Looking to re-design your business’ website, are ya? You’re not alone.
As the internet grows older and older, so too do the websites that populate its vast expanses of digital square-footage. It’s becoming more important now than ever before to develop an effective website redesign strategy so that your business can stay ahead of the curve.
In this article, I’m going to be talking about 10 things you should do to develop a future-proof web re-design strategy.
When I say “future-proof”, what I really mean is making sure that your website won’t need another re-design for at least a good 3-5 years.
It’s of course inevitable that change must happen – it’s the only true facilitator of growth, so to claim that something is completely future-proof would be foolish. So, a word of warning – even though we’re going to work together to create a comprehensive, actionable website re-design plan, it won’t be 100% future-proof.
So let’s jump right into 10 things you can do to develop an effective website re-design strategy for 2020.
1. Define your current KPI’s (key performance indicators), and record your metrics from the past 1-2 years.
Before you can even THINK about re-designing your business’ website, it is absolutely imperative that you create a list of important KPI’s for your business that you need to record on your new website.
Because what’s the point of an evolutionary design if you’re not even sure how effective the evolution process is? After all, that’s how humans ended up with tailbones and the third eyelid – so, let’s not make the same mistake with your website.
You will want to create a spreadsheet list with all of your most important KPI’s and the data for each one from the past several months or years.
Some examples of KPI’s that are generally considered important across multiple industries are:
- Number of visitors/visits/unique visits on your website
- What pages are being visited the most often, and what your visitors are doing on those pages (you can use a heat map tool to discover this information)
- Your bounce rate (what percentage of traffic is landing on your website for only a few insignificant moments and then “bouncing” off of the page)
- Number of leads being generated through a contact form on your website
- Number of online orders being processed through your website each day, week, or month
- Where your traffic is coming from (traffic sources/referral websites), and what devices your traffic is viewing your content on
Of course, these are just a few metrics. Some of these might be important to your particular business, and some might not. Maybe your most important KPI isn’t even on this list! That is fine – but whatever you do, take an audit of your KPI’s and write them down.
2. Determine the “why” behind your decision to re-design your website and make it known.
A lot of people misunderstand the “why” when it comes to website re-designs for small to medium sized businesses, and even more so for larger scale businesses and corporations.
You see, what most people interpret as a superficial need to “stay on the cutting edge of tech” or to “keep up with the Joneses” is actually an attempt to solve a common issue:
Keep users happy for longer.
Depending on your type of website and business, the amount of time a user spends on your website is directly relative to the quality of content offered on it, and how useful it is to them.
By offering more high-value content, you are keeping your users happy and increasing the likelihood of them converting into customers.
For me, the quality of content I deliver on my blog is important to me. But “content” doesn’t just mean articles in a blog.
For you, your high-valid content may be the level of depth in which you discuss your services or products, or how much time your support team could be saving by simply answering questions on your website before customers have the opportunity to ask them and waste precious hours of your team’s workday.
Whatever the case, the ultimate goal of an iterative website re-design project should be to increase the value of content you offer to your users and in turn give them more reason to be coming to your website in the first place.
Whether this is done by re-evaluating the hierarchy of information or completely overhauling your websites interaction design to make it more user friendly, the end goal is to provide more value.
So find out your why, and share it with your internal team to promote interdepartmental synchronicity and project harmony. Because that’s what leaders do, and you lead this team.
3. Define issues that need to be resolved, and discuss potential resolutions with both internal team members and your users.
Aside from just improving the content you offer, an extremely important aspect of website re-design is fixing things that aren’t working.
Elements on aging websites breaking or losing relevancy/functionality is inevitable, and is not your (or your previous web designer’s) fault. It’s just the way of things on this wonderful, crazy internet of ours!
Just like a home, things will break if not properly maintained. Sometimes this can be avoided through consistent maintenance and regular updates and minor changes.
