I’m project managing a website redesign for my organization. How do I make sure all voices are heard and represented in the decision-making processes, not just the loudest ones?
Your website is an important strategic tool used by many different teams across the organization, and will likely need to engage a wide range of external audiences. In order to design a website that meets your organization’s goals and your audience’s needs, it’s crucial to gather input from a variety of stakeholders throughout the redesign process.
Engaging the right stakeholders at the right time is essential: One of the most important decisions you make during the website redesign will be deciding which stakeholders to engage and how to engage them, as their input will play a crucial role in guiding the overall website strategy.
However, getting a lot of input has its challenges: from navigating internal politics and tensions around limited budgets, to balancing tight turnaround times and feedback fatigue. Sometimes, it can feel easier to prioritize those with the most power or the loudest voices in the room, even if they only have a limited stake in the website. While listening only to these voices may expedite the internal process, it could hold your website back from being an effective organizational tool and providing value to your target audiences.
Here are a few tips and tricks we use to make sure that feedback and inputs are representative of your team and target audiences.
Agree to a clear decision-making process upfront.
At the beginning of any website redesign project, we always establish a clear decision-making process. Who will be a part of the decision-making team? How will we ensure that the voices of those who aren’t around the decision-making tables will be heard? Will we seek consensus? What happens if there are multiple, conflicting views: Whose decision will be final?
Establishing this agreement at the top of the project can go a long way to help set clear expectations for who will give inputs at what phases, and to create transparency in decision-making processes.
Be intentional about soliciting input from a diverse range of stakeholders.
Our website redesign process starts with the discovery phase, where we focus on learning as much as we can about an organization. During this time, we work with our clients to identify a plan for soliciting input from a diverse range of stakeholders: Who do we need to engage? What’s the best way to get their input? Are we including a broad spectrum of users with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives?
The list of stakeholders often includes a mix of staff members working across different teams and departments, board members, partners, and members of your target audiences. By including more voices and perspectives upfront, you’ll have a clearer sense of the full spectrum of experience on the website and be better equipped to lead a process that can respond to these needs.
Use a variety of methods to gather information.
We gather information in several different ways, including one-on-one interviews, focus groups, surveys, meetings and online tools to account for the different ways people may prefer to give feedback: from online to in-person, verbal to written, or individual to group.
Each individual involved in your process may be more or less open to giving honest feedback depending on who else is in the room. If you intend to hold focus groups or feedback meetings with multiple people present, consider the power dynamics: Will the most junior individuals feel comfortable speaking out and sharing freely if the Executive Director is in the room? Will the leadership team be able to speak freely in front of Board Members? Consider developing and deploying a survey as a tool to anonymously gather feedback. Anonymizing input can be another great way to help individuals feel comfortable and can help remove bias.
Considering what the most appropriate information-gathering method might be for specific types of feedback or specific types of stakeholder can help to ensure that all opinions are shared and voices are heard.
Create an inclusive environment that encourages open and honest communication.
During the discovery process, we help stakeholders feel comfortable engaging in open and honest communication by approaching the discovery process as a neutral third-party. We provide opportunities for stakeholders to share opinions – during interviews and focus groups – and present them in aggregate and without identifying information, so that individuals feel greater ease sharing their honest opinions.
Throughout our website redesign process, we encourage open and honest communication, active listening, and respect for different opinions. We work towards creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns without fear of judgment or retribution. One way we achieve this culture of respect and listening is by developing interactive activities that make it easier for individuals who aren’t as familiar with design to express their thoughts.
Develop user personas to help guide decision-making.
Decision-makers within organizations oftentimes end up making choices related to branding, design, functionality and features based on their own personal needs, wants and preferences. It can be easy for them to forget about who the website is ultimately intended to serve - their users.
In order to keep your users at the center of your decision-making processes, we recommend developing user personas based on the information gathered during the initial discovery process. User personas serve as fictional representations of your actual target audiences that illustrate their commonly held motivations, beliefs, behaviors, challenges, needs and goals.
Once you build your personas around a shared understanding of user needs, they can serve as an important strategic tool to guide decision-making throughout the website redesign process. By encouraging the decision-making team to circle back to these personas when the time comes to give feedback, your team will be able to make more grounded decisions, based on what would best serve your users.
While this is not an exhaustive list, we hope that it provides you with some helpful tips and tricks to develop more inclusive and responsive feedback and decision-making processes during your next project. Good luck!
- Jas Kirt, Senior Strategist & Design Researcher
You can always reach out to us, if you have questions, or a project in mind. We’d love to hear from you.