Jealous of a competitor’s new website?
Annoyed with poor performance month over month?
Many website owners encounter a point in their website’s life when they just want to start from scratch.
You see your competitor’s website brings in more business and just…looks better.
But your business is good too! You have a lot to offer, but the customers just aren’t finding you on the search engine results page.
We know what it’s like to have a website that doesn’t reflect who we are as a company.
Our site was redesigned in late 2017 after toiling in a “cobbler’s children lacking shoes” situation for years.
We were our own worst client.
But now we have something beautiful to present to the world – and a designer who knows what she’s doing – I think we’ll keep updating it in small ways as the internet changes in the coming years.
We offer site redesigns to our clients who need them, and it felt hypocritical to recommend something we weren’t doing ourselves.
This is your guide to understand how to approach your website redesign from beginning to end.
Why would you consider a website redesign?
It can’t just be because the other kids are doing it.
The big question you need to ask yourself is “Does my website continually produce satisfactory results?”
If your answer is, “ummm…” then your website probably needs some help.
Here are some of the best reasons to redesign your website:
- If your site isn’t mobile-friendly in 2018, then you needed a new site two years ago. Mobile-friendliness is a huge ranking factor for Google, and if your site is unusable on a smartphone, you’re going to need to call a developer.
- Are protentional customers finding your website in the first place? If you aren’t showing up in Google, it could be time for a new site designed with strategy in mind.
- Are current customers and employees complaining that the site is difficult to navigate or aspects of it are broken? If your employees can’t easily update the blog or add a new service page without calling the developer, you should switch to an easier content management system. We often recommend WordPress.
If any of the above situations apply to you, then it’s probably time for a site redesign.
If a different portion of your business wasn’t working the way you need, you’d already be working on a solution. So why are you letting your website flail helplessly in the internet abyss?
There are two ways to approach a website redesign. (Only one of them works)
Do you want to redesign your website in one fell swoop?
Caution be damned! You need a new website right this second and you don’t care how it gets done as long it gets done.
Well, just hang on a second.
You built this business from the ground up. There were some instances where you had to be reckless, but there were other cases where caution was the best way forward, right?
Think of your website as an employee who works all day and all night.
You wouldn’t hire someone for such an important position without interviewing.
So why would you approve a website redesign without testing first?
You want a revolutionary design, but you need to take a more cautious, evolutionary approach.
Evolutionary Website Design (the one that works)
Evolutionary design (ER) uses strategic A/B testing to make sure your incremental design updates actually help increase conversions and revenue.
That sounds slow.
Yeah, it’s going to take a long time – but so would designing an entirely new website you aren’t even sure is going to work.
But if you take an evolutionary approach, you can change elements on your site one at a time and see if that change increased usability or conversions.
If you changed a bunch of things at once, you’d never be able to figure out which one your customers actually like. Even if conversions increased because of the multiple changes, you lost the chance to increase it further by optimizing your website one element at a time.
An evolutionary approach leaves the pieces of your website that work alone. A complete overhaul might disrupt the working pieces and throw your website into turmoil.
But, evolutionary design isn’t sexy.
There isn’t a big reveal or anything to share on social media. You can’t write a press release about it.
Often the decision to redesign a website comes from the executives. They want visual proof of their digital savvy or their own self-worth.
However, an egocentric design only leads to a website that doesn’t take customers into account or ignores data in exchange for something that just looks flashy.
Releasing a revolutionary change might give you a small bump in traffic.
But evolutionary, incremental changes will improve your conversions forever.
Why revolutionary design is a bad idea
Think of it like this – if you do a complete overhaul of your inventory and you stop selling the products customers love, your customers are going to leave.
But if you keep the products they do love and add something new, you’ll be able to see clearly how they interact with the new elements.
Same goes for your website.
If you change everything all at once, you’re likely to alienate your customers who liked the old design.
Revolutionary website design doesn’t stop to consider user feedback. Without collecting feedback from real users – even if you’re just split testing a webpage – you’re doing them (and your company) a disservice.
Okay, I still want to do a revolutionary design because evolutionary will just take forever.
A major redesign also takes forever! Every little piece has to pass through multiple layers of approval. Not only that, but design by committee always falls short.
Design is subjective, and everyone will have different opinions.
That is why analytics and A/B testing should drive your design decisions. Your customers just might know better than you do.
Before you start redesigning, there are many factors to consider first.
Redesigning a website isn’t just adding new colors or a fancy new logo.
Whether it’s a possible restructure of your current site that loses years of SEO efforts or losing all of that great data you’ve been tracking for years, there are many implications to consider when undergoing a website redesign.
What is the condition of your website?
In the right hands, web design is both an art and a science. The data from your Analytics and digital campaigns should be the driving force behind your redesign.
You might be thinking that artists create art and that data is secondary to the process. But you’d be missing out on a great opportunity to understand your customers and how they interact with elements on your website.
