So, you’ve had that website of yours for a while. And now, something tells you it might be time for a rethink. But whether it’s a minor tweak that you’re considering or a total rebuild, in our experience (ten years designing and managing websites for companies of all shapes and sizes) certain important factors need to be thought through before you start. It’s about defining the problem, the reasons for change and the objectives. Whether you’re planning to make those amendments yourself or work with your web design agency, they’re the rational basis without which you should not proceed. And here they are …
Seems obvious, but it’s a question you should ask yourself. Perhaps you feel the site no longer accurately describes what your business is about. You could be rebranding, changing your product or service offering? Perhaps it’s just too difficult to navigate or leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to the way it actually works for visitors. Or it may be that, against other – and especially competitors’ – sites, it just looks and sounds tired. Listing these criteria will form the foundation for putting things right.
Check your competitors’ sites competitively.
A little time spent exploring your competitors’ websites will be a rock solid investment. But be ruthless with yourself. If their sites seem better than yours in some way, make a note of why you think this is and how you could compete. What have they got that you haven’t? How can you learn from them? With these observations, you can make a plan that will help you to do things better – better than you’re doing them now and better than your competitors.
What about the technical implications?
You may be planning to keep your current domain name. Could be you’ve decided on acquiring a new one. Either way, your URL is another factor to bear in mind when you proceed with your redesign. To start with, the time your site is offline during the changeover needs to be minimised. And your optimisation could be affected by changes you make. Ensure that your web design agency is skