Reflections on a Web Site Redesign

When I joined NCsoft a little over a year ago, one of the core things I wanted to improve was the main US web site. Well, it took somewhat longer than I had planned, but recently the redesigned site went live.

NCsoft West new home page
NCsoft West new home page

Here is the old site for a comparison:

NCsoft West website before redesign
NCsoft West website before redesign

When you’re embarking on a site redesign, one of the key questions to ask is whether you can take it on in-house.

Most corporate web teams are under-staffed and over-worked, and while they would relish the opportunity to work on a critical site redesign, it’s often just not practical to take it on internally.

I had those same doubts, but once I started seeing initial comps from our web designer, Clark Wimberly, I knew we had something that was going to work.

Even so, the design process took us far longer than we had allowed for (even with a good deal of padding added to the schedule). This left us with considerably less time to build the site than we needed, including an unforeseen requirement to translate it into three other languages.

Another element which caused a considerable challenge was the fact that we were dissolving our old PlayNC gaming brand and moving back to NCsoft.

This involved a domain name change and meant that we couldn’t roll the redesign out in phases due to the fact that we needed to update the branding throughout the site.

Instead, we did a ‘big bang’ redesign, which included our online store as well as our billing and account management system. And, gave me many a sleepless night.

I believe that the launch of a web site redesign is just the beginning of the redesign process. The initial site is typically full of compromises, things that you never got round to implementing, and issues that you’ll fix after launch.

Our site is no exception. I’d say we got to about 80% in terms of what I’d hoped to achieve with the new site.

However, once your site is actually live it’s so much easier to add those new features, fix those outstanding bugs and rectify those weird design choices that came about through the need to compromise in order to achieve a consensus.

All-in-all, I’m extremely happy with the way the site turned out. It’s so easy to get so fixated on the issues and the things that didn’t work out quite as planned that you start not seeing the bigger picture.

Now that it’s launched and I’m no longer with NCsoft (see future post) I can sit back and say yes, that thing is badass. Thanks everyone for all your hard work on it.