All great website redesigns begin with data, not pretty pictures. That’s why our recommendation is to start your redesign by assessing the data and state of your website.
Look at all of the elements that do work and look at the elements that are pain points for your customers.
Change the pain points and keep the elements that work.
What are your business objectives?
The second most significant aspect of your website redesign is understanding and defining your business objectives.
If you don’t explicitly define your business objectives, you’re doomed from the start. Your business objectives should be DUMB:
Take the time necessary to develop business objectives that can lead your website redesign. If you do it right, your website can and should be a leading revenue generating arm of your business.
Do you want people to sign up for your newsletter?
Or maybe you want to push people toward your e-commerce site.
If your site isn’t already guiding people toward those areas, you’re missing out on huge opportunities.
Are you tracking your goals?
A website redesign is a great time to review how you’re tracking goals on your website. Help yourself out in the long run and develop a strategy to gain the most insight from your tracked data.
Making informed decisions about the performance of your current and redesigned website will help you understand your market as well as the impact your newly redesigned website has on your business.
Google Analytics allows you to add custom code to track events such as clicks on buttons, forms, outbound links, and even page scrolling. Setting these events up from the beginning provides the insights necessary to perform meaningful optimizations to increase profitability.
We always say,
How do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve already been?
You should set up tracking before you change anything so you’ll be able to tell for sure that the changes improve your metrics.
What’s your content marketing strategy?
Often overlooked in a website redesign is the inclusion of a marketing strategy. Knowing the pages that need to be created and how they’ll fit in with the new design is a crucial component to long-term success.
You wouldn’t build a house and wait to consider where to put the bedrooms and bathrooms once the walls are up, right?
Take the time to develop a content strategy, or sitemap, for your business that informs your redesign team where and how images should be displayed. Also, include how calls-to-action will be displayed throughout your website.
Don’t forget your calls-to-action
Being a part of many redesigns, we’ve run into problems with calls-to-action not being placed on the site. Ignoring our calls-to-action recommendations have led to poor performances on beautiful designs.
Your visitors need a road-map of what they are supposed to, or what you would like them to do. Not including a prominent call-to-action can lead to a loss of online sales or conversions.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can do without a call-to-action. It should be prominent and a bright, eye-catching color.
And don’t forget your thank you page
It’s one of the easiest pages to create and one of the most critical pages of your website redesign.
This page is always forgotten by developers who believe that an Ajax form submission is good enough. When a site user completes a form that doesn’t lead to a thank you page, the user remains on the same page of the form, which is often confusing, causing the user to resubmit the form to ensure their request went through.
By creating a Thank You page, you can install tracking codes, such as the Adwords Conversion Pixel, or create destination URL goals in Google Analytics. This eliminates confusion in the visitor’s mind and allows for easier and cleaner data tracking on your site.
The lack of thank you pages and proper tracking is a significant hurdle we run into often. We can’t optimize against data that isn’t there.
Aside from the tracking implications, the Thank You page is a great place to add multiple conversion points and expectations for response times. Tell users that they will hear from someone in 24-48 hours or have the sign-up for a newsletter, webinar, download a resource, or take a quick survey.
Your Thank You page can be one of your hardest working pages, so put it to work.
How often should I redesign my website?
Unfortunately, answering that question is…complicated.
The answer depends entirely on your situation and can’t be answered reasonably without more information.
You know now that a website redesign is more complicated than you previously thought. And that an evolutionary design is a logical approach compared to the revolutionary.
But I need a number to take back to the boss.
Orbit Media looked for the answer and figured out that websites should be redesigned every 2.66 years.
You can take that with a grain of salt though because they only looked at marketing websites, which are probably hyper-aware of how they’re presenting themselves online.
According to Digital Strike’s designer, you should touch up your website at least every two years just to keep up with design trends. You can’t just leave your site dormant and let it get stale.
That would make all of the redesign work useless. Add a blog to your website so you can have refreshing content. Make sure you are looking at and using your website often, so you know that it’s still working for your customers.
You shouldn’t do a complete overhaul every two years. If you have a good foundation and your site is working for you and your customers, then small touch-ups are all you need to make sure your site is up to date.
Your website is often your first impression.
It’s your storefront.
If you change that storefront too drastically all at once – and without considering a marketing strategy – people are going to stop coming by. And you won’t know exactly what made them click away.
Your website redesign starts with you understanding the current state of your website. From there, establishing business goals is essential to know what your new website needs to do to achieve business growth.
By all means, make big changes.
But make them slowly after A/B testing them and let the data make the decisions.
The fact of the matter is that you need your website to be a 24/7 employee. Developing business goals and creating a strategy to reach customers with your website should be your primary reason for a website redesign.
If you are currently thinking about a website redesign and need help developing your digital strategy, contact us today and let’s talk about how to make your website work harder (and smarter) for you.
Editor’s note: This post was originally written in 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.