Ensuring a Successful Website Redesign
There are many good reasons to redesign your website.
- You may want a redesign because your site design is outdated, or the site doesn’t reflect your current business.
- Perhaps you want your website to incorporate more modern technology, to improve performance and appearance in modern browsers and across multiple devices.
- If your old website is difficult to update and edit because it’s on an obsolete or proprietary Content Management System, that’s a good reason to update.
- Or your site might be coded with static HTML, which means updates are a real nuisance.
You also may want to elevate your website’s marketing performance, turning it into a better tool for lead generation and sales.
Whatever your reasons for wanting a new website, we can help make the process fun and successful. (No kidding!) Just follow these ten best practices for website redesigns:
Think carefully about your goals, write them down, and prioritize them. Any project will go more smoothly if it’s grounded in clearly documented goals that serve as touchstones as the process unfolds. Everyone on the team — and that includes us — must know exactly what the goals are, which are most important, and which are lower priority. Your goals should be measurable, realistic, and supported with the necessary resources. We’re not just talking about the financial budget here — resources also include your time to make key decisions, and time for your staff to contribute to the project. Reviewing your site and making choices among options takes time, so be sure enough time can and will be made available. If you’re not now willing or able to contribute time to the project, or are unable to completely delegate the decision-making to another person, we suggest you hold off.
Let us know who your competitors are, and tell us what you like and don’t like about your competitors’ websites. You may have website envy, and that’s okay. Just don’t become too attached to what you’ve seen. After all, soon your website will be newer than theirs. Remember, simply copying what your competitor does will only bring you level with them. Now is the time to take the lead — to be smarter and to use your investment to put your company into a competitive advantage.
Document where you are now. This documentation will serve as a baseline so we can measure how much value your investment in a new website provides. If your current website doesn’t have Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools connected to it, we recommend allowing us to connect them for you, free of charge. While the site is being planned and created, we’ll gather data that provides insight into who your current visitors are, how many there are of them, and where they’re going within the site. If your site already has Analytics connected, we’ll ask you to add us ([email protected]) to the authorized managers of your Analytics account. It’s a simple step, and will provide us with full access to your historical data. We’ll then connect your new site to the existing account. This will allow us to gain insights into traffic, search keywords, and any landing pages that must be preserved, so that as your site is rebuilt, you experience less disruption in traffic, in search rankings, and so your customers have no problems with bookmarked links turning into “Page Not Found” errors. And, together, we can directly compare performance and measure improvements.
Be very clear about how and by whom decisions will be made. While we do recommend asking for feedback and opinions, we don’t recommend decision by committee. Someone in your company should be empowered to make each necessary decision. If the project is large and complex, consider a shared approval matrix, in which each specific area — such as design, content, navigation, features, and technology — is assigned appropriate reviewers, commenters, and decision maker. If your circumstances call for shared decision authority, AUMW can help you create an approval matrix. We also recommend avoiding decisions based purely on personal preferences. “I like green,” for example, is not a good foundation for an important business decision like a website redesign. We’ill do our best to get to know you and your organization and to create a website that you’re proud of, one that you feel reflects your brand and culture. Remember, your website is for your customer, not for you. That means your subjective feelings about the design are secondary. What’s primary is that your current or potential customers respond positively to your website and its content, that they find the site easy to use, and that they get what they want from it. Approvals should be based on how well the design elements and content meet customer needs and fulfill your business goals. Do they support your brand identity? Do they promote your company’s message clearly and effectively? We’ll make sure they do.
Your website is a key part of an ongoing conversation with your customers. To make that conversation meaningful and relevant to them, you must understand your target audience, as deeply as possible. We recommend that you create, or get assistance creating, a persona for each key component of your primary target audience. These personas will guide our work as we focus on elements such as design, features, and especially the content of your new site. Personas will also serve as a crucial component of a viable content marketing strategy. So, if you haven’t yet thought through your overall content strategy, now is a great time and persona creation is a great place to begin. AUMW can help you master this process.
Organize your assets for the new website. Do you have quality content assets that will be available for the new website? For example, bring together your photography; new and reusable brand elements such as a logo, key messages, and tagline; any written materials you’ve created; customer testimonials; organization awards, certifications, and achievements; and information (photos, bios, etc.) about key staff members. We believe that website content is more important than the nuts and bolts of the website itself, which is really just a delivery mechanism. Many firms put all their budget and time into the wrapper, leaving an empty shell, starved for resources. Don’t let that happen to you.
Build on a solid technological foundation. This is why we will build your site on a platform that enables constant updates. We’re huge fans of WordPress as a solution for our customers. It’s easy to use and manage, and it’s supported by a vast user community. We also rely on a professional WordPress framework, such as Genesis, with a professionally-coded, professionally-supported theme , custom-tailored for your organization. For ongoing SEO, we recommend using an SEO-optimized platform, and SEO plugins such as Yoast SEO. Genesis is search engine-friendly right out of the box and there are numerous SEO tools that are easy to set up and configure. But more importantly, SEO today means a well-executed and carefully targeted content marketing plan, which we’ll introduce as we go. Beyond the basic technology, we’ll make sure your site is hosted by a strong, reputable vendor. For most clients, we recommend Bluehost. They offer great support and easy upgrade paths as your site’s traffic grows and your needs increase over time.
Keep in mind that your website is a key element in a broader system. We’re talking about your other online presences: social media pages, email marketing, and any other communication channels you use to connect to customers or track them. Make sure you include all of these in your planning. Your new site should integrate with all of your social pages (think sharing tools and RSS feeds), your CRM and lead generation systems (landing pages, contact forms, and gated content), and your email marketing tools (MailChimp or ConstantContact, for example). If you haven’t begun using any of these, AUMW can help you create them and integrate them into the new site, seamlessly.
Remember: a large and growing proportion of all website visitors rely on mobile devices (e.g. smart phones and tablets). That’s why we recommend responsive, HTML5/CSS3 themes, which can eliminate the need to develop a new site for new mobile devices. Sticking with a strong framework such as Genesis, your site’s theme can be upgraded into the future as needed, without expensive rework and reorganization of your content.
Last but not least: plan for regular, consistent content updates to your website. A site that isn’t updated regularly won’t rank well on search engine results pages. And it won’t appeal to customers. Your website should be at the active center of a vibrant content marketing strategy. (That’s assuming you want to attract and retain lots visitors looking for your product or services.) We can help you create both that strategy, and a content plan that will give you and your team a clear path ahead. We’re also here to provide professional assistance creating new content, monitoring your progress, and helping to adjust your content plan for better performance over time.
By following these steps, and remembering that continuous improvement is your goal, you’ll be rewarded with a web marketing tool that will yield valuable returns on your investment.
- Clear Objectives. Clarify and document your goals for the new website.
- Clear Responsibilities. Decide ahead of time how and by whom decisions will be made.
- Competitive Analysis. Look at your competition, but don’t plan to copy them.
- Determine Audience. Create accurate personas of your target audience.
- Current Status. Document where you are now, and where you’re going, with analytics tools.
- Prepare Materials. Organize your content assets, and plan how and by whom the content will be created.
- Be Social. Integrate the new site, from the start, with all of your other online presences and tools.
- Solid Foundation. Build the site on a proven and supported framework and a reliable hosting provider.
- Responsive Design. Use responsive code, so your site will work on the devices of today and tomorrow.
- Plan Updates. Create a content strategy and plan, and begin to work that plan, so the new site stays fresh and yields better and better results over time.
Disclosure: We are a Bluehost affiliate, and receive compensation from this company. We recommend this provider and use them for our own sites. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own.