5 expert tips for overhauling your website

Every website needs constant maintenance and optimisation if you were to make the most of it. Occasionally a big overhaul is needed to keep it looking modern or moved to a new technology platform so it can deliver features that users are looking for. A website rebuild or refresh can be a lot of work – which is why it’s often delayed, again and again.

Westpac New Zealand knows exactly how daunting it can be to overhaul a huge site. In 2020, regulatory changes and an end-of-life CMS meant that the company’s website needed a complete replatform, redesign and rewrite.

“The team had 12 months to deliver the new site, and we’d heard similar projects this size have easily taken over two years, so we knew we had our backs against the wall right from the outset,” says Talan Chen, Westpac’s Chapter Lead for Digital Experience Performance (now Digital Media Manager at AIG). “We had over 2,500 existing pages to rationalise, more than 250 stakeholders, and only a year to get it all done. Then throw in a pandemic on top of that!”  

Talan and his team delivered in impressive style, and the new Westpac site launched in 2021, with outstanding results. Not only has feedback been fantastic, but key site engagement such as the site’s overall bounce rate dropped by 10%, more new customers joined through Westpac through the EasyID digital onboarding process, and application start rates for key products increased.

With that success under his belt, we asked Talan to share his five top tips for tackling a major website project.

Get everyone on board

However large or small your business is, you’ll need buy-in from your team so they understand what you’re trying to achieve with a new site. Talan and his team used interviews with stakeholders, particularly with each subject matter expert in each area.

“Give them an understanding of why you’re rebuilding the site,” says Talan. “Explain how customers engage with the site and the content, and how a better site will supports their service or product, and their team.”

Audit your existing site

An important early step for Westpac was auditing the entire site, with the help of the Big on Writing team. Together they analysed web analytics data and mapped out key site flows so they could prioritise what content needed to be rewritten, what new sections were required, and which pages could be a simple ‘lift and shift’ to the new site.

“Together with the Big on Writing team we were able to really articulately map out the key user journeys and develop those content flows in Figma. Because it was such a big job, our motto was ‘ruthlessly simple’, which helped us stay focused.”

Understand the purpose of your website

While your website might be mainly about customer acquisition, that’s not its only purpose. It’s an ongoing source of information for existing customers, provides utility, value and support, so it’s vital to learn exactly how customers are using the site so you can improve that experience.

“It's really important to segment your website’s users and understand their ‘jobs to be done’ to ensure it delivers on their needs. For example, existing customers may want to learn about an online banking feature, compare features and benefits of products and services or simply find a person to have a conversation with, whereas a prospective customer may want to find out about the different ways they can join Westpac, do the sums on one of our home loan calculators or find a branch nearest them. There is a common mental model a website is just a digital brochure. It certainly is not!”

Ask the experts

You can’t do it all yourself – a great site needs external input, from technical aspects to imagery to copywriting and more. Westpac worked with Big on Writing for site auditing, imagery, copywriting and more; Big on Writing supplied extra team members at short notice to help meet the deadline.

“Big on Writing are a great bunch of people, and we made sure we integrated them into our team,” says Talan. “We were able to challenge one another with open conversations, identify issues and iterate our ways of working through the process. We were all trying to achieve the same outcome, we had a really strong team culture and we were focused on a single purpose – to deliver the website and create the best experience possible for users.”

Don’t wait for perfection

“You can’t wait for perfection because it’ll never happen,” Talan says. “We work in an agile environment, we’re all about iterating and releasing value incrementally. It’s a constant cycle of deployment, measurement, insights and testing.”

Westpac continues to tweak and enhance the new site, optimising it and maintaining the new, cohesive look and tone. The site has ensured the bank adheres to new regulatory restrictions on advice, as well as delivering a superior user experience and a fresh, modern look.

“It felt quite surreal when we launched it,” says Talan. “Looking back, it was massive project delivered at pace and through that process we were able to develop some really capable talent as an indirect consequence. I find much satisfaction with that.”

For more ideas and advice on overhauling your website, talk to the team at Big on Writing.

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