30 Second Summary
We have been, still are, and always will be proponents of developing a website in a manor that minimizes the number of times that you have to go through a website redesign process. In fact we even held a webinar on not wasting money on another website redesign. You can look at the recording of that webinar, here.
However, no matter how well you plan out your website, it will become inevitable that you have complete another website redesign project. Some of the things to look for in trying to determine if you need a website redesign are:
- You’ve had a change in your branding visuals or messaging
- Your website isn’t reflective of a new market niche that your company is going after
- You’re website isn’t compiling properly on some devices
- Web technology has changed to the point that your site is not working properly
- Your website is subjected to security risks because of its technology
- Your customers are complaining about your site
- Your current site has a bad foundation, like no CMS
We could go on, but I’m sure you get the general idea. To make sure that your website redesign project goes as smoothly as possible, we’ve put together the following list of things to do in preparation of that project.
Too often we talk with marketers that want to redesign their websites because their current website isn’t working any longer and their objective for redesigning their website is that they want the new one to “work”. I can completely empathize with the frustration of a website that isn’t working, but starting out with a website redesign project with the objective of have it “work” will not result in a successful project.
Some website redesign goals that should be included at the start of the project could be
- Educate our customers on our products and/or services
- Increase prospects in the top of our sales funnel by increasing the conversions on our website
- Have a content management system that will make updating the website easy
Whatever your goals for your new website are, make sure that they are SMART goals.
- Specific: Your goal must be specific. The goal of increasing traffic to your site is not specific. Increasing the traffic to your site by 15% is specific.
- Measurable: You absolutely must have a way to measure every objective. If it can’t be measured you will never know the ROI for the activity.
- Achievable: Is this objective actually achievable. In other words, do you believe that you can accomplish it? If you don’t believe it’s possible, no one else will either and it will ultimately fail.
- Relevant: Is the marketing objective that you are setting relevant to your company, your team, and your current situation. Is this the right timing for this objective? Does this objective match up with everything else that’s going on in the company?
- Time-bound: Have you established a time-line for the objective’s release and conclusion. “Increasing traffic to your website by 10%” is not time-bound. Increasing web traffic by 10% by the end of the 2nd qtr is time-bound.
Once you’ve identified the goals that you have for your new site, it’s time to identify the key performance indicators (KPI’s) that you’ll use to measure the results of your website redesign efforts. As an example, if one of your goals is to increase engagement on your products page, then a KPI for that goal might be the time a visitor spends on that page. You would use this metric as a KPI because it takes more time to fully read a website then it does to glance over a webpage. Therefore the time on page would be a relevant metric for the goal.
Create A Baseline
Now that you’ve decided to move forward with a website redesign project and you have your list of goals, and their KPI’s, that you want the new website to accomplish, you’ll want to get a baseline measurement of your current website on all of the goals and KPI’s the you have for your new website.
This step is important because if you don’t measure where you are at, currently, you’ll never know if your new website is improving in the key areas that you need it to improve in.
Get Redirects Right
This can get a little bit confusing, but I’ll try to keep it clear. A redirect is a file that redirects users from your old website page to the new website page, in the event that the URL for that page has been changed. For this example let’s say that the URL for this page is yoursite.com/specialproduct.html.
Here’s what can often happen to cause a need for a redirect. Let’s say that one of the problems with your old site is that over the years the site’s number of pages grew and they weren’t always put in the most logical place within your website. Now with the new website you want to clean up the information architecture so that your website visitors have an easier time finding the information that they are looking for. This will most likely result in putting old pages in new categories in the new website.
So, what can happen with our example URL is yoursite.com/specialproduct.html is now yoursite.com/products/specialproduct.html in your new site.
Now, let’s assume that this page has been ranked pretty well by Google and you’ve been getting good traffic to that page. After you launch the new website people that are trying to visit that page from your Google listing along with anyone that has maybe bookmarked the location of that page will receive an error message because the page no longer resides at yoursite.com/specialproduct.html. It now resides at yoursite.com/products/specialproduct.html on your new website.
You have to have some way of telling people that are coming to your site where this page is located on your new website. You do that with a redirect. The redirect will recognize the old url that people are using to find that page and “redirect” them to the location of that page on your new website.
