ones that aren't really unique. Everybody has access to them and you could just tell it's a stock image.

Pete: In fact, isn't that a ... this is a mock stock image because I think that's James Franco's brother. This is literally the way I found it when I made this, is I googled cheesy stock images and this one came up front. I believe this was from a campaign making fun of stock images, but it really does prove our point. Here are some of the points we had about it.

Sebastien: Yeah. Again, it's not something that we think we have to say. A lot of people are moving away from stock images. Especially with the fact that people can tell it's stock imagery, stock video, stock imagery. What you want to really use is the technology that you have today. I mean, the quality you need for an image on the web, even on your phone, is already in your hand. The iPhone, these Androids, can take photos that are just perfect quality for the web. Videos can be taken on your phone. You have the technology at your fingertips to actually make good content, and it's worth the investment. If you don't have the technical skills to set up a proper photo in terms of lighting, trust me, a photographer is worth the investment to have these unique images that you can move forward with.

In fact, we had a client that we picked a stock photo for because they wanted to go with this particular stock photo that they were in love with. We based the entire homepage off it, and as we were about to launch the site, I get a call from the marketer that says, "We can't use that photo." I said, "Why?" "Our competitor is using that photo." Again, it's worth it, just for whatever business you're in. You have an iPhone 6, 5, they're all high quality enough to get you some good photos.

Pete: Or again, hire a photographer. I mean, you can get a college kid with a nice SLR camera to come in and shoot everything.

Sebastien: Absolutely. It's definitely within budget.

Pete: This is a huge concept right here. Go ahead, explain what we mean by this.

Sebastien: Sure. Whenever we're redesigning a website, the client really focuses on the homepage. Back in the day, we used to think that everybody came in through the homepage, but with all these tools that we have, especially when we're SEOing correctly, you'll notice that people often don't come in through the homepage. All your pages are landing pages. All your pages, if you're properly doing the SEO, are landing pages for potential customers and clients. The only reason people are coming to your homepage is from referrals or they know you by name and they're looking you up directly with no keywords attached. Most people looking for you are coming in, I would say, through a keyword, the service you actually provide.

Pete: Yeah, if you SEO correctly, people are going to land on pages all over. That's why a blog page is actually more important to CRO, to conversion rate optimization, versus a homepage. I would say, and I made the point here, it is the first among equals. It still has a place of importance during the process of design because it's a logical place to begin. If you're going to be designing 10 templates, we can start with the homepage. Do not think that it's the most important page, by any means, from a performance perspective.

Sebastien: Yeah. I would say, every page has to be thought of as a landing page. Can't just drop people in, there has to be some type of information there that recognizes it's a new landing page for potential users coming in, whether it be a product detail page or a product listing page. These pages have to be designed with that in mind.

Pete: Definitely, and don't shoot yourself in the foot when you're doing it. The homepage should be simple. Again, most people that are going to find it are going to find it because they've been referred, because they know who are. It's a great place to make your claim, have a reassurance statement. On our homepage, we make the claim that we focus on custom design and custom content management. Then we talk a little bit below, we have a reassurance statement. Then we funnel down to particular segments of the site that we want to get people into. That's what the homepage should do. I don't think you gain a customer on the homepage, but you definitely lose one there. That's an important way to look at it. Next, conversion as a focus.

Sebastien: Design is meant to serve a purpose. You know, a lot of people confuse design with art, but it's really not the same thing. They share principles, absolutely, but design has a mission, it has a purpose, it's there to achieve a certain goal and you can't base your design on just basic opinions. It has to be data-driven. It has to be, this is what's going to convert. This is the content that we need to be on this particular page, to actually drive the user forward, either to nurture the user for more information or to actually convert them into a potential customer or get them on the phone. The design has to be conversion-focused. It can't be decorative, it has to actually serve a purpose. That's the difference, I would say, with all these trends, is that we're moving towards a world where the content is really driving the design. It's not just ... Pete's over here taking a picture of me.

Pete: It's for Instagram, relax.

Sebastien: It's really got to be conversion focused. When you look at a design that you get from a designer, every element on the page has to serve a purpose towards that conversion. Whether it's establishing credibility or it's showing experience. It has to tell the user that this is why you should either give us your information or you should get on the phone with us. That's what I would say the design is driven towards.

