There comes a time when a website becomes stale or is no longer the traffic producer it once was. Usually when that happens it is time for a website redesign. There are a few ways you can go about redesigning your site, but if you truly want a successful redesign you need to dig deeper than just how the website looks and feels.
Analyze What is Working and What Isn’t
The biggest mistake most people make with a website redesign is that they blow everything up and start fresh. Starting from scratch will hurt you more than it would help.
Before any coding or mocking up happens you need to do a deep dive into the analytics of your website. Hopefully you have Google Analytics or Search Console data to help you out.
What the data should tell you is which pages perform the best and which ones don’t. It should give you insight into what is working and what it isn’t.
And with that knowledge it would make sense to leave the better performing pages alone and revamp the ones that were lacking. Changing your best performing pages is asking for trouble. It could mean a loss in traffic and revenue as well.
Redefine Your Audience
Perhaps when you first built your website you had a certain target audience that you believed would be your core customers. While doing you deep dive into the analytics you noticed that they weren’t the demographics that interacted your site the most.
Given that data, adjusting your site and your audience would be beneficial with your website redesign.
Set Realistic Goals
One of the more frustrating aspects of a redesign is setting realistic goals. It gets complicated when the developers give you one estimate, the PM wants it faster and the stake holders want it completed by end of day.
In all honesty, as a former web developer, trust the time estimates the web developer gives you. A redesign is more than just changing colors and swapping out images and updating photography. If there is new functionality then the time to code it, test it, fix it, test it again etc. is going to possibly running over deadline.
In an ideal world, redesigns would be like flicking a light switch on or off and magic happens. It doesn’t work like that.
Redesign time frame goals are one thing, how the site performs after is another. Expecting your site’s traffic to quadruple or revenue increase 20 fold after the release is an unrealistic goal. Things take time. Expecting miracles overnight is not one of them.
Create a baseline with your current data and build upon that. Maybe see a 10% increase in traffic in 3-4 months after release. Monitor the data and chart things out so you have a better idea of how things are progressing.
Refresh Your Content & Copy
During a redesign it’s also a great time to make changes to your content and copy. Updating keywords and rewording CTA’s is a great way to improve CTR on your landing pages.
Don’t just think only colors and images need to be updated in a redesign. Your content and copy are key pieces that need to be refreshed as well.
Check Out the Competition
It never hurts to see what your competition is up to. When you take a look at your competitors’ websites, and take note of what you like and what you don’t. This can help you realize what you can do better on your website during the redesign.
There are plenty of tools online both paid and free that can help you “spy” on your competitors. You can find out information like what keywords they’re ranking for and how much traffic their site brings in.
Using this information for your benefit can help you find keywords or topics that you could potentially steal traffic from which helps you.
Review the Site Archeticture
During a redesign there will be significant changes to code, layouts, taxonomies and everything in between. All these changes will in one way or another affect the archeticture of your website.
Before a user had to click through three pages to get to the one they wanted and now you want to have them just click once. You’ll have to update all the links to that page, including menu nav items, that before sent you to another page first.
Whether you’re adding or subtracting pages, menus will need to be updated, links will either need to be added or removed.
Your site’s architecture and how it’s laid out for your users is vital. It plays a critical role in keep users on your site and it helps with boosting your conversions and sales.
Update/Review Your Brand Guidelines
What are brand guidelines you ask?
Brand guidelines are the set of rules that define the overall look and feel of your brand. Brand guidelines help you build a brand identity that your audience can recognize.
If your redesign of your website is going to include new colors, logos, fonts etc. you will need to update your brand guidelines to reflect those changes.
And if you don’t have any brand guidelines, then now is a great time to create some.
Brand guidelines can be used by everyone in the business. Brand guidelines tell you the do’s and don’ts of how your logo can be used. Which color is your primary color and which font can be used and so forth.
Make Sure Everything is Mobile Responsive
If your site isn’t mobile responsive then you can kiss the majority of your traffic goodbye. When mapping out and designing your updated website mobile should be your priority.
92% of internet users use their phone to access the internet and 55% of all web traffic comes from mobile phones.
If you’re only designing for desktop, I’ll venture a bet you’ll be having another redesign real soon focused on mobile.
Make Any Necessary Changes to your SEO
Another important feature in a redesign is your SEO. While reviewing your site’s content and architecture it’s a great time to review URLs to make sure keywords are in the URL as well as the page titles and descriptions.
And if you’re moving pages around or removing them altogether, you will need to add redirect links to account for those changes.
Content wise you’ll want to make sure every page as a H1 tag with the keyword inside. If pages have low word counts or not ALT tags for their images, now would be the time to make those changes as well.
You’ll also want to tackle the technical SEO aspect of your website. You’ll want to check all the new page load times. Making sure everything is properly cached for faster page load speeds.
And don’t forget that with all these changes your sitemap has changed as well. You’ll have to update Google and other places with your new sitemap so they can propoerly crawl your website.
Testing and Documentation
You’ll be surprised how many clients I’ve had, when asked about documentation of their website or their test plans, have no idea what I’m talking about.
When testing a redesign, it’s going to be a thorough process. Intense even and without proper documentation as to what to test and the expected result your testing process could just be a waste of time.
Imagine you updated all these pages and changed your site architecture around to reflect the new UX journey and you have people testing your site just to “test it” and they’re clicking links and seeing if the links work. Well what happens if the link works because it doesn’t lead to an error page, but it doesn’t go to the correct page?
Without documenting the expected journey so during testing you know that clicking this link is supposed to take you here and this page leads to this one.
And without proper documentation or testing, you’re liable to lose more users as they won’t have the patience to try to figure out how to get to the page they want because the links that were clickable weren’t taking them to the desired page.