Have you been thinking about redesigning your website? Or do you feel a full rebuild may be needed?
Redesigns and rebuilds can be quick and easy or more involved based on where you’re at and where you need to go – and it’s often one of the most cost-effective and impactful steps you can take to improve and increase audience engagement.
There’s a lot of things to consider when making major changes to your site, and having a well-defined plan is important. We created this guide to help you evaluate your current site, define goals and target audiences, identify data to measure, formulate a launch plan and more.
Website refresh vs. full website redesign
A refresh is typically an update (or multiple updates) to your current site. You can make some major changes to the look and functionality without having to start from scratch. It’s a bit like remodeling a room in your house – the base and structure remain the same, but the details change. A refresh tends to be a quicker and more affordable approach. A potential downside, however, is that you may be limited by the technology you currently have. For example, it might prohibit certain new features.
A full redesign means starting from scratch. Your website is rebuilt from the ground up. Instead of keeping the base of the room, it’s a full tear-down. This is a more complex process, which typically takes more time and can be more expensive than a refresh. Advantages include having more choice and flexibility for new features and functionality on the site, in addition to a new design.
How do you know which approach to take? Reviewing the next section of this guide to evaluate your site is a great place to start, however, if you don’t have the expertise within your own team, it’s also important to have an honest conversation with a web design professional or agency about your needs and goals for the site. They’ll be able to tell you fairly quickly what your options are for the goals you’re hoping to achieve.
Evaluating your current website
It’s important to approach a redesign or rebuild from the perspective of customer experience and need, in addition to business goals. Making an investment for a fresh look may not be worth the time and expense if your site is functioning well and serves the needs of your audiences. However, if you’re hearing feedback from your audience about not being able to find things on your site, if making updates is difficult, and/or if there are opportunities to save time for your sales and/or customer service teams with new content or technology solutions on your site, it’s worth exploring ways to improve your website.
Here are a few signs you might need a new website:
- The goals of your business have changed and your website doesn’t reflect your company’s new goals.
- You’ve experienced poor results or a downturn in results from your website.
- Some features or software that you use are no longer supported.
- Your website genuinely looks outdated.
- You receive frequent customer feedback of difficulties with your website.
- Your website performance is below reasonable standards (e.g., too slow and/or doesn’t work well on mobile).
- The technology is outdated (e.g., maybe the platform is no longer supported).
- You need new features to meet customer needs and business goals.
- Your website has become difficult to update (which sometimes means updates often don’t happen).
Here are a few examples when a refresh may be better:
- The goals of your business haven’t changed and your website does a good job of meeting them.
- Your design needs a refresh in terms of imagery, colors or logos/branding.
- You have a large section of the site to rework or add/delete content within.
- Overall, the structure, software, platform and features are current and supported, and you’d like to implement new options or functionality to meet customer needs and business goals.
- Your website performance needs work and there are ways to improve this using the current platform and software.
Identify your internal stakeholders
A company website can impact all facets of your business and it’s worthwhile to identify who your core stakeholders are to get them involved in redesign process early on.
Departments who are responsible for reviewing and/or writing new content for your website should be involved early on, as well, to give time for creation, revisions and final formats. Your sales team may want to be involved to help inform and collaborate ways the site could be used to capture and nurture leads. And customer support may want input related to self-service options and information they share frequently with customers.
If you have internal IT teams, they’ll need involvement, too. Even if you’re outsourcing the redesign, they’ll need oversight of technical details. Having cross-functional support for the project can be a key factor in getting buy-in, resources, cooperation and meeting deadlines and milestones.
Conduct a website audit
Starting with a simple website audit can help you discover roadblocks in the user experience and also provide important benchmarks to compare after changes are completed.
As part of your site audit, you should benchmark:
- Page and website speed
- Number of visits and unique visitors per month
- Average time on site
- Bounce rate
- Total new leads per month
- Total conversions per month
- Average value per sale
- Top-performing keywords
You can get this information by using a website speed test tool and by gathering data from Google Analytics (or other analytics tools measuring data from your site).
In addition, if you’re able to conduct simple user testing to gather feedback to find out how the average person or customer interacts with your website, it can be very valuable and provide insights a software can’t measure. Watching user interaction with your site and having short conversations about how they found information they were looking for or what they found positive and negative about the site doesn’t need to be time consuming or complex and can help inform decisions to make improvements.
Determine your website goals
It’s also important to define your goals and what you hope to achieve with the redesign.
As much as possible, your goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed Upon (by stakeholders), Realistic and Time-bound. This will make your goals clear to all parties and help demonstrate which areas of the redesign or rebuild made the most impact. It will also make it easier to create clear milestones across the project.Pro Tip: Approach a website redesign from the perspective of the customer experience and need. Click To Tweet
Define your target audience
A common site redesign mistake is designing for the company’s tastes without enough consideration for what will work for your existing clients and potential customers.
As you plan, be sure to include the preferences and needs of your target audiences. If you’ve already created buyer personas, you should consider how your website is going to cater to each persona. For example, a bank might cater to personal banking, business banking, and private banking needs and their website needs to meet the needs for all these groups. Planning navigation, structure, content, imagery, and interactive elements to serve these audiences will help you increase engagement and meet business goals.
Here are some basic questions to get you started with creating buyer personas. For more detailed information read our prior blog post How to Create a Customer Persona.
- Who is my customer? What is their basic demographic information? (Age, gender, location, etc.)
- What do they do for work?
- What are their main challenges or concerns?
- What are their goals?
- How do we help with their goals or challenges?