Pete: Cool. This is huge. I think that this is the biggest concept we can really represent to everybody on this webinar today. This is where we're going to move the majority of our projects, into this thinking. It's the idea of—it's an object-oriented approach, for anyone who has a development background. It's making use of reusable parts. That's really what the focus is.

Sebastien: Lego blocks.

Pete: Go ahead and explain through this concept a little bit.

Sebastien: Yeah, sure. This idea is actually trying to move people away from depending on templates to achieve a goal, when they can actually build pages off of blocks. I always refer to Lego blocks, just to give people a frame of reference, is that you're building something based off reusable parts. Let's say you start off with 16—if you have 16 parts, you can have a large number of combinations you can use.

For example, what we're trying to do is make it easier for people to come in and actually build pages, rather than being stuck on a single template. On the homepage, if you want to try the new idea, you can insert a new module, and they just stack together like puzzle pieces. That's pretty much the main core of the idea is that these are pieces that you can reuse and stack as you need.

Pete: Yeah, definitely. I don't know the show, or I do know the show, I'm not going to say it, but he used to say, "Two suits, five ties, five shirts, like thirty-something combinations." That's really what it is. Today, we're going to talk about this a little bit more when we get to technology, most CMSs and most web designers are going to come in from the perspective of templates. They're going to talk about how many templates you're going to have. We still see customers come to us for a redesign, who literally, their website is two templates in WordPress, it's a homepage and then it's a template page and that template page is expected to do everything.

Our goal, when you go into your CMS, is to have virtually unlimited amount of templates. You're just going to choose what parts are going to go on to it. Let's forward a little bit. Just in speaking to a modular design, this is the secret sauce to eliminate future massive redesigns. If you're making it into a modular design, you have the ability later to change the parts and not have to change the whole. It's a very, very important concept to have. This is how we're hoping to save you from having to go through a cycle of looking at your website again. Like I said, there is a problem: CMSs have limitations. But we have come up with a way to do this.

One thing that we've been working on throughout 2016 is actually building a module for WordPress, a plugin. Obviously, we love custom CMS, it's a big part of our business, but we still do get people who come in and require WordPress. Major limitation, WordPress is just this. You can't make pages based on just modules and parts, it's really template driven. We have other technology products with WordPress that we could talk about, that's a whole other topic. In fact, we have a whole different webinar that talks just about the CMS of the future. This is the quick way to get some custom CMS functionality within WordPress.

Basically, these are screenshots of the system in action. Administrators go to a page, and instead of editing just what are fixed fields, they can choose what type of module from the left they're going to want to integrate, and then on the right, they can set the content, whether it be dynamic content for maybe data types or static content for that page in particular. This is a very powerful tool.

Sebastien: Absolutely. Especially for marketers. They come in, they're able to organize the page as they see fit to try out new ideas on the fly, rather than having to go to a designer, designer goes to a developer, the developer goes back to the designer, and back to the marketer. You've taken a process that actually, we just spoke to a client, and actually, they were really interested in this. The reason why is, it takes them three weeks to make a change on the website.

Pete: It's crazy.

Sebastien: This technology, this plugin we made for WordPress that they're going to use, allows the marketer not to worry about the design or layout, they can just come in and say, "Hey, this is the idea I want to try." They can go into the back end and build the page as they see fit. Like Pete said, you can add new modules, so you're not limited to the box of the set of modules you get on launch. It's a continuously improving site that you can add new modules as you see fit.

Pete: Absolutely. Absolutely. This is the wave of the future, we believe. That was talking from a design perspective about trends, trends of the past, trends of the future. We're going to talk a little bit more about technology. The success of your project in the long run is really going to be determined by the tech that you choose. In this case, we're talking primarily about CMS, content management systems. Your ongoing expenses, any future liabilities from a security perspective, the freedom to make changes, and the lifespan. These are all things that are going to, in the long run, determine if you made the right decision, they're all things you have to consider.

