Whether your navigation is too complex, your design is dated, or you are not getting the results you want, a website redesign seems to become the topic of discussion every two or three years within many organizations.
Any change in your marketing — of which your website is likely a large part — requires thought, time, and planning. Knowing the reason behind your desire to redesign your site can shed a lot of light on the project goals.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to redesigning a website, the first is agile design, where several small changes are made in iteration, over time. The second is a complete site overhaul. It is exactly how it sounds. It is a complete, ground-up redesign that leaves little resemblance to the original.
There are pros and cons to each of these approaches. You’ll notice that larger sites like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook tend to make a lot of small changes frequently. That is because they are always testing how their customers react and trying to gain insights or improve conversions. This is an example of agile design.
Many small businesses, however, go for the jugular and make wide, drastic changes less frequently because they do not have a marketing team constantly testing, applying, and making minor changes to their site to increase sales or conversions.
In general, I prefer agile design. This helps prove theories faster and leads to less confusion with the website visitor.
A Few Agile Design Considerations
1. Keep it Regular: have a schedule and plan of upcoming changes
2. Find the Right Balance: don’t push too many updates that change too much, your visitors will get confused
3. Understand Your Market and Users
4. Benchmark: measure what you are doing against a controlled group (if you are not testing dynamic content (sometimes called “[Smart Content]”), we need to talk. Now.)
5. Maintain Focus: know why you are making these changes and keep your goals in mind
Once your team can agree on either an agile or complete overhaul design approach, it is critical to understand *why* you / your boss / the board feels that the website should be updated.
1. Why Are You Redesigning Your Website
The main reason you should redesign your website is impact your business, not because you are bored with the design or because someone wants red instead of blue.
Focus more on the results.
Every design decision should be focused on improving the overall goals: more visitors, more leads, and more customers.
With this in mind, you and the design team can spend less time worrying about the exact shade of reddish-orange in the top navigation bar and more time focused on generating new business.
Poor Reasons to Redesign Your Site
- You don’t like the colors
- It has been awhile
- Your competitors got a new site design
Good Reasons to Redesign Your Site
- The purpose of your site has changed
- Your site navigation is confusing
- Important content is hidden
- Your site is not mobile responsive (17% of web traffic is now from mobile devices)
- Your resources, data, examples, etc are outdated
Better Reasons to Redesign Your Site
- You aren’t getting the results you want
- You are implementing a better content strategy
Best Reasons to Redesign Your Site
- Generate more visitors, more sales leads, and more customers.
Remember: It’s not just about how your site looks, but rather how it works . Be very clear about why you’re doing the redesign in the first place, and tie those goals to measurable results.
2. Have a Clear Budget, Timeline, and Process
No matter how well the intentions are, a website design project will almost always take longer than expected. There are so many variables that make it nearly impossible to nail down an exact timeline. However, clear communication, reasonable expectations, and aggressively managing change orders will all help keep a project on track.
Many, if not all, website designers can attribute missed deadlines and timeline overruns to change orders from the client. Changes like, “just one more thing…” or “can you just…”
These examples may sound simple, but are quite complex on the back end. If specifics are not communicated upfront, the designer is left to make assumptions that could require additional back and forth discussions, added time, and costs.
Be sure your initial design agreement lists specifics that must be included in your new website and are articulated clearly.
3. Benchmark Your Current Metrics
Before you begin planning your redesign, document your current performance metrics. Start by analyzing your existing site over its history in areas such as:
- Number of visits/visitors/unique visitors (monthly average)
- Bounce rate (monthly average)
- Time on site (monthly average)
- Top-performing keywords (in terms of rank, traffic, and lead generation)
- Number of inbound linking domains
- Total number of new leads/form submissions (per month)
- Total amount of sales generated (per month)
- Total number of pages indexed
- Total number of pages that receive traffic
If you do not have a way to do this currently, we can help. The long-term health of your marketing strategy will rely on data, without the ability to track this type of information, we are shooting in the dark and taking un-educated guesses.
4. Design Around Personas
Like I said before, ultimately, you want a website that leads to sales. For this reason, designing your website, the flow of the visitor, and the type of content used should all be designed to move a visitor through the buying process.
Having well-established customer personas can answer many design-related questions intelligently and without dispute.
If you are a hotelier, for example, you may have five different buyer personas: an independent business traveler, a corporate travel manager, an event planner, a vacationing family, and a couple planning their honeymoon.
Make sure you clearly identify your buyer personas so that you can shape your redesign strategy around the needs of each of those groups.
5. Put Your Content At the Forefront
Content comes in many forms and your website is the perfect platform to showcase them. I believe your website should be the content and marketing hub of all that you do online.
Here is a list (though not exhaustive) of common types of content:
- Blog Articles / Posts
- Banner advertising
- Discussion forum
- E-commerce capabilities
- Forms for contact, quotes or something else
- Physical products (how many?)
- Digital content (what kind and how many?)
- Email newsletter
- Event calendar
- Event registration
- Image gallery
- Link management (dozens or hundreds of links, ordered by category);
- Incoming RSS feeds (pulled from other websites)
- Outgoing RSS feeds (your content syndicated to other websites);
- Social media sharing links (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
- Staff directory
6. Modernize The Design
Today’s websites are designed with simplicity and conversion in mind. All modern websites should be mobile-friendly, meaning they are “responsive” to the device they are loaded from.
