Today’s marketing teams are under a lot of pressure to constantly evolve an organization’s website to meet users’ expectations of the digital experience. A focus on providing elevated, personalized user experiences through multiple channels and devices has given way to a plethora of marketing software and integrations. While this is great news, it also presents a major challenge.
Rebranding a large site to encompass new functionality often requires redesigning the site. A full redesign of websites for large health systems, universities, or multinationals often requires the buy-in of numerous stakeholders across multiple departments or regions and is a large capital-intensive investment to undertake all at once. However, with some ingenuity and the right platform, it’s possible to take an approach that allows marketing departments to roll out their rebrands without having to wait for years. But first, it’s necessary to understand the primary logistical and technical challenges in order to determine the right approach.
Overcome Logistical & Technical Challenges
There are many logistical and technical concerns when embarking on a rebrand for a large website. First, it's hard to redesign components used throughout the larger system without potentially impacting numerous areas and causing unforeseen issues or a mountain of testing and retrofitting work. Second, it’s not always feasible to expect a distributed, global marketing team to effectively apply new branding in time for a timely ad campaign, especially when the campaign is only running in one region. And finally, organizations’ IT departments may not allow the introduction of another system into their digital landscape.
So, how can marketing teams roll out a rebrand by department or region without affecting the other parts of their website? Fortunately, there’s an approach that has proven successful for many of our clients: the rolling upgrade.
Leverage the Power of Sitecore to Enable a Rolling Upgrade
What if it’s possible to take a microsite approach built within the current system? What if it can be built side-by-side with the current global, multi-market website, leveraging what is needed from the current site without forcing the new designs and changes into markets that don’t need them?
With Sitecore, it’s possible to develop a new set of features for an entirely new website and deploy it side-by-side with existing web properties. Modularity is one of the strengths of Sitecore as a platform. Multiple websites, with their own distinct components and assets can co-exist in the same system, and even share common resources. Pages can be constructed from a kit of components that can exist independent of each other. By building the solution with modularity in mind, it’s possible to have the freedom to develop new components and create new experiences taking only what is needed from existing sites without dropping unplanned work onto the teams that maintain them.
For example, to support an ad campaign for the U.S. market, it’s possible to create a customized solution within Sitecore to introduce a small, targeted change to the way web requests are resolved. If a visitor comes in looking for the U.S. website, that request will be routed to the new site being built if that page exists. If it doesn’t, it can fall back to the old tree and display the old site. All this can be done with a few lines of code and a bit of testing, without putting the timeline in danger.
Once the redesigned experience has been rolled out to the selected market, another region or department may decide that they want to come on board. They are prepared with their media assets, updated the copy to be relevant to their region, and designed new experiences specific to their local customers. To handle this efficiently, it's possible to add a selector to the Sitecore administration panel that allows a market to opt into the new design, when they’re ready. All of this can be done without getting the development team on the phone and scheduling a maintenance window and code deployment. Since the work in the system has been clearly scoped and the impact constrained, each region or department can roll out their rebranding at their own pace.
The rolling upgrade approach is very versatile as seen in the examples above. For many organizations, the two most compelling reasons to consider the rolling upgrade are: 1) Wanting to get a region or department’s rebrand out to market faster, and 2) Being able to make iterative improvements easily.
Roll Out a Rebrand Faster
Let's consider the earlier example of a marketing team that needs to roll out a brand refresh for their U.S. market as part of a multi-channel advertisement campaign. In a traditional redesign scenario, technology teams would need to consider the impact to all the other markets which share the components and assets being redesigned. The scope of such a project could take 12 months or longer, as all the other regions gather assets and localize content.
However, with a rolling upgrade, the estimate would be for the U.S. market only. Say the marketing team has great new designs, content copy, and media assets to support the most visited pages—the ones based on research that should yield the highest engagement with their customers and generate the most conversions. These are the pages to target for this project; any other pages can continue to use the old design. Given the targeted focus, this same project could likely get done in a quarter of the time, or 3 months, in time to meet the campaign’s launch date.
Given that the scope of the project would be focused on the initial goal—a specific set of changes to a targeted amount of content—instead of an entire company or organization, the rolling upgrade would significantly reduce the time to market.
Take Advantage of Iterative Improvement
While the focused approach is great in terms of faster time to market, there is also another advantage. The region or department initiating the targeted redesign may want to apply their new design to a few more pages, create some new pages, or make some adjustments to existing pages based on a review of the analytics data. If the solution is built utilizing a modular architecture in accordance with best practices, it’s easy to move, personalize, swap, or remove components from a page to optimize the customer experience.
Sitecore espouses modular architecture with their Helix principles, and when they are applied to a solution, they enable an organization to make concise, targeted changes rapidly, with minimal impact on un-related systems. This allows a marketing team to react quickly to customer tastes and roll out improvements faster. Getting into a cadence of continuous change is powerful, and it unlocks a team’s ability to keep up with their evolving audiences and stay ahead of their competitors.
Break Free From the Constraints of Monolithic Systems
The idea of a rolling upgrade may initially seem daunting, especially if an organization has been dealing with the same solution for years. Many marketing teams have accepted that getting anything done in their CMSs takes weeks. If there’s a code deployment involved, team members may be conditioned to believe that they should just forget about hitting their deadline.
But, fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Sitecore’s modular framework along with custom code makes it possible to break out of the constrains previously experienced with large, monolithic systems. The right digital partner can assess existing systems, determine priorities by region or department, and help implement a rolling upgrade to enable a cycle of continuous improvement.
At Velir, we’ve worked with large multinationals and universities to help them implement rolling upgrades so they can bring their new regional and departmental branding to market significantly faster. Through this approach, we’ve also helped empower teams to make iterative changes to their designs easily and confidently without fear of affecting other components or areas of their sites.
Are you considering a rebrand and redesign for one of your organization’s regions or departments but aren’t sure how to get started? We’re happy to share our experience with the process and answer any questions. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet us @Velir.