If there's ever a time to think about a new CMS, it's when you're going to be doing a massive redesign. It allows you to do a tech review. You have to ask yourself certain questions like, do you like how your current CMS works? If not, why not? Have you worked with other systems? What would you fix, if you could? These are just a few of the questions. Really, you have to look at your day-to-day workflows, your frustration factor, and in addition, look at things such as security and what's the upgradability—how often are you having to update? These are all things that you can take into account and really do a thorough review and make a quality decision because you're going to be undergoing a pretty major project.

This is just a look at the hot CMSs right now. This is right now. I've been doing this since 2001. I'm not even sure WordPress ... it wasn't even out then, it came a little bit later. Every year, there are new ones on the scene and there are other ones that go. Trends are continuously changing. It's confusing. You need to sort of navigate this entire space. As a little side point, on our website, we have all sorts of content about this in the blog area, in the CMS pages, and also, like I said, don't forget the webinar we did just about CMSs.

Base your decision on ... or not just base your decision, but here's just some things that you have to think about. If you're a marketer, for example, you have to ensure you can manage the majority of the content without a tech geek. This is a major thing. You don't want to be calling somebody like me and I'll be the geek in the room, Sebastien will be the stylish one. You don't want to call someone like me to make simple changes. You have to be empowered to do it.

You also have to be empowered to move quickly because technology moves quickly. Marketing is all about technology today. It's all about metrics and statistics. There are platforms for this. We all know their names. They're changing on a regular basis, they need to integrate seamlessly. Your tech has to allow that.

SEO really has large technical implications now. Your speed of your site, the security of the site, your mobile responsiveness, these are things that, as a marketer, you have to be concerned about. Really, the basics are, the topical thought: don't lose freedom. Don't lose any freedom because of a platform. Don't give up on a feature you want because the platform doesn't allow it.

Then, look at this from the perspective on the other side, if you're in an IT department. Typically, it's very rare that you go into an organization where you don't have to deal with somebody from IT. 2017 is going to be the year of security. I can tell you that right now. We wouldn't even get into presidential politics or hacking from Russia or this or that. I can tell you without a doubt: security's going to be a major issue for everybody. We're going to be talking about it continuously.

You see this little meme here. You know about WordPress. WordPress is well known as being probably the most vulnerable platform out there. One of the issues with ... When you do secure it the way it finally should be secured, it makes it hard to update and then you're just stuck in a bad situation. There's going to be more and more enterprise focus on the safety and security of these platforms because they're public-facing. That's just the way it's going to be. You really have to consider platforms and other options to establish what is true security. This might be the topic of a whole other webinar in the future, by the way. So many ways to do this that I could spend an hour talking just about this.

From the perspective of an IT guy, you have to balance the needs of your marketing team. You have to understand why they're doing, the things that they're doing. Why they make the decisions that they make. You have to balance that with policy in terms of security. I'm going to talk really quickly about CMSs and how they've moved, just to give you a sense, again, a third time I've referenced it. Don't forget in the video section, we have a webinar just about CMS technology. Most of the platforms out there today that you know of—WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, SiteCore, Magento, Ektron, all these things—they all work with an old, outdated methodology and technology. The next CMSs are going to work very differently. It may not be a fit for you yet, but you do have to be aware of it.

Basically, this is how a CMS works today. You have your admin portion pretty much coupled directly with your front-end experience. Then you might be taping some plugins to make the whole thing work the way that you want. If it looks disorganized, and gives you a little bit of agita, it should. This is how the majority of websites are working today. It's our belief—and I think it's the industry belief—that the future is going to be a decoupled or headless type of scenario. This is where your CMS is going to be separated from an administrative perspective, from the front-end experience.

This is why we believe that your next CMS might last you five, six, seven years. The reason is because it will be separate. It will be away from the front-end technology. When you remove the possibility of a global redesign needing a CMS change because the front end's going to be different, we think that you're going to get a higher life span out of the CMS. From a security perspective, like we said, that's going to be the trend for next year, headless or decoupled. I think is going to satisfy a lot of IT people who are constantly worried about security.

Again, basically, your admin lives in one place and all the different experiences connect to it through a variety of means. You might have your apps connect to it, your website obviously, APIs that go to partners, and anything else. Some clients have over-the-top devices like Roku and things like that, it can all work with these types of systems.

