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The Ultimate Ski Resort Website Redesign Checklist (Part 1 of 3) Ask Questions

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GREGG
BLANCHARD
       

To say Joe Myers (@joeartdotcom) designs websites is like saying Lance Armstrong rides bikes. It may be true, but is only the tip of a ridiculously impressive iceberg. In his design portfolio are the websites of a few mom-n-pop style resorts, you may have heard of them: Aspen/Snowmass (see comments), Jackson Hole, Squaw Valley, The Canyons, Waterville Valley, and Sunday River. Or maybe you’ve seen his site designs for small, no-name brands like Freeskier Magazine, Snowboard Magazine, Ogio, and Discrete Headwear.

As perhaps the most talented name is ski resort site design, I crossed my fingers as I shot Joe an email with the prospect of a guest post. Joe obliged, and then some. I gave him one question, “Ok, our resort marketing team has decided its time for our website to be redesigned. Now what? What can I do NOW to make the process with the designers and developers?”. A few days later he shot back what you see below: the most complete checklist I’ve ever seen. With this much value, I’ve decided to spread it over three days to cover each of the key areas he outlined. You may want to print this one out and tape this one to the wall. Seriously. Take it away, Joe:

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OK so you know your resort’s site is garbage. Your boss hates it, your customers complain about it, and it’s undermining all your hard work as a marketer. Don’t worry. It happens. The moment a site goes live, it starts to deteriorate from poor graphic execution, last-minute promotions, badly formatted content, unforeseen compatibility hacks, etc. So it’s time for a redesign. This is the year. So now what? Well it’s never as simple as you might think. But the only way to begin is to begin. If you’re hiring a web designer or web design/development team*, there are ways to streamline the process before you even meet with potential candidates. So here’s a checklist.

* I’m a web designer and although I work with a variety of great web developers and development teams, I would defer to their expertise on individual projects. So for the purposes of this article, I’ll just touch on a few high-level development concepts.

STEP 1: Ask Questions

Assemble a core team for the project and task them with initial direction and good, honest informtion gathering. This team should include your CMO, Marketing Manager, Brand Manager, Web Developer, IT pro, Social Media Person, and Print Designer (if you actually have all these people, you’re ahead of the game). However, when it comes to day-to-day tasks, keep the team as small as possible. The committee approach is great for team-building at corporate retreats, but horrible for design.

Also, consider polling resort stakeholders for suggestions, including the various heads of major departments around the resort like Ticket Sales, F&B, Operations, Lodging, Groups/Events, etc. They may not be required to sit in a long meeting, but it’s a good idea to poll them once, early (email works) in the process to determine if they have ideas that can contribute to the site’s overall effectiveness and the all-important “ROI”. As an added bonus, listening to them will come in handy when the site launches and you’re looking for pats on the back.

What’s WRONG with your site?

Ask yourselves WHY is your site so awful? If all you can come up with is “it sucks”, you’re not going to be able to help your designer solve the problem.

  • Is the site architecture (navigation) whacky or unintuitive?
  • Is the design/photography/branding out of date?
  • Is the site built with current best-practices1, usability2, or accessibility3 in mind?
  • Does Google hates you4?
  • Can you edit what you need to edit?

What’s RIGHT with your site?
There may be some features you’d like to keep in tact. Be sure to tell your web designer if you or your customers enjoy particular aspects of the site.

  • Is the database is dialed in?
  • Is the CMS (content management system) is easy to use?
  • Do your users love your snow reporting system?
  • Is your interactive map awesome? Or was it at least awesome in 2004?

What are your immediate GOALS for the new site?
Define what you can REALISTICALLY expect out of this redesign based on your budget and timeline. You may not be able to get your lodging, tickets, rentals, retail, and F&B on one P.O.S. system this summer. BUT you can certainly make it easier to find information leading to those areas, and you may even be able to integrate buying widgets on key pages of the site to increase user confidence, online sales, and pre-arrival commitment.

  • What are your metrics for success?
  • What should be the user’s primary call to action?
  • How can the new design affect your bottom line?
  • How can social media help meet your goals?

Step 2,  do research (coming tomorrow)…

Footnotes
1 best-practices = nice, semantic W3C standards-compliant code
2 usability = intuitive and responsive design where the site behaves as one would expect without causing the user to “learn” the interface
3 accessibility = quick-loading, text-supported, minimal scripting – The Web Accessibility Initiave
4 SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is an entirely different specialty, but suffice it to say building a site is built “well” is half the battle. Consider hiring an SEO consultant for help ranking higher in search engines.



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