Anyone who’s ever taken on a large home remodel knows the time, stress, money, unforeseen challenges and people management that comes with the new look. The amount of time spent planning, strategizing and anticipating simply cannot account for the mold that it turns out was under the floor or the delayed shipping on that tile you picked out, or the endless humidity that prevents the wallpaper from sticking.

The remodeling, redesigning, and restructuring of a website is a lot like a house project. If your floor is sinking, your appliances are older than you are, and don’t get me started on the roof – yeah, you might need to spend some time and money on your website. It happens fast; your site not working well on mobile, or the information about your company that rolled over year after year suddenly being, well, years old, or the updates that need to be performed piling up so it just doesn’t load for people who access it on Internet Explorer 9 (yeah, you’re out there and you probably don’t even know who you are).

The front end of designing a new or newer website is fun. You pick a look and feel that matches your brand. You select or create some updated images or video. You have concepts for how things will live and breathe and function in this new, up-to-date world. It’s exciting. All the other stuff? The curling carpet, the peeling paint, the structural integrity? If you’re one of those guys/gals – that excites you more than picking out the new color probably, but if you’re a me, you’re scared because it’s out of your skillset and therefore quite a lot of your control.

Whether you’re DIYing it or hiring an agency to remodel your website, here are some handy take-aways for having a finished product worth a cocktail party, or e-commerce experience:

You need good bones: house or website, the bones of your system need to be in place to hold things together. Sometimes, like when you host different websites on different domain platforms, or different people signed up for different services at different times, or to get to this part you need to log in here, but to get this to work you have to log in as this person who doesn’t work here anymore… you realize that though it maybe wasn’t in the plan or budget, you need the structural integrity behind the scenes to support logical site management.
  • Host together.
  • Edit together.
  • Have a team share the data, not managed by one person who doesn’t even work here anymore.
You wanted to keep the carpet, but the carpet is no good: Yes, it’s vintage shag, and it got you through a lot of tough times and matched every couch you’ve ever owned, but the carpet is too old – it’s full of errors, (even grammatical ones you never noticed – yikes), and it just isn’t you anymore. Update the carpet. Update the copy.

What you imagine and what actually is possible might be different: Even though I thought vaulted ceilings would really add some height to my living room doesn’t mean that I have the actual space to make it happen. On paper, things look really good. In reality, websites are living, breathing (so to speak) entities that are bound by code, logic, and ultimately are also victims of human error. When your imagination dreamed of an entirely new, state-of-the-art, intuitive website, maybe the budget, practicality, and skillset of everyone involved doesn’t actually match your dreams.

Set expectations that are realistic.

Hold your teams accountable for either executing them or making a plan to achieve them in the future (maybe I can’t have vaulted ceilings now, but that doesn’t mean never…)

On the other end of a massive website remodel, I have learned a lot. I learned a lot of what I don’t know about my own “house,” I learned to trust my gut, and I learned to adapt and adjust to the reality of each situation as it arises. It’s pretty, it works, and maybe it would never have been as beautiful as what I dreamed, but what’s key is that the websites are now in a place to be managed, updated, and are adaptable to our growing household – and those possibilities are just as exciting.

What are some features of your favorite websites?