But sometimes it can be years before you make a change to your website – and by then, there’s just too much to even address, and it’s possible to feel overwhelmed and like the only thing you can do is pay someone to completely re-do it.
Some things you should take inventory of when searching for “broken” elements or anything that needs fixing are:
- Menu navigation, drop downs, anchor links, and mobile menus: these are notorious for breaking down over time, and sometimes, the design can just become archaic and you need to completely re-evaluate the design as a whole.
- Buttons & links: yes, links can break. It happens all of the time, and most of the time, you won’t notice until you’re in an important meeting with a client or stakeholder and you’re going through your website together (oof).
- Contact forms, lead generation, and contact information: contact forms can break easily, and once broken, usually need to be completely re-built. They can be very hard to fix once broken unless you have the technical skill set.
- Design & function: remember mullets? You probably don’t want to, but they were a thing. Just like that pixelates banner on your website in Comic Sans font with a rainbow background. Sometimes what seemed like a great design choice 10 years ago… just doesn’t age well.
- Tools, tech, and integrations: all too often, I’ve seen clients approach me because an integration that was vital to their business’ performance on their website breaks or is no longer supported. It’s imperative to consistently stay up to date with these integration softwares and services so that you know the moment your site starts to lose function.
4. Find your target audience and define your ideal buyer persona.
If you’re savvy with digital marketing jargon, then you know all about buyer personas. If not, then here’s the run down:
A buyer persona is a fake person you create a profile for that is someone who you would consider the ideal customer for your business.
When creating buyer personas, you should concoct a made up person and be specific about their:
- Cultural identity
- Interests & hobbies
- Social media preferences
- Spending habits
Be as specific as possible. It sounds silly, but creating 2-3 different buyer personas will help you create a plan for a new website that is geared towards these ideal customers.
5. Don’t forget about your current high-value content pieces!
Do you have a section of your website which is typically considered more popular than other sections? Does your website have a function or feature that actively collects hundreds or thousands or more views per day, and which you have received many compliments on?
This is your high-value content.
For some, it’s a blog post.
For others, it’s an online calculator tool (like my online web design quote calculator, which instantly creates web design quotes).
Whatever it is, you do NOT want to give this content up when you re-design your website. You may need to revisit the design of the content or section, and perhaps even increase its functionality – but you must not completely abandon it.
Be sure to take an inventory of your high-value content and communicate this with your web designer. Your core users will be excited to hear about your new website, but they would be bummed to hear about their favorite part of it being discontinued!
6. Competitor analysis & competitive user testing/research.
One thing that I always get from web design clients is:
“Can’t you just make my website look like my competitor’s”
And the answer is an obvious yes – I can. But why would you want to create a website like your competitor, when you can instead learn from your competitor and create a website that compensates for the gaps they fail to address?
A full competitive analysis contains things like:
- SEO analysis: find out what keywords your competitors are ranking for that they maybe don’t deserve to rank for…
- Design analysis: what aspects of your competitor’s website are lacking? Where is there room for improvement and iteration? How would you do it differently and better?
- User research analysis: it’s just as important that your users love your website as it is that you love your website. But how do they feel about your competitors’ websites? Send out anonymous surveys to randomly selected users to find out.
7. Brand evaluation and evolution: a website design is only as good as the brand it’s designed for.
Your completely new website design should be coupled with a rebranding experience that will completely “wow” your customers for full dramatic effect. Why is this so effective?
Think of the process like a series of well-placed and well-timed punches:
- First, you hit them (your users) with a pre-launch campaign and tease a new branding experience and new website.
- Next, you roll out a couple of blog posts or videos/social media posts about your upcoming re-design.
- Finally, you roll out the website re-design…
- … Followed up by the completely refreshed, revitalized branding that you’re now proud to show off. Shiny new logo, beautiful, sturdy business cards, elegant letterheads, and informative car wraps.
Now, all of your users are talking about your business. They’re discussing your re-design with friends, in real life and hopefully on social media.
Truly the perfect re-branding campaign.