What's right for you, it depends on your core purpose. An informational marketing site, for now, wait for the next couple years. I think it'll still be okay with off-the-shelf platforms. If you're going to customize, if security is important, if you're going to have commerce, interactivity, take a deep look at some of these other systems that are out there. Again, these are the factors that are most important for you. Security, ease of use, updates and upgrades, maintenance, scalability, looking at the history of the platforms that you're looking at. What is their upgrade cycle? Drupal went from 6 to 7 to 8, then they stopped supporting 6. Everybody had to make a decision: Do you go to 7 or do you go to 8, which is so new? Think about that history because you'll avoid making a bad decision.

Also, remember, I showed you, what, 30 CMSs, I don't know how many were there. Think about the talent pool. If you pick something that's an up-and-comer, but not a lot of people know, you're going to have trouble finding people to help you with it. Definitely something to consider. I found this online before. This is a secret relevant to all CMSs. None of them will do 100% of what you want to do. You're always going to need a little bit of help from somebody. I just think this is funny because every time I see an in-house web developer, it always kind of looks like the guy on the left, but when they come in for the interviews, they always look like the guy on the right, so I thought this was pretty funny. Just a little bit of humor for the Christmas week here.

Final things to think about and consider when you're finally getting to the point when you're deploying your website. Almost everybody should be using a service like CloudFlare right now, which will prevent you from distributed denial of service attacks, DDoS. Just to get a top-level, the way that that works, maybe a hacker or group goes out there and they got a thousand different devices to hit you all at the same time and bring down your site, a service like CloudFlare is really effective in helping you prevent that. It's so cheap, it's so easy, there's no excuse not to do it.

We recommend everybody switches over to SSL, that's the HTTPS, for serving your website. It's good for SEO, no reason not to do it. When you go from an old site to a new site, make sure you redirect any pages that have moved because search engines need to know. To some of you, this might seem like a real no-brainer list, but you'd be amazed how many people don't do this.

Have a real host. You should not be a company ... If you're more than, let's say, $100 thousand in revenue, get off of GoDaddy. I mean, seriously, you just shouldn't be there. There's no reason to be there. We see customers come in, nine-figure organizations with a site on GoDaddy and they wonder why it's slow. You got to be kidding. If you're going to use something off the shelf, always minimize those third-party plugins; they really sort of jam up everything and make your updates and upgrades a little bit unreliable.

We're going to talk a little bit about the economics. This is something that obviously everyone's concerned about. How does it work today and dealing with agencies, in terms of relationships and arrangements? We believe that this is changing as well. The next phase in working with an agency is going to be continuous improvement, not a cycle of inefficiency, which I'm going to show you in a second what I mean.

Also, I think that a lot of agencies are looking at this differently and I think customers are going to like this. Most software today is leased. You used to buy Microsoft Office, now you license it on a monthly basis. Same with Adobe, I know we license everything on a monthly basis. There's no reason why your website shouldn't be leased too. There's no reason why you have to put up 40, 50, 100 thousand dollars just in the beginning of a project, when you can space that out over time. I think that more and more agencies are going to do it. We're going to talk a little bit about that.

Again, my big prediction for next year, I think this can be your last redesign. If you make a solid technology choice, if you focus on continuous improvement, you're going to be more agile. Your next redesign is going to happen every day after you launch your site. It's going to be a continuous cycle. This is the cycle of what web design looks like today. We see it all the time. I've been in business long enough that I've done this cycle with people three, four times. It still happens. In fact, Sebastien's been here for six or seven years, and I know he's done a couple sites more than twice.

Sebastien: Oh, absolutely.

Pete: What does the cycle look like? You have a website, it's up there for a year and a half to two years. Then you're like, "Eh, I want to redesign it." We were a little generous, we said three-month redesign; most people, it takes a little bit longer. We launched a new site and you let it sit for a year and a half to two years, go through the same cycle again, and on and on and on. It's not incremental series of improvements, it's just a complete rebuild every single time. The goals, objectives, they're not always well defined.