The end design and layout should be appropriate for the product your are selling and the audience you are looking to reach.
The home page is usually the most popular page of any website. Why? Because it has been around the longest and has had more time to acquire inbound links, it collects the most direct visitors (folks who type your domain or brand name into the address bar), and is the most advertised all over creation.
Your homepage should be used as a landing page to get a visitor to sign up or a launching pad to move the visitor to content relevant to them.
For companies serving two or more very different customer groups, an effective homepage design is critical to segregate visitors to the areas of your website that answer their questions without displaying too much information that isn’t relevant to them.
What Makes a Great Home Page
- Lead with a Clear Value Proposition
- User-focused Design and Copy
- Simple and Intuitive Navigation
- Effective Calls-to-Action
- Content Promotion
- Trust Builders
7. Tell A Story
Websites have an important job in the sales process. They must go beyond the stale electronic brochures of 1995 and captivate the visitor.
Storytelling is a great way of engaging with the user to share the features and benefits of your product. Long scroll pages have shown useful for keep the attention of a visitor. As they scroll, share new tidbits that keep them moving through your branded story.
Finally, every sentence, and every word has a job to do. Cut out any excess fluff that doesn’t somehow lend itself to your mission. Forget grandiose descriptions and industry jargon. Use language that your audience understands.
Simplicity is powerful.
8. Calls-To-Action + Social Validation
Social validation goes beyond “social proof”. Social validation gives your visitors a visual guidepost – that if 1,000 shared this article, it must be good.
A website redesign should make it easy for visitors to share content on their preferred social platforms. Remember, your ideal target audience may favor social networks that are not popular to the general public.
9. Include a Blog and Landing Pages
Any website that is designed in this era of content should feature — content.
Search engines favor websites that consistently post high-quality content. Not only that, but visitors and prospective customers are educating themselves more before making a purchasing decision. Doesn’t it make sense to be the one educating them?
Use your blog religiously to post updates and educational content that helps your prospective visitor.
When considering a blog, remember these essential elements:
- Threaded Comments typically increase the number of comments per post by 16% – 33%. The more comments you receive, the more text search engines have on your page and can eventually rank for.
- Content Snippets by sharing only part of your blog post on your homepage, you appeal to the short attention span of your visitors by allowing them to click on only the blog posts that interest them.
- Font Size Matters QuickSprout increased the time readers spent on their site by changing the font size from 8 to 9 and again from 10 to 11. Make sure your fonts are easy to read.
- Right-side Sidebars designs with two sidebars or a sidebar on the left drastically reduces the time visitors spend on your site. Use right-hand sidebars.
- Include Your Bio use the “by-line” or bio area of your blog to establish trust and authority with the reader. Include a photo, as humans, we love connecting with other humans and photos do this quickly.
- Email Subscriptions collecting emails is one of the most important things you need to do to grow your visitor traffic. Make sure your blog has several options for a visitor to submit their email address. A/B testing this can show what is most effective for you.
- Showcase Most Popular Content effective blogs show their most popular content, usually in a widget in the sidebar. This helps visitors quickly and easily find relevant content that others have found useful.
- Use Featured Images to increase click-thru rate and shares on social media.
Further, use landing pages to trim down the clutter and focus on what you want the visitor to do. For example, if you have a free download (whitepaper, tip sheet, file, sample, etc), an effective landing page would show the benefits of that piece and form to capture the visitor’s contact information.
Landing pages are simple and have only one mission: conversions.
10. SEO Considerations
We conducting a site redesign, it is important to take a lot of notes. This is especially true for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes. Sites that have been around for awhile have accumulated inbound links and the search engines have indexed these pages. When you redesign a site, there is a high chance that some of those pages will end up with different URLs — meaning the search engines will not longer see content at the old address.
All the equity those pages have built up over time will be wiped away.
You can combat this by having a plan in advance:
- Crawl your site with a tool like Xenu Link Sleuth
- Perform an inbound-link analysis with tools like Open Site Explorer or Majestic SEO Tools
- Set 301 Redirection from old URLs to their new ones
- Conduct an SEO audit to know your existing strengths and weaknesses
- Know what landing pages, content offers, referring sites, and articles are most popular
- Know that a great design does not equal great SEO
- Use Google Webmaster Tools
11. Create an Ongoing Content Strategy
On average, if you have more content, you will have more website visitors and grow your business faster. A 100 page website will beat a 10 page website 99% of the time. And a 500 page website is even better. And if some of those web pages were written recently, that’s even better. So, build a strategy to continue to add more and more content to your website over time.
We have helped hundreds of companies around the world develop strong content marketing blueprints that include editorial calendars to keep staff on track, video releases, social media update plans, and blogging templates.
Publishing content regularly isn’t easy, but it is very powerful and can really boost the effectiveness of your site redesign.
Redesigning your website should be done for the right reasons and with the right expectations. It is a highly-detailed process, but, with the right planning, you can do it. Remember to simplify the design, tell a story with your content, leverage trends intelligently, maximize social validation, and measure everything.
If you would like help planning for your website redesign, I would love to help. Drop me a note and we can schedule a time to chat.