The Highs and Lows of Launching a New Website

Launching a new website will simultaneously be one of the most rewarding and the most challenging projects you will take on. I recently worked on a project that reminded me of just how impactful it can be. I had shared with some colleagues designs I had done for a ministry that works with African kids. One of them replied to me saying, “I know this site will help bring benefits and necessities to so many! This site will help save lives.”

That last sentence really stuck with me.

“This site will help save lives.”

Perhaps you are getting ready to overhaul your organization’s website. The parts that you once loved now seem old and clunky. Now that we’re well into the mobile era, your nonresponsive site feels like a digital dinosaur.

I get it. I really do. Your website shouldn’t look like it’s a holdover from the Reagan administration.

But more so, if your organization is worth its stuff, your website should succeed.

We work with organizations on a regular basis helping them make the transition into digital modernity and launching a new website has unique joys and challenges. And if you don’t know what to expect, you can be caught off guard going into the process.

Here are some of the highs and lows I have experienced in launching new websites:

High #1: You get a fresh start.

Remember that old dinosaur? Forget about him! Your new site can be the clean and modern face for your ministry that you’ve always dreamed it could be:

  • Big, vibrant images? Check!
  • Mobile responsive design? Check!
  • A simple and intuitive interface? Double check!

As a User Experience Designer, my job is to take your goals and translate them into a beautiful experience that is both helpful to your organization AND useful for your users. The sky is the limit and there’s no better time to dream big.

Low #1: You might have to make some unpopular decisions.

You’ve heard the old adage, “if everything is important, nothing is,” right? Well, that is true of your website too. In order to design a clean, well-performing site, you have to be ruthless about your goals and prioritize site content accordingly. Every element of your site needs to line up with those goals and everything that doesn’t, well…it doesn’t make the cut.

And if your organization has any degree of complexity, some parts of the organization will be more critical in accomplishing those goals than others. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t make space on your site for the less important parts of your organization, but their level of prominence should be dictated by the role they play in accomplishing your goals. It might not make you the most popular person around the water cooler, but it will help you meet your online goals.

High #2: You can tell your organization’s story in a clearer way.

Non-profit organizations like yours are doing amazing work in addressing the world’s problems. And in the last several years, the Internet has become a rallying point for those who want to help you do it. Your ability to connect with people from all over the world has never been greater and consequently, clearly articulating your mission and values to those people has never been more important.

At Masterworks, we have a team of Content Strategists who will help you identify who you should be communicating with, what their unique needs and interests are, and how to talk with them in the most compelling way possible.

Low #2: You will need to strive for clarity.

Whether you realize it or not, you have a bias toward your organization. More specifically, you have a bias toward familiarity. In social psychology, this is known as “Mere-Exposure Effect” and essentially, it means that you are more likely to develop a preference for something when you have prior exposure to it.

This principle plays itself out when your organization develops unique or internally focused ways of talking that probably wouldn’t be intuitive for an outsider. This can become tricky since your website’s users ALSO have a preference for what is familiar to THEM.

That’s why you need to avoid things like inwardly focused jargon throughout your website. And you should avoid design patterns that may seem “cool” but will confuse your users.

If you begin every decision by asking the question, “who are my users and what would be most helpful to them?” you are off to a good start.


High #3: You will get new insights from bright minds.

One of the best parts of working on a website redesign is the collaboration that happens when people come together and try to solve a problem. It’s truly an example of the old saying, “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”

As web design experts, we have a particular and unique set of skills as do the experts we work with at the non-profit ministries we serve. When you bring them both together, each group is challenged to think differently. And it’s at that point of intersection where the magic happens. And sometimes the best ideas come from the most unlikely places!

Low #3: You will be challenged to think past the status quo.

This one isn’t necessarily a “low,” but it can be a little shocking if you’re not prepared for it. Have you ever taken on a home improvement project only to find when you get elbow deep into it that the “small” problem you’re trying to address is actually a symptom of a serious, more systemic issue?

Yeah, me neither. Just kidding.

One of the things we say on a regular basis is, “a website redesign is an organizational change agent.” Basically, this means that in the course of a website project, it’s likely that we’ll find other parts of your organization that need work too. And rather than just sit quietly in the corner, we will try to do what you’d expect of any strategic partner: point it out and try to help you fix it.

The idea of iron sharpening iron comes to mind when I think about launching a new website. It’s not always going to be easy. But in my experience, the most valuable processes always take a little bit of hard work and determination.

Weighing the cost

Redesigning a website is a big undertaking, but if I can have a life-changing impact on kids across the world that I will likely never meet, it is all worth it. The highs, the lows, everything. I hope that inspires you to dive in and do the hard work of making your site great.

We’re not just designing websites. We’re changing the world.

Are you ready?