Define your branding and messaging
When you have clearly defined buyer personas, it’s much easier to consider the branding and messaging that will appeal to those personas. It’s important to be clear about your branding so it’s consistent across your entire website and other channels.
Does anything about your current branding and messaging need to change? What voice or tone do you want to have across your website? What sort of aesthetic fits your brand? (To give a few examples: value, luxury, high-quality, cutting-edge, trustworthy, premium, edgy…). Also consider how your brand should be communicated visually.
The language should be as clear and concise as possible when communicating with customers. As a general rule, avoid business jargon as much as possible.
Identify valuable pages and current barriers
As you prepare to refresh or rebuild your website, it’s important to identify your most valuable website pages and ensure they continue to succeed. These pages with high visitor activity should be prioritized and optimized during the redesign.
One way to examine high performing pages is through the lens of traffic versus conversions. You can get this information from your analytics platform. Review pages with high traffic and high conversions to keep performance top of mind and also analyze pages with low traffic and high conversions.
Review low traffic and low conversion pages to see if there are opportunities for improvement. Consider redesigning high traffic and low conversion pages with a goal to improve conversions.
Your high bounce-rate pages can also help identify indicators of current barriers for users. It could be as simple as updating information to be clearer or improving navigation to be less confusing.
Know your must-have features
There are some key features websites should include to meet requirements and improve opportunities for user interaction. Creating and sharing a list of those must-haves with your web team can greatly improve your site’s accessibility and user experience. Here are a few examples of must-haves we typically include in a redesign project:
Design for accessibility
Website accessibility refers to how accessible or usable your website is for people of all abilities. Accessibility includes factors that are considered when a user interacts with your site, such as: auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech and visual.
Accessibility also relates to visitors with changing abilities (such as through aging), temporary disabilities (like broken bones), impaired connectivity (slow internet connection), and people using a variety of devices to access your website.
An example of an accessibility issue could include the colors chosen for the design of your site. It’s important to choose readable fonts and have enough contrast between text and background colors across the site and on interactive features (such as buttons and forms) so visitors with normal or impaired eyesight can gain information and complete actions on the site.
An SSL certificate is essential for business websites. It enables you to use the “https” in front of your website URL to indicate that your website is using a Secure Socket Layer Connection. It’s a trust signal to users of your site that indicates your website is secure and data is encrypted.
An SSL certificate also gives you SEO benefits as Google shares SSL is a ranking factor. This means if you’re up against competitors with a similar website content but no SSL certificate, your site may gain an advantage by having SSL installed.
Regardless of what tools, templates, or software are being used, your website should always meet a minimum threshold for site speed (and page speed for individual pages). This is important for the following reasons:
- Site and page speeds impact your website visitors. If your pages load too slowly, people are more likely to leave rather than wait for loading.
- Page speed impacts your SEO. Google uses speed as a ranking factor because it’s an indicator of user experience. If slow site speed is causing a high bounce rate, this sends negative signals to Google which can impact your ranking.
Having a website that renders well on mobile devices is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s now a must-have. More than half of all global website traffic comes from mobile devices, and this represents a significant opportunity for businesses. Websites that are difficult to use or read on mobile screens tend to have high bounce rates and low conversions on mobile.
Google also has mobile page load speed as a ranking factor, indicating that mobile is significant for search results. You can spend a lot of time and effort on optimizing for organic search, but it could be a wasted effort if your website isn’t mobile responsive.
Formulate a relaunch plan
Defining the timeline and milestones for the relaunch of new content, imagery, features and other functionality is key for success, however, it’s also critical to weave in steps that ensure your traffic data is continually captured and optimized.
Here are items to include to be sure the relaunch doesn’t negatively affect your traffic:
- Review and analyze your new site from end-to-end in a testing environment first. Make sure everything is working as it should be.
- Optimize page content with on-page SEO techniques. This includes identifying keywords you should target on each page and inputting them strategically.
- Set up 301 redirects to ensure website visitors get to the right page. This is a bit like mail forwarding to the new address. It’s an important step for those pages that you identified as your top performers – you want search engines to know where they now live and to keep sending traffic their way.
- After relaunch, use Webmaster Tools to check for broken links (and fix any ASAP).
- Ensure your website is able to be crawled by search engines.
- Submit your new sitemap to search engines like Bing and Google.
- Organize a re-launch promotion for your internal audience and external audiences, including customers (this can help with a nice traffic boost, too).
- Monitor your changes closely to ensure everything is working.
Test and measure results
Once you’ve completed the redesign or rebuild, it’s important to review your established goals and identify KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to test, measure and evaluate success at reaching targets.
A few KPIs might include:
- Traffic – did this increase?
- Conversion rates and goal actions – how do these stack up compared to before?
- Bounce rate – did this decrease?
- Average order value – did this increase?
- Number of leads and/or sales – did this increase?
- Overall number of conversions – did this increase?
- Net promoter score – did this increase?
- SEO ranking – are these improved?
Additional metrics may be qualitative, such as feedback from internal teams and customers or customer support queries. It’s valuable to measure and represent both qualitative and quantitative when possible.
Plan for continuous improvement
Websites present a great opportunity to share timely and valuable information and resources with your audiences, customers and prospects. Keeping your website refreshed and relevant is important for audience engagement and also allows you explore and implement digital marketing opportunities to drive additional traffic and sales, increase brand recognition, rank higher in search results, and so much more. If you don’t already have an approach of continuous improvement, it’s important to adopt this in a manageable way to remain agile, meet the needs of internal and external audiences, and avoid issues or major overhauls in the future.
If you’re considering a redesign or rebuild and would like to have a conversation about your goals and options, our experienced team is happy to help.
Contact us today to learn more.