Most private equity firms will redesign their website every decade or so because the nature of the business won’t change enough from year to year to necessitate a major overhaul every few years.
That said, one downside of infrequent website updates is that once you launch your site, that’s what you’ll be working with for a while. Which makes getting things right early all the more important.
The success or failure of a website redesign can be difficult to recognize. Because if it looks good and you’re happy with it, what more do you need?
Unfortunately, most PE firms don’t know what to look for and therefore, when they contract with a web designer, won’t be able to recognize gaps in the web development or redesign process that could negatively affect 1) your experience as the owner of the website or 2) the experience of your target audience.
Below are some of the most common questions I see go unasked by private equity firms working on a website redesign with an outsourced web designer.
#1 What will be the process for creating messaging and website copy?
The process for creating messaging and website copy is usually the most forgotten aspect of developing a website. Designers are great at what they do, but unfortunately will lean into design and let messaging fall by the wayside.
Designers shouldn't start designing page components until you have fleshed out the messaging, story, and wireframe for each page.
#2 Will a branding guidelines deck be one of the deliverables of our engagement?
For a full website redesign project, one of the deliverables should be a Branding Guidelines PDF outlining items like the use of logos, colors, and fonts. These guidelines will be useful for future marketing projects. If the design incorporates custom fonts, make sure the designer shares the TTF files with you.
#3 As part of design, are we taking into account the experience of mobile visitors?
When designing a website, it's best if the designer takes a "mobile-first" mentality. Sometimes designers create websites with just the desktop version in mind, then finagle it to work on mobile, which can be clunky. Roughly half of internet traffic happens on phones (especially if you intend to drive traffic from social media), so you want to make sure that the mobile experience looks good.
#4 Will we have access to publish or update material on the site via the CMS?
Something to think about is whether or not you will have access to the CMS (i.e. the back end of the site to publish new pages). Some design agencies act as the gatekeeper so that you have to go through them to add new posts (like press releases) to your site. Others give you full access and train you on how to use it.
Neither arrangement is right or wrong, it just depends on how hands-on you want to be. If you plan to post regularly (such as press releases or content, it’s nice to have CMS access.
#5 How do you ensure our website will load quickly?
When implementing design, you'll want the designer to be thoughtful about performance (i.e. page speed). If a page looks good but it doesn't load fast enough, visitors won't stick around long enough to find out. A common culprit for slow loading pages is that a web page contains images that are 3x the necessary resolution given their rendered size on a page. Video backgrounds are also a common culprit of slow-loading web pages.
#6 Do we need a theme for our site?
It’s common in PE world to build your brand around a theme, with matching imagery.
If this is the approach you want to take, you might think about staying away from the most common themes in private equity (e.g. nature, nautical, New York). Focusing on the sectors you target is always a great move to help your audience feel like they’re in the right place.
Something else to recognize: you don't need a specific theme with matching imagery for your site. A clean layout with nice colors often looks more professional than a website full of stock images.
#7 How will we market our website going forward?
A lot of design firms also operate as digital marketing agencies and will offer services on the tail end.
This is fine, just make sure that the services they're offering make sense for private equity and aren't shallow adaptations from other industries. For example, in my experience SEO plays a very minor role in promoting a PE firm.
The most common channels you should be thinking about when marketing your PE firm online:
- Biz dev email
- Marketing email
- LinkedIn paid
- LinkedIn organic
#8 If we have content on our site, what will the content experience look like?
The most common way to aggregate content on a website is in a blog, with most recent posts at the top and older posts at the bottom.
Blogs are a good way to host posts that are timely, like press releases and reports. But if you intend to create content that is evergreen (i.e. always relevant), you may want to think about a different type of content experience so that your good content doesn't get buried at the bottom of the blog.
#9 What sort of ongoing costs can we expect (like hosting costs)?
Most web design agencies will host your site for you so you don’t have to worry about handling technical requirements. That’s a great service!
That said, please recognize that hosting costs are a commodity, so don't let yourself get fleeced on those.
Adopt a Forward-Looking Marketing Mindset With Your New Website
When you launch a new website for your firm, hopefully it will be one that you’re excited about sharing with the world.
Consequently, you’ll want to be thoughtful about what the next step looks like for promoting that website across appropriate marketing channels.
To get a sense of marketing strategy for private equity, take a look at this short article.