Working With Clients Who Want a Redesign: A Rebranding Checklist
So, you’ve been approached by a client to help with rebranding their WordPress site. That can be a tricky request. When you’re the one initiating a redesign, you’re prepared for the conversation. You’ve assessed the “suckage” of their website and understand why it’s a fixer-upper.When they come to you wanting a rebrand, it isn’t as simple as finding a new theme or modernizing their on-site marketing strategy.
When they come to you wanting a rebrand, it isn’t as simple as finding a new theme or modernizing their on-site marketing strategy.
Here are some of the more common reasons why clients may want a rebrand:
It’s not totally unheard of for a company to switch directions once they’ve discovered that their solution is more applicable to another industry. Or perhaps they discovered there’s a greater demand for their product overseas. Regardless of the reason for the pivot, a refresh or complete do-over of their branding may be necessary.
For some companies, the original brand identity has been in place for years, maybe even decades. It’s worked well, but it’s no longer a fresh enough image for today’s audience. Think about a handwritten font, for example. It might still look beautiful, but what if their millennial audience just doesn’t “get it”?
If a company has flown under the radar for long enough, they may not realize their company’s name, logo, or even domain is in violation of someone else’s copyright. But once traffic picks up on their site or someone calls their claim to a name into question, they may need to act hastily to swap out their branding.
It Was a Rush Job
For others, they likely had a brilliant business idea but didn’t take the time to think through branding because they wanted to push their product or service out the door right away. The lack of planning is now catching up to them as they can’t seem to keep anyone on the site long enough to convert.
Without extensive research into the audience or intensive planning around the company identity and branding, many companies may find themselves in the undesirable position of having to start all over again—and this is why they’re now coming to you.
If you’ve run into clients experiencing this sort of identity crisis, then this post is for you. I’m going to cover what you need to do to help clients tackle their branding exercise correctly this time around. I’m also going to give you some pointers on how to implement those changes on their WordPress site without disrupting the current visitors’ experience.
Why You Need to Tread Carefully Before Accepting a Rebranding Job
Creating a set of branding elements and guidelines is a process that should not be taken lightly. If your client approaches you and has no idea what they want to do for their rebranding, then you might want to pump the breaks on this project. (Basically, if they answer your questions with a question, that’s a bad sign.)
It doesn’t matter if you’re helping to redesign the branding or you’re simply responsible for implementing it on the site. If your client is not clear on what the new branding consists of, then I’d advise you not to move forward until everything is 100% crystal clear.
Here’s why I say this:
Branding plays a very important role on a company’s website. The more familiar and comfortable visitors feel when they step onto a website, the more likely they are to trust the company behind it, which, in turn, leads to move conversions. However, if your client forces a complete overhaul without thinking it through, not only will the change be jarring to the visitors’ experience, but it’ll also be painfully obvious that there was a lack of planning behind it.
If that’s not a big enough selling point, how about this: rebranding is a very expensive process. If your clients don’t realize that, then please do them a favor and let them know. It doesn’t even matter if all they’re changing is the company name. The logo, colors, typography, and images could all stay the same. But think about how far-reaching that singular change of a name will go. It’ll touch:
- The logo
- The domain name
- Every instance where the company is mentioned on the site
- All the site’s metadata
- The footer copyright information
- All internal links on the site
- All links that exist on other companies’ websites back to your own
- All over social media, including the logo, page name, description, URL, and all the old posts linking back to the old domain name
- And more
Just to reiterate, it would be in everyone’s best interest to take any approach at rebranding seriously. As a web design professional, it’s your job to ensure your clients understand what rebranding means and what the process for their specific rebranding exercise will entail, which, when you think about it, is no different than how you’d approach any other web design project. Right?
A Rebranding Checklist: For You and for Your Client
Okay, so if you trust that your client is fully prepared for this, let’s talk about implementation. Some of these you might handle yourself and some of these might be handled by your client with other parties.
Regardless, hold onto this checklist and review with your client to ensure that everyone has done their part.
There’s a lot that goes into company branding. The name needs to make sense, but it also needs to be memorable. The logo needs to be attractive, but it also needs to jive with the name. Colors obviously need to be chosen carefully. And the content needs to complete the story. Needless to say, research plays a huge role in this.
#2. Document It
Once the new brand identity is defined, it’s time to create a completely new style guide for it. This guide should then be shared with every person participating in the brand overhaul to ensure consistent implementation.
