Last week the social news aggregator redesigned their website. Normally you'd expect a visitor bump after announcing the launch of a new and improved website.

In Digg's case, their traffic plummeted by 33% globally. Ouch.

It proves that the internet is a very fickle place and as Hitwise's Research Director Robin Goad said there is one principle that everyone needs to learn from this:

"Don't alienate your core users."

Church communications specialists can do the same, in our enthusiasm to reach our primary target audience, (those who aren't coming to our church) we forget about our existing core audience. The people in our church. I'm not just talking about our congregation but the staff and volunteers as well. Everyone counts.

I know from experience after redesigning Crossway's website that if you move and change things around too much you will receive a backlash (in the nicest of possible ways :-). Some people don't understand why things are changing. Here are four principles I've learnt through my experience:

1) Have lots of conversations with your key stakeholders on staff explaining why you are doing what you are doing. When you think you've had enough, do it again. I was surprised that even though I met with all of the key stakeholders it wasn't until the site was live that people actually fully understood what impact the changes meant for them.

2) Undertake a review with your key stakeholders on staff post launch. Sit down again and talk through the changes with your staff. As I said earlier some people can't visualise what the changes really mean for them until they see the finished product.

3) Review your web analytics pre-launch and post launch.Find out what your analytics are telling you. Are the highest traffic pages still the highest traffic pages? Are there any pages that used to get traffic that are no longer getting any traffic?

4) Be open and flexible to making changes. If there is one principle I've learnt in my role is that I haven't figured it all out and I have to be open and flexible to the possibility of changes to the website. We've implemented quite a few changes post launch after listening to our core audience (that we don't think will take away from our primary external audience).

What have you learnt through developing or redeveloping a website?

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