There are very few, if any, websites on the Internet that don’t undergo at least a minor facelift at some point in their lifecycle. If you own a business with a web presence, at some point, that site will need to be redesigned, whether it’s due to the changing nature of your business, or purely for aesthetic reasons.
Redesigning your company site can be a major undertaking, so we’ve put together a helpful list of things to keep in mind when considering a redesign.
1. Why Are You Redesigning?
This is perhaps the most deceptively complex, yet obvious question of all. Before undergoing any redesign, however, it’s important to understand what it is you wish to accomplish. Are you unhappy with the way your site functions? Do you simply want a better-looking site? Do you need to improve search engine rankings and sales conversions? Maybe the focus of your business has shifted and it’s time for new content.
These are all important factors to consider, so before you start, make a detailed list of what it is you wish to accomplish during the redesign. This will help guide you through the rest of the process and make sure you stay focused on the end goal.
2. What Type of Redesign Do You Need?
Now that you’ve decided exactly why you want to redesign your site, it’s time to decide just how far down the rabbit hole you need to go. Perhaps a small change in visuals and content is all that’s necessary. On the other hand, you may need to add new features or completely redo your underlying code base. Depending on your needs and budget, a large overhaul may be out of the question, or it may be the most cost-effective long-term solution, so take a moment to think about your needs going forward and work with your developer to strike a balance that best meets them.
3. What Does and Doesn’t Work Currently?
No matter how large or small the redesign, chances are there will be some elements of your existing site that work very well and some that don’t work at all. Now is the time to go through your site and identify these elements. Maybe your content is too verbose or your sales page isn’t very user-friendly. On the other hand, that photo gallery and the blog may be big-ticket items that do really well for your image and bring in lots of traffic. Some elements will need to remain (though possibly given a makeover), some will need to be cleaned up and some will have to go. Break your site down into its key components and then compare those with the goals you decided on in step one and the overall vision for your web site. If something doesn’t fit, it’s out.
4. How Is Your Site Being Used?
Along these same lines, don’t forget to take a look at how users are currently interacting with your site. This will help you identify great content and problem areas. Study your traffic statistics and site analytics for information on things such as entry and exit pages, sales conversions, and search engine keywords. This will help you to understand how visitors find your site and what they do once they get there. While you’re studying those statistics, also have a look at details like screen resolution and browser usage. This will help your developer determine what technical specifications your site should meet and whether a separate mobile version of your site is recommended, among other things.
5. Has Your Brand or Company Image Changed?
If you’ve undergone changes to your brand and company image, those changes need to be reflected in your site, even if the only updates are visual. Keep your logos updated and consider a color-overhaul if the corporate image or philosophy has shifted. Your website is often the first impression people get of your business, so it should grow and mature right along with the rest of your brand identity.
6. When and How Should You Launch Your Redesign?
When and how you launch your redesign can have a big impact on your traffic and in generating buzz about your new site and your product. Maybe you’re simply making improvements and want to slowly roll out changes over time and unannounced. This unobtrusive rollout won’t give you a lot of buzz, but it will still accomplish your goals of improving the site’s performance and the user’s experience. On the other hand, a big relaunch around the holidays or at the start of a big promotion, or when announcing a major change in the way your business operates can both draw traffic and generate more interest.
7. How Do I Make the Transition Smoother?
Most people are a little intimidated by change. If you have a site that gets a lot of repeat traffic, a sudden, drastic change in form and function can be a bit off-putting to some users. Further, you don’t want this drastic shift to damage search engine rankings and suddenly destroy any and all backlinks you may have gathered over the years.
Try and keep vital elements of your site similar to their existing counterparts, such as the main navigation and header. Usually, your redesign should strive to be an evolution of your existing site, not a dramatic replacement. If the change is dramatic, make sure it’s clear and give your users a blog post or news announcement discussing the changes.
Similarly, you want to make things easy for the search engine spiders, as well. Moved content should be redirected via 301 redirects, for instance, and error pages should be helpful and transmit the correct header information and meta data. For human visitors, make sure those error pages contain helpful information that is, where possible, relevant to the content the user was trying to access.