So you've finally decided to update your website with a fresh new design, that's great! All websites undergo at least one minor facelift at some point in their life. But before diving in head first there's a few things you should keep in mind. As any business owner who has previously redesigned their website will tell you, it's not for the faint hearted. But fear not, to help you get started we've put together this list of 5 things you should consider before redesigning your website.
1. Plan, Plan, Plan And Plan Some More
We all know how important a company's website can be, especially for businesses who rely on the internet as a main source of revenue. One of the biggest mistakes we see from companies who want to redesign their website is a lack of planning. Before you even start to think about how you want your new website to look, you need to be clear about what you want it to achieve. Ask yourself what is the intended purpose of the redesign and who are you targeting? Once you've answered these questions you can start to think about your end user and their journey. Consider how you can improve their experience to gain better conversions.
Never underestimate the importance of planning, being as clear and thorough as possible in the early stages is going to save you a ton of headaches later down the line. Also, don't forget to allocate enough time to conduct an extensive competitor analysis, this information is invaluable.
2. Discover What Does And Does Not Work On Your Current Website
Ok, so you've got a clear idea of what you want your new website to achieve, the next step is to take a good hard look at your existing website. No matter how big (or small) of a redesign you’re undertaking, there are going to be aspects of your current website which work really well and others which don’t work at all. A good place to begin is Analytics, start digging into the data to try gain a better insight into where your users are dropping off. Another very useful tool to determine what is or isn’t working on your website is heat mapping and user recordings. These allow you to see exactly how users are using your website, so if you’re gaining a lot of traffic through your blog then we know that needs to stay (although there’s no harm in giving it a little makeover). Try to put your emotions aside and be as objective as possible when analysing your existing website. Remember, the data doesn't lie so if it's not working get rid of it!
3. Usability Is Key
When it comes to actually redesigning your website one of your primary focuses should be on usability. In an era where there are close to 1 billion active websites, users no longer tolerate websites that are slow to load, hard to navigate or ugly to look at, they simply move on. Poor functionality and confusing user interfaces will drive your users straight into the arms of your competitors, whilst simultaneously increasing your bounce rate and reducing your conversion rate. But fear not, thankfully this is where your planning starts to pay off. One of the best ways to increase your website’s usability is to understand your users' needs and motivations. Combine these with what you want to achieve from your website and we can start to tailor the user experience accordingly.
A few points to keep in mind when thinking about your website’s usability are:
- Understand your users’ needs and motivations.
- Create a simple and easy to use navigation.
- Define clear calls to action (including contact info, delivery times and opening hours etc).
- Keep a consistent design and user interface.
- Ensure your website is mobile friendly and/or responsive.
4. Optimise For SEO
One of the scariest things for any business owner when having a new website built is the thought of losing their hard earnt Google rankings. The bad news is that seeing a small drop in your search results around launch time is possible. However, providing your web design team have moved the site correctly and have followed Google's Webmaster Guidelines then the small drop should only be temporary. No matter how clever a search engine’s algorithm is, their bots still need to crawl and index your content, and depending on the size of your website and how drastic the changes are, this may take some time. The good news is there are a few SEO techniques and safeguards available which can help prevent this drop.
Depending on how different your new sitemap and url structure is to your old website, you may find yourself with a few broken links or missing pages. This isn’t a big deal, one of the main reasons for redesigning a website maybe to restructure the URLs to a more SEO and user friendly format. Just make sure you create a 301 redirect for any pages you’ve removed or renamed. The last thing we want to do when launching a fresh new redesign is loose all the authority and link juice from the previous website.
MINIMISE CONTENT CHANGE
If you're planning a complete website overhaul you may want to consider accurately migrating all of your existing content (H tags and metadata etc) to the analogous pages on the new website without changing it. It's also good practise to try mimic the HTML position of the content from the old site to the new, particularly for websites with an already high ranking.
LAUNCH A SMALL PPC CAMPAIGN
If you do suffer a small drop in your rankings launching a small ppc campaign around the same time can help keep your traffic at a consistent level until everything is back to normal.
Worrying about the SEO effects of a website redesign is generally only relevant to high traffic and high ranking websites. Providing everything has been done correctly you should infact see a jump in rankings and conversion rates when compared to your old website.
5. In House Or Outsource
The last consideration you need to make before going full steam ahead is whether you're going to hire an outside web design company or try tackle the project in house. Before making this decision it’s important to fully understand the magnitude of work involved and whether it’s the best use of your time and resources. The attractiveness of saving some money by having the IT guy or a neighbour's "tech savvy" cousin take on the job can be tempting, but the difference in quality between a professional and a hobbyist is striking. That being said, if you already have a group of experienced web designers and SEO experts in your team then it makes perfect sense to complete the project in house, and if you’re ever in need of a little extra advice, there are many web design agencies (including ourselves) who offer a consultation service to help you get started.
So regardless of whether you outsource your company's website redesign or bring it in house, just remember, a professional may be expensive but an amateur is going to cost you a fortune!