Now imagine this applied to your business. How much new business do you think you would get? Is it worth it? Are you 100% happy with your current branding as it stands right now? Where is there room for improvement?
These are all questions to be taken into account when considering a website re-design, as they will definitely impact the design process.
8. Define your SEO goals and perform a content analysis of the current iteration of your website design.
Do you even know what the top 100 keywords your business’ website organically ranks for on Google?
Are you in position 3, 4, 10, or 25? Are you even in the top 100?
What about your competitors? Do you know where they are positioned on Google search engine results pages (SERP’s)?
If you don’t know the answer to some of or all of these questions, then it’s about time you performed a professional SEO analysis of your website. You can do this using a tool like SEMrush or Moz, but your best bet is going to be hiring a professional to handle this analysis for you.
Once you find out where you are right now, you need to write out a plan for where you want to be.
Obviously, we all want to be position number 1. So let’s be realistic. Say you’re on page 3 – your goal should be to at least get to page 1.
If you’re already on page 1 for one keyword, then your goal should be to get to page 1 for ten more keywords.
Goals are the most important factor in the successfulness of a website re-design – or anything in life, for that matter. So be sure that you’re actively creating new goals, and never settle for what you think is a good status quo simply because “it’s better than it was”.
9. Crate 301 redirects for old content that you intend to phase out or discontinue in the next iteration of your website design.
This is a very important aspect of website re-designing that many people forget about – and one which I will even admit to forgetting in the past myself.
When you design a new website, it is easy to forget about all of the old pages from your old website. It’s important to take inventory of all of these pages and, once the new website is live, implement proper 301 redirects to your new website (to either the homepage or the most closely matching relevant content on your new website).
- Because even though those old pages no longer exist on the internet, people will still have access to those links if you’ve given them out before. The links may exist on old printed marketing collateral you may have forgotten about, or perhaps someone has linked to a page on your website someone online. It certainly would not look good if a user were to visit that link and find an error code because that page no longer exists!
- When Google indexes your website and finds out that a link no longer works, Google will remove that link from their search results. This can impact your search engine visibility in a while swarm of negative ways that, believe me, you don’t want to think about right now.
So, for the love of all that is digital, create proper 301 redirects BEFORE you launch your new website.
It will save you in the long run.
10. Decide whether or not to perform the re-design in-house or through a freelance web designer.
Now you’ve got everything ready to go – you have lists, audits, reports, KPI’s, goals, and more.
Now you’ve got to decide how you’re going to approach this as a business.
I know many crafty business owners who are fully capable of performing a re-design on their own – however, the reality is that many of us business owners have much more money than we have time, and it makes more sense to hire someone else to do it so that you can focus on keeping the business operational (because of you don’t, who will? Bob from accounting? I think not, Bob!).
Hiring an internal employee has many benefits – I’ve personally been hired as a full time UX/UI web design project lead, and it always worked out perfectly for my employers.
When you have a full time web designer in house, the benefits can be outstanding. You have a wealth of digital marketing knowledge and design experience available, and you can rest assured that the designer will do their best work for you since they ARE you.
But… they’re expensive.
Especially in California.
So, if hiring a full time designer is not best the option for you, what else can you do?
You can contract a freelancer (hi ?♂️).
Freelancers have busy schedules and usually a high volume of clients, but the one benefit that they offer is that they always deliver, and the product that they deliver comes backed with years of accumulated experience.
Not to mention that they only cost between $2,000 – $20,000 for web design projects can easily see you experiencing thousands of percent ROI, which is a ratio that I think is pretty intriguing.
So, whatever you decide to do, do it now and do it quickly.
The longer you wait, the more money you are losing and the more expensive it will be to catch up further down the line.
Identify your problems now.
Determine a solution.
Plan a strategy to execute your solution.
Hire a professional to bring your project to life.
It’s the best thing you can do right now to improve your business’ online visibility and profitability. I speak from experience.
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