#3. Take Inventory
Review the WordPress site from top to bottom. Create an inventory of brand assets and everything that will subsequently be affected by these rebranding changes. You’ll want to keep this list on hand throughout the course of the project.
Note: You may not need to do each of the remaining items on this list. These are here so you’ll have a comprehensive rebranding checklist for whenever a new project arises. Simply leave in the ones that make sense for your project and forget about the rest.
#4. Put the Site on Pause
If your site has been live for more than a few months and has already generated a decent following, you might need to hit the “pause” button while you work through implementation. This may mean:
- Putting up an Under Construction page to stop visitors from seeing the old one. This should only be used if your client’s facing legal issues and doesn’t have new designs or content ready to replace the old ones.
- Publishing a blog post so visitors are aware of the changing face of the website over the projected time period.
- Waiting until all rebranding work is done and then scheduling time overnight to make all the changes. This way the site doesn’t have to go down and people won’t see the changes happening in real time.
#5. Update the Branded Elements
All affected visual elements on the site will need to be updated, which may include:
- Color palette
- Images (especially if they have a watermark)
You can make these updates from the WordPress Theme Customizer tool.
#6. Get a New Domain
If the name of the company has changed, then the domain name needs to be updated, too. All you need to do is register a new domain through your web hosting company and then mark the new domain as the primary one (while deactivating the old). Once you’ve made the change, go into WordPress and check under General Settings to ensure that your new URL is there.
#7. Fix Your Links
When your site’s domain name changes, the URL of all the pages on your site should automatically switch over. However, that does not mean that embedded links, CTA buttons, or other manually generated links will switch over. (This is why an inventory checklist is important.)
I personally like to start with the Broken Link Checker plugin. This plugin sets up a scan of all the hyperlinks on your site and lets you know if any of them are broken. You can work directly within the scanned list of broken links and adjust the URL there so you don’t have to unnecessarily go through page-by-page.
#8. Cover Your Back
You’ll also need a redirect plugin just in case an old link somehow gets left behind. Use the SEO Redirection plugin to create 301 redirects and to know when 404 errors happen.
#9. Rewrite Copy
For some rebranding projects, only a few name changes may be in order throughout the content of your site. For others, rebranding may require a more intensive rewrite of the site if the entire identity, target market, and so on are being shifted.
#10. Edit SEO
An update to your site’s metadata may get sticky, especially if organic traffic was previously pretty high. However, you do want all information to be presented consistently across your site, which means updating the:
- Title tag
- Meta description
- Focus keyword
Just keep in mind that major changes to this metadata will likely lead to a decrease in traffic, at least for a little while.
#11. Create New XML Site Map
Speaking of which, if your domain name, metadata, or content on your site has changed in any way due to this rebranding, you’ll need to create and send out a new XML sitemap to the search engines.
You should be able to make all changes from #10 and #11 using your SEO plugin. The All in One SEO Pack plugin will do the trick if you don’t already have one set up.
#12. Fix Your Forms
In terms of forms, it’s not really a matter of updating the content within the forms. Instead, focus on making sure two items are in order: the redirect URL for the form (if it goes to a custom Thank You page) and the email address which receives the notification (if you changed your email address’s exchange).
#13. Notify Google
Generating a new sitemap for the search engines is the first step in letting Google know what’s going on. But don’t forget to update your new domain address or company name in your other Google tools. This includes Analytics, Search Console, and My Business.
#14. Update Other Marketing Assets
Most businesses these days have an online presence established across multiple channels. A WordPress website is just one of the places where company assets need to be updated during rebranding. Social media, newsletters, and print and digital collateral should all have their content reviewed and revised accordingly.
#15. Launch Rebranding Marketing Campaign
Last, but not least, if your client is going through the trouble of rebranding so they can come out a better and stronger company in the end, their audience should receive word of the upcoming changes. Preliminary announcements can be made in #4 above, but the launch itself should have its own marketing campaign—especially if this means exciting changes for customers. Here are some options to consider:
- Issue a press release
- Announce it on social media
- Write a blog post
- Email customers
- Add a hello bar announcement or pop-up reminder on the site
A rebranding request doesn’t always mean the site is in for a complete overhaul. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of work that goes into any of these requests, no matter how minor they may seem at the outset.
Just remember to work closely with your client to ensure they’re doing the rebranding for the right reasons, that they’re approaching the rebranding exercise correctly, and that they also understand what you have to do to implement those changes on their website. Your goal is two-fold here: to get a rebranded website up quickly for your client (because there’s nothing worse than being unhappy with the current state of your business) and to do so with little interruption to the visitors’ experience.