Tackling a B2B Website Redesign

featured image
Autor Image
March 14, 2024 7 min read
by Richard Lee

Scoping a B2B website redesign is a big job. The new site has to be intuitive, look great, and function optimally, and getting that right requires thoughtful planning up front.

In this blog post, we share tips for tackling a B2B website redesign project from our February 26 Hyphen Live event, during which Hyphen’s Richard Lee spoke with Christopher Needles and Stuart Lawler of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) about their experience launching OICR’s new website.

Interested in this topic but short on time? Here’s what we covered at a high level:

To prepare for your B2B website redesign project, you’ll need to:

  • Create a timeline
  • Scope the project
  • Establish personas
  • Identify stakeholders
  • Outline a process

And to select the right vendor, you’ll need to:

  • Consult with colleagues
  • Ask for referrals
  • Search for industry experience
  • Evaluate the creative teams
  • Take a consultative approach with partners

Your first step: Assessment and resourcing

There’s no universal way for every organization to scope their B2B website redesign, but there are a few best practices around assessing the road ahead and planning for resources that will help lay the groundwork for project success.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and your team to get the ball rolling.

🗓️ What’s your timeline?

An obvious first step is to establish a timeline for the project and working backworks. You and the agency you choose to work with (more about that later) need to know when the site should be up and running so that you can plan all of the in-between tasks accordingly. 

When you’re looking ahead and selecting a preferred site launch day, you may decide to tie it to other important business milestones or moments, such as the announcement of a strategic plan or a new brand launch.

📐 What’s the scope?

The size of your site (now and after redesign) will impact your timeline. Moving to a more concise website doesn’t always mean a shorter timeline. There are a lot of upfront decisions that need to be made, and it’s often more challenging to reduce content than to expand it.

On the flip side, adding a significant number of new pages is a major undertaking and will also take a fair bit of time in both the planning and building stages.

In short, know the size of your existing and new site, and plan for planning time – lots of it!

👩‍💻 What are your personas?

If you’ve already built out your personas and understand your key audiences, this shouldn’t be a big lift. But if your business is making a pivot or you’re expanding to new markets, you’ll need to invest time in researching and familiarizing yourself with the people you’re trying to reach and engage.

🤝 Who are your people?

Every website has multiple stakeholders, each with a unique POV on what content is important to include. First, know all of the players within your organization. Who will need to be consulted, and who can just be informed?

Be sure to onboard everyone to the project from the get-go for better buy-in, and be prepared to manage differing perspectives and opinions. To get everyone on track, highlight the ways the old website isn’t serving your organization or its goals. If you’re reducing the size of your B2B website, selling stakeholders on cutting down can pose a greater challenge than expanding an existing site. Build time into your timeline for these types of discussions and decision making.

At OICR, Christopher and Stuart’s team aimed to develop messaging for two distinct audiences – the public and the science community – while efficiently managing content volume.

To accurately speak to each of their audiences, they elected to create two tiers within the website. Since this challenge was identified and addressed during their assessment phase, the requirement was built into the brief.

“This is where having established personas is important and really served us.  I always want our web pages to be built with glancing content, more engaging content, and then debrief content for each persona at each stage of their discovery with our brand.”
– Stuart Lawler, Senior Communications Officer, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research

🧩 What’s your process?

With all this in mind, be aware of your internal project scoping process and the length of time it’s likely to take.

Most organizations will plan for:

  • Consultation with stakeholders
  • Collecting data
  • Scoping of messaging
  • Refinement and internal approvals

This process is not always linear and can take a while (think weeks, if not months) before your website redesign project is ready to go out to tender.

“The more you can plan and do upfront, the better. But be aware that you’ll also be building along the way.”
– Richard Lee, Co-Founder, Creative & Digital Director, Hyphen

When your project goes to bid, what will be the review process? We like this approach from OCIR because it allows for objective evaluation and selection:

  • Internal team review
  • Procurement team review 

Both groups review the RFP responses against the project scope and budget, and score them independently. The scores from each group for each vendor are then tallied to determine which is the best vendor for the project.

