How to Undertake a Website Redesign
Are you thinking about a redesign of your website? If so, you are in the right place. This article focuses on the key phases of website redesign strategy. We provide a high level view of the the phases required for any serious website redesign. If you prefer a visual format, this article is also available in a series of seven short videos.
Why undertake a website redesign?
First and foremost your business environment is continually changing, so is technology. Your website is at the nexus of this intersection, so it needs to continually evolve to survive.
Here are six common reasons for redesigns:
- You need to integrate new branding – this can be a new logo or a brand refresh that needs to be supported in the website design.
- Your website design is out of date – design trends change and this is an opportunity to catch up.
- Usability issues have surfaced – perhaps your website has become less user-friendly over the years and you need to streamline your content and features.
- You have new products or services and because of this, your website organization may need to be modified.
- There may be new technology to integrate – a good example of this is making your website mobile responsive or adding social media content to your website.
- New target audiences to market to – if you’re trying to expand your market you’ll need to add content and features to address that market.
Any or all of these are good reasons for a redesign.
And I think we can all agree that the intended outcome of any redesign should be: More clients, more sales, more visibility.
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How do I plan for a website redesign?
Let’s discuss your general plan of attack for the redesign. The good news is that since it’s a redesign, that means that you have had a website before, and you can learn a lot from your past experience.
Here are five key data sources to check out that will help you plan a successful redesign.
- Learn from your website performance: How did it stack up to your business goals, where did it succeed, where did it fall flat.
- Learn from your analytics. A quick look at your analytics will tell you what people did on your website, what pages were the most popular, how long they spent on those pages, and a ton of other valuable information that will help you strategize the redesign.
- Learn from your competition: Check out your competition including your direct competition and the big players that aspire to compete against. What are they doing that you can learn from?
- Learn from your customers : Talk to some customers – what are they looking for? How can you help them. If you have a sales team, get their input.
- Finally, if you have a web or marketing agency, learn from them what best practices do they use that can apply to your website.
Write down the results of this review in a bullet point list and use it to set your focus and guide you through the redesign process.
How to approach branding strategy for your website redesign.
Your brand helps distinguish your company or products from competitors, and it should create a lasting impression in the minds of customers.
Key branding elements include (but are not limited to):
- Color palette
- Font styles
- Supporting graphics or images
- Brand personality or character
We are going to focus on the visual components and to that end, if you don’t have one, this redesign is the ideal time to create an online style guide.
Here are some examples of brand style guides we have created for clients. The style guide will define the design direction for your creative team and keep everyone on the same page across all your online channels, so the design of your website is consistent with the design of your Facebook page, your display ads, your emails, etc.
Don’t be one of those businesses that just slap their logo at the top of the website and put some stock art on the page. This is detrimental to your brand. Your brand should come across as authentic. Consumers are are very sophisticated and they can spot poor branding in a matter of seconds.
So work with your creative team on the brand strategy and how best to infuse your website redesign with elements that will differentiate your business and communicate that strong brand image. Also work with a professional copywriter who can create compelling messaging to your target clients. The combination of brand imagery and content will make your website much more effective.
How to organize your website content for a redesign.
Let’s talk about the 900 pound gorilla – content organization. The old thought was that online space is unlimited so why not put everything and the kitchen sink online. The new thought is that less is more. So our strategy would be to streamline the website content.
As with all aspects of redesign strategy, think of your target clients. What type of information or products do they want and how can you get them there as quickly as possible? Also think about your business goals. To be successful, you need to guide website visitors to content that fulfills your business goals, whether that’s to buy something, fill out a form, call you, etc.
I prefer a traditional site map to help organize content types and priority. It’s a useful tool that allows the whole team to quickly understand the website structure.
Remember that the website sitemap is one piece of your online footprint and that other online channels, like social media, online partners, and marketing efforts will all feed in and out, like a digital ecosystem.
Here are some content organization tips.
- Organize your content logically, the way you want a website visitor to interact with it.
- Don’t overload your primary navigation with too many options. Move less important navigation options to the footer menu area. Or use an innovative menu to prioritize the content presentation.
- Build flexibility into your website content areas. This means that your marketing and sales team should have the ability to create new landing pages to support sales initiatives.
Once the content organization has been figured out, you are well on the way to a successful redesign.
Technology approach for a website redesign.
First let’s pinpoint where we are in this website redesign process. We’ve done our business goals and general strategy. We’ve got our branding figured out, we have our content organization for the website, and that puts us at the technology piece of your website redesign.
Let’s start with the basics, First, run a diagnostic tool called builtwith on the old website to provide an overview of how the website was built.
Here we can see where the site is being hosted, the content management system, what kind of plugins are being used, as well as a lot of other technology indicators that help us plan and improve on the technology requirements.
Here’s a simplified diagram to show you how it all lays out. You have your website hosting at the base. On top of that you put your website framework, something like WordPress or Drupal. Then into that you hook in your plugins (also referred to as modules or extensions) like a calendar, photo gallery, e-commerce, event manager, etc. You also integrate any outside services, such as social media, backups, chat, sales tax apps, APIs, etc.
Here are some technology tips:
- Remember that the technology piece is at least 50% of your whole redesign effort. So it’s important to have solid communication with your programming team.
- You will probably have to throw out the old framework and rebuild it on a new one. This is because it takes longer to retrofit an old website framework than to just scrap it and start fresh.
- All modern websites have a CMS (Content Management System), that allows the business owner or content manager to log into the content admin area and update the content without needing a programmer. If you’re familiar and comfortable with the previous website CMS, it would probably be better to keep stay with that framework rather than train on a completely new system.
- Testing is one of the most necessary and overlooked parts of this process. You will need to test the redesigned site on desktop and mobile devices. Even if you have a good development team, expect to spend many hours on bug fixes and tweaks.
We could go on for days and days about the technical aspects of the redesign, but I’m trying to keep this article brief. So please give us a call if you have any questions.
SEO issues with website redesigns.
One of the great things about doing a redesign is that the content of your old site still has search engine equity. We need to execute a strategy that retains that equity or else you could see a huge drop in search engine traffic.
Here are four Search Engine Optimization best practices that will help you maintain the SEO of your old website while bolstering the marketability of your new one.
- #1 is simple and essential: Install Google Analytics for visitor tracking.
- #2: Copy the meta tags from the old website pages, update them as needed, and add them back into the new website pages.
- #3: 301 Redirects. During your redesign you’ve probably shuffled content around and changed the names of some of your pages. The search engines don’t automatically understand this. This is where 301 redirects come in. For example, A 301 redirect will tell the search engine that your old “Services” page is now called “What We Do”. This will help you maintain your existing search engine rankings so you don’t lose traffic. This is analogous to moving to a new home and telling the post office where to reroute your mail that’s been sent to the old address.
- #4: Use Google Search Console to recrawl and re-index the website after launch, but remember that it may take a few days for your new website pages to show up on web searches. These updates, along with any DNS changes, can take up to 48 – 72 hours to propagate throughout the internet and some browsers may cache old versions of your web pages for a while.
After the redesigned website is live, check out the bounce rates and compare them to the old website. Hopefully the bounce rate has gone down. If not, try a tool like Hotjar to pinpoint where people are leaving your pages. Proactively, this is a great time for you to announce your redesigned website in an email blast out to your full email list. You can also write a blog post, and publish it on your social media channels. We’ve done hundreds of redesigns so please give us a call if you have any questions.