We believe, toss out that whole theory and just focus on continuous improvement. Launch a site, but continuously make subtle changes based on data instead of having to go through a massive recode and rebuild at every single time. That's perspective number one.

Perspective number two on how arrangements are changing is leasing. We think more agencies are going to be leasing these websites out. Like I said, almost all software is leased. This, for customers, is great, it enables cash flow management and also it's very easy to facilitate continuous improvement. Basically, what an agency would do is look at the scale of the project and understand what the first part of it is going to be. Then they're going to finance part of that project over a term. They're also going to include what's ongoing continuous improvement in that deal.

What you would basically have is a year or two-year agreement where the first three or four months might focus on a rebuild, but you're going to be paying the same monthly fee throughout the entire relationship of the project. This is being talked about more and more on my side of the table with other agency owners, more and more people are offering it. There's various different names for similar types of arrangements. You should definitely consider it, if you're not ready to go and spend a massive amount in one shot and then just let the thing sit. This is a much better way to spend your money and your effort.

Also, another part too is that most agencies are also going to throw the infrastructure costs into that as well, so your ongoing hosting, your support, 24/7 monitoring. When we do these arrangements, we throw that all in as well. You really have a one-stop shop for all the needs related to the website. No matter what your arrangement is, I'm just going to take a throwback to a half an hour ago, no matter what you do, always go through discovery first. Make sure you know what your spec is. Make sure you have a blueprint. Otherwise, mistakes will be made.

We're moving pretty quick.

Sebastien: Yeah.

Pete: 37 minutes, I'm almost near the end already. It's pretty good.

Sebastien: Wow.

Pete: Yeah. We talked faster than we had to. We could've BS'd a little bit more. A couple of final predictions that we have here—and interrupt if you want. First off, I think video, and every year, I feel like for the past 10 years, people will throw out and talk video, video, video. At this point, not having it is really going to be a factor against your credibility. I think everybody needs to start thinking about what they can do to have animated videos, talking-head videos, some sort of content that's easy to share. It's highly effective on social media. I know everybody sees, scrolling through their Facebook feed or on Instagram, they see video content now. You absolutely have to have it.

Bots and AI. It sounds almost kind of gimmicky, but we're seeing some companies doing cool things in terms of customer service. When you go to chat, you may not even be talking to a human anymore. In terms of how this affects your next website redesign, I'm not really 100% sure right now, but it's something to keep in mind, if you want to be on top of the next great thing, bots and AI is a good place to look.

This one is a little bit interesting, content as a service. I'm basically referring to hosted CMS solutions. There is a bunch of them that are out there. I like in the respect that it's decoupled and headless, but I don't like that you have to license it, like any other software that you might license, whether it be QuickBooks or HubSpot or whatever. It's something to keep an eye out for. I think it's going to gain a little bit of traction, but it is still very young. You should know about it.

My final prediction, yeah, there's going to be SEO changes. I'm just not sure what they're going to be yet. Again, not to delve into politics, but I do believe with the advent of all these fake news sites, with the amount of content out there that isn't credible, I do believe that at some level, Google is going to smarten up on this and they're going to do something to affect the rating of certain websites. Again, I don't know what it is and my theory on SEO has always been, just be ... practice a common-sense approach. Don't try to cheat the system and you're not going to be punished for it later. What's another point I had there? I'm losing it, I don't know. It's almost Christmas, I guess.

Sebastien: I don't have predictions, but I do have recommendations. One thing I'd recommend in 2017 is moving towards agencies that don't just execute, but actually come in with ideas and are there to solve your problems. There's a difference between executing and solving problems. You want an agency that come in, understand your business, and come up with marketing solutions, come up with ideas that actually meet your goals. You want to go to a company that come in with ideas and say, "Hey, I have this problem," and give you several options as to how to solve this problem within your budget.

The days of just going to someone and saying, "Hey, just draw this for me or just make a new website." It has to be driven with a sense of goals that everybody is on the same page at the agency and both you and the agency have to be on the same page. It's going to get very competitive in 2017. Even more so than it is today. Having people who are innovative is going to be key.

Pete: Yeah. I like that. Okay, and right to questions. Look at that. Let's see what we have, I saw a couple come in. Give me one sec, let's get everything together here. Actually, you can probably answer on some of these.