Having a (flexible) budget

Every business wants to know exactly what their B2B website redesign is going to cost, but it’s a little more complicated than having your agency put out a number (and sticking to it).

OICR found that it’s more reasonable to determine your budget but to leave room for the nice-to-haves that you may not be able to anticipate from the get-go.

“It’s a bit of guesswork at the outset. How much money do you have to contribute to it. But just like with home renos, expect it to cost more. Once you have everything ripped out, that’s the time to install the extras.”
– Christopher Needles, Director of Communications, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research 

An example of this is user testing – something OICR hadn’t built into their budget, but which became an important part of the project. As you get further into the site redesign, expect to uncover areas to work on that you hadn’t anticipated. It’s better to have a little extra money set aside to take advantage of these opportunities than to have to skimp on key areas.

A vendor’s estimate is only as accurate as the initial scope of work. They’ll take your wishlist and must-haves and go through a discovery and functional requirements gathering phase to determine an estimate for the project.

Selecting a vendor and setting them up for success

There are a seemingly endless number of web design firms out there, but not all will have experience in your space. Talk to your colleagues in the industry  to get their recommendations. If they’re willing to reveal their approximate budget and spend, this will also help you to understand the cost and end result of that range of investment.

Bring in your vendor as soon as possible so that they can be part of the process and help you level-set expectations based on your budget. This also helps you to go into the project with a bit more knowledge.

“It’s difficult to know what you don’t know. That’s why you should lean on vendors. The more narrow and detailed you can make the scoping process, the better your vendor will understand what they need to produce.”
– Richard Lee, Co-Founder, Creative & Digital Director, Hyphen

Once you’ve narrowed down your prospective vendor list and are ready to send out an RFP, you may be wondering how many you should accept. The team at OICR invited eight partners to tender and received five RFP responses, four of which were suitable. This is likely the sweet spot for most organizations to hone in on the partner that will work best for them.

What to ask a vendor before signing with them

Finding a vendor with experience in your sector is important. There can be a lot of industry-specific language that’s used and is important to the process. Don’t be shy to ask for references to help you assess their body of work.

You should also ask who will be working on your project. Some firms are large, others are leaner. Where possible, try to ensure that the people who did the work you liked are assigned to your project. Consider building this into the RFP process. Often, the partners come in to deliver the pitch and then hand the project off to others at their firm. If this is an important consideration for you, be aware and ask about the working team before they bid.

Lags and latencies 

Not all B2B website redesign projects will have delays, but it can be a slow process. The procurement process often takes 4–6 weeks, and the entire project can last 9–12 months.

Opting to accept fewer bids will help shave off some time up front, so if you’re in a time crunch, consider inviting five or fewer firms to bid on your project.

Fairness among stakeholders, while important, can slow down the process. Because B2B websites are highly visual, they conjure up lots of opinions – and stakeholders are often eager to communicate their feedback. Having a clear brief can alleviate some delays by providing a source of truth for what’s important and expected. This prevents the team from going in circles, unsure of who is making the final decisions and what’s truly important.

To keep things running during the execution phase, think about conducting some processes in parallel, like gathering feedback on the work-in-progress website while it’s being designed.

Managing surprises

Stuart at OICR was most surprised by the fact that not all those invited to bid opted to chase the work.

“I expected that everyone would be dying to work on our project!”

– Stuart Lawler, Senior Communications Officer, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research

Consider that some agencies may choose not to bid on your project, and that’s probably a good thing. Each firm will evaluate whether your project is right for them based on the timelines, budgets, scope, etc.

In terms of expecting the unexpected, even the most carefully laid plans can hit potholes. What’s important is how the teams pivot and respond to them. Try to remain nimble and select a vendor that has a proven track record of troubleshooting issues as they arise.

#1 tip for B2B website redesign projects:

Invest the majority of your time and energy into project scoping. This is a long yet important process. The more opinions you can collect, the better the input for a comprehensive brief and the greater the potential for achieving all of your B2B website redesign objectives.

If you missed our live discussion, you can watch the full recording below:

Marketing’s Role in Strategic Corporate Gifting