It can be confusing and it’s not something that you necessarily need to know how to do, but you do need to make sure that the agency that you’re working with knows how to set up redirects properly.
Sitemaps & Robot.TXT’s & SEO
The goals for your website redesign project should include getting all of the important pages, within your website, indexed by the search engines. The first step toward accomplishing this goal is to let the search engines know what pages are in your site. There are two ways that you can accomplish this; you can build a bunch of internal links from pages within your site to other important pages within your site, you could build a sitemap file that would list all of the important pages that you what the search engine’s bot to review and index, or you could do both.
The sitemap should be the highest priority to getting pages indexed because this is one of the most important files that the search engine bots look at when they are scanning your website. The sitemap file also includes recently updated page information letting the bots know what the newest pages are, within your website.
The robot.txt file is similar to the sitemap file in that it includes instructions for the search engine bots. However, unlike the sitemap file, the robots.txt file instruct the bots how to scan your website. The most common purpose for the robots.txt file is to tell the bots what pages you don’t want them to index. This may, at first, seem a little counterintuitive, however when put into application, pages like the thank-you page your visitors land on after filling out a form on your site has no need to be indexed by search engines.
This is important when taking into consideration the “allowance” that search engine bots have when scanning a website. Bots allowances dictate how many pages they can scan on a site, based on the size or reputation of a site. So if the bots can only scan so-many pages on your site, don’t wast that allowance on having them scan pages that make no sense to have indexed.
Again, just like redirects, the sitemap and robots.txt files are not something that you need to know how to do, but you do need to make sure that they agency that you’re working with does know how and that they do take care of these potential problems before they happen.
A new website redesign can have a major impact on your SEO rankings for the pages within your website. Over the course of time that you’ve had your website, a number of your pages have been indexed and probably rank pretty high for key phrases that are important for your company or organization. It’s important that you have a plan within your website redesign project to save the rankings for those pages. We’ve written an article about that very issue right here.
Image Over Substance
On the surface, the concept of image over substance seem clearly incorrect. I can’t tell you how many times, when it comes right down to the final decision, companies decide that the look of the site is the most important element of a website redesign project. There’s no way of saying this nicely…they are completely wrong!
A website has a job to do. It’s role within your company or organization is to increase sales, donations, engage potential customers or donors, and to keep current customers and supporters engaged with your company or organization. I’ve never heard anyone say that they purchase from a company, or donate to an organization because their website was amazing looking! Never, not once!
Now, make no mistake, your website redesign must represent your brand properly. It must look professional. But image is just the ticket to the dance. It should be a given that if your working with a professional agency the look and feel of the website will be on-brand for your company or organization.
Where the real value of a website redesign project comes from is in its ability to deliver on the business goals that you need it to deliver. Functionality like converting the visitors to your site. Making sure that the information that is on your site is easy to find by the website’s visitors.
Oh, and one more thing. Have you taken a look at the design of Amazon lately? I rest my case.
It used to be that if you weren’t selling anything on your site and you weren’t collecting credit card information then you had no need to have a secure hosting package. Those days are long gone. Every website in the internet should be set up on a secure hosting package. And, if you ask yourself do you really need it? Google thinks you do!.
Having a website should bring your company or organization a tremendous amount of value, but that will only happen when every interaction with your site is done with a plan and purpose. There are so many moving parts that it’s easy to really mess up a website and in today’s economy a messed up website will cost you real dollars.
Think about it this way.
If you decide that you need a new website designed, when in fact the problems you’re having are a result of something that could be fixed. you will be wasting literally tens of thousands of dollars.
If you do in fact need a website redesign project and you select someone who is not as capable as they should be, then not only will you have lost the tens of thousands of dollars that they’re probably going to charge for the website redesign project, but you’re going to lose the time and money it will take to recover from the mistakes that are made redesigning your website.
Just like building a building requires a number of skillsets from engineers to masons to carpenters to electricians to painters, the design and development of a website also requires a number of skillsets from programmers to graphic designers to copywriters to digital marketing specialists. If the agency you’re working with doesn’t employ all of these skillsets, be very cautious, your company or organizations literally could be at risk.