Website Redesigns – Part 2: How To Make an Effective One
Time for a website redesign.
The site you’re seeing now is a complete redesign and rebranding, that launched December 2014. A LOT of time and planning went into this.
With a website redesign, you don’t just sit there and start throwing out ideas, or haphazardly adding or removing content or site features. There are specific steps to take for your website redesign to truly accomplish what you desire.
Which brings me to my first point.
1. What are Your Goals for this Site?
Drive traffic to a contact form? Sales through the site (e-commerce/online sales)? Other? Think this through, and build a site strategy around that. Write it down so you always have this in mind as you work with your web designer or make the site yourself with a website builder. Create a flowchart and/or outline to help you figure out to get visitors from point A to B. And remember: not all visitors arrive via your home page.
2. What do Your Visitors Want From Your Site?
Do you know your target demographic? (Age, sex, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, shopping habits, B2B or B2C styles, goals, etc?)
Has anyone given you feedback as to what the stumbling blocks are on finding things on your site? Worst case: send out a poll via newsletter, using WordPress or other CMS poll plug-in, or use a polling service to get feedback on how well your site is working for your site visitors. Find out what your customers want to see on your site, that isn’t there.
3. Put Together Your Content FIRST
I always tell my clients: “give me your content, I will design around that”. You shouldn’t make a site, then try and slap content in there. It looks too careless and goal-less. Write down what you want to say and on what pages you want. Figure out what images, or what kind of images you want. (Yes, stock photography is OK, so long as it is in-context and not the generic smiling person with a headset on your contact page.)
You can work with your web designer on what content will be best placed on different areas on a page of your site. You may want to start with an outline, and go from there. To get an idea of what content you want to go where, try looking at some quality themes and see how they are laid out. For example, I’m a fan of Elegant Themes (full disclosure: I am an affiliate). I recommend always looking at the responsive themes, if you decide to use any theme. The main point is: look at other website layouts, and see what content goes where. This will also help you write your content for your redesign.
4. Be Realistic on Your Time Frame for Completion
Treat this like getting a new website: it is going to take 6 to 9 months. And that is because all the content comes from you, and you’re busy! Even if your web design firm writes your content for you, you still will need time to answer their questions so it can be written. There will be lots of email and phone communication along the way, to make sure details are correct. We’ll also need your approval on any stock photography, and stock photo search is a lengthy process, especially if you’re not sure what you want (or even if you are sure…some images are hard to find or your web designer may have to make custom images and icons for your site).
5. SEO is a Moving Target
What works 5 years ago, a year ago, or maybe a month ago won’t work now. So your web designer should be writing code and naming pages to target the keywords you want. And your content should also contain those same keywords. Make sure your web designer is up on Google’s latest SEO do’s and don’ts. Because where Google goes, so do all other search engines.
6. Make Sure Your Site is Responsive
In other words, make sure that your new site looks good and functions well on all devices. This includes different browsers on Windows or Apple OS or Linux, tablets, and smartphones. The site doesn’t have to LOOK the same on all devices. But the look should be consistent and the menu easy to find with the site easy to navigate. Don’t leave all the testing to your web designer. When they say the site is done, test it on as many devices as you can too. Ask friends and family that have devices you don’t have, to test them. If anything looks weird, make sure you take a screenshot and send it to the web designer so they know what to fix.
7. Make Sure People Can Tell What You’re All About
Most people should be able to look at your site and know that, “oh, this is selling XYZ”. They shouldn’t have to guess. Ensuring clarity of what you do is an important factor as part of your website redesign. This means: pay attention to what is written. Avoid industry jargon, unless your target audience KNOWS that jargon.
8. Don’t Lose Your Traffic!
With updated SEO and new page names, your old page names need to be redirected to the new ones. This way, you don’t lose traffic or your visitors don’t end up on a 404 page (the page that tells them the site can’t find the page). That said, try having a helpful 404 page that has a search box or reminds them to use the navigation menu. Funny and memorable 404 pages, like this one, are also handy for not losing customers. This should be done by your web designer.
9. Don’t Make User’s Think!
Bear this in mind when working on your redesign. Your users should know what your site is about at first glance. They should be able to find what they want in a click or two. Keep clutter on the pages to a minimum. If you’ve never read it, a great book by an awesome author, Steve Krug, has a non-techie book called Don’t Make Me Think! Get it. Read it. You and your site will be better for it. There are both print and Kindle editions.
10. Try Some Free Google A/B Testing
An A/B test lets you test 2 different versions of the same page. Google Analyticshas this capability. They have instructions on how to do it. So if you’re of two minds on something, an A/B test is a good way to go. This will tell you which page is most effective at getting customers to take the action you want them to take (buy something, email you, and so on). This is best done after site launch though.
Also, here’s an oldie (but still relevant) post from every web designer and developer’s favorite blog, Smashing Magazine. Check this out for great tips on making a better site.
Questions about website redesigns? Just ask!