Sebastien: Think so.

Pete: Corey: “Does WordPress already have modular capabilities?” Or doesn't, sorry. Doesn't.

Sebastien: Does WordPress-

Pete: Doesn't it already have modular capabilities ...

Sebastien: No, it doesn't at all. You have to use third parties and even with the third-party plugins ... We've run into this issue before, third-party plugins is, you use them, it's being managed by the community. If that developer disappears or actually gets a job, or disappears, the plugin is no longer supported and it goes out of date when WordPress updates. We've dealt with that plenty of times. So, no, it doesn't. There are definitely a lot of options of plugins that are good. Again, it's being maintained by the community so you may lose support for it.

Pete: Okay. Going for Lizzy: “I'm a CMO. Any tips for bringing together multiple stakeholders?” Yeah. You want to take it or should I?

Sebastien: Yeah, you should take it.

Pete: I'll take it. Okay.

Multiple stakeholders, bring in a third party. That's really the best way to do it. Bring in someone else that can sit down with all the individuals. With them as a group, get them all on the same page. Go through a discovery process. Sometimes a third party kind of diffuses internal tensions, looks at it from a different perspective. It's almost like group therapy, in a way. That's definitely something I would recommend to do.

The last one. “If this is my last redesign, how long will my CMS last?” You know, that's a great question. I mean, if you take something off the shelf, it's very hard to predict. I can't predict, Sebastien can't predict, but remember, when we talk back in the past about CMS is, we talk about history? Take a look at the history of the platforms and their upgrades cycle.

Like I said, Drupal was pushing 8 for like two years, it seemed, while 6 and 7 were still supported. People were building on 6, unsure when 8 was going to come out; 6 stopped being supported, they had to go to 7. We're not Drupal experts. I believe 6 to 7 was a pretty massive upgrade. This is just history, I'm not picking on the platform. I'm just saying, take a look at history and get a sense of how long these things might last.

Especially when you're talking about a local upgrade from WordPress 3 to 4, whatever the flavor of 3 was to 4. That's just something that you have to keep an eye out for. There's really no guarantee. I do find that the custom CMS solutions that we build, we've had some customers using the same platform since '07 or '08. I mean it's hard to believe, but that's almost nine years now. They've been running at the same core software. I think, keep in mind, if you do custom build, again we have other webinars just about this, if you do custom build, software on the back end moves at a much slower pace, in terms of innovation versus front end technology. You could make an investment in a custom CMS that's decoupled and that CMS could last you until ... Well, I was going to make another political reference, until Trump's out of office, how about that? It could last you for a while.

Sebastien: Yeah. The back-end technology moves a lot slower than the front-end technology. It's a good bet that your back-end technology can last you a long time. With a decoupled CMS especially, front-end development and back-end development are not as tight as they used to be. You can redesign the way your site looks and feels on the front end, still hooking up to the same CMS that's been there from the beginning.

Pete: That's the key. Yeah, I think our customer from 2008, we've redesigned three or four times. Including apps and all these other things. They had a decoupled CMS before they even knew that they had it.

Sebastien: Yeah, powers their apps. It powers everything.

Pete: Powers everything. Let's just go back. Where are we? Our next webcast. January 24th, we're going to talk about this modular web design in depth. We're going to talk about how to integrate it into CMSs. We're going to really lay the case for why this is the future of web design. Definitely try to join us then, if you can. Don't forget there's additional resources, we publish a blog at least one or two a week, so take a look at that. This webinar will be there, other webinars, other videos, in our videos section. We have a bunch of downloadable ebooks, including one that is about the CMS of the future, which is basically about decoupled and headless. Have a look at that. If you do need us, there's our website again. We're located 15 miles out of Manhattan, something like that.

Sebastien: If you ever want to visit.

Pete: If you ever want to visit, yeah. On a good day, we'd get there in 20 minutes. On a bad day, it takes 2 hours. That's the nature of being close to, I guess, the greatest city in the world, right? Hey, everybody, have a great holiday. We'll see you in January. If you need either of us, reach out, npgroup.net. Thank you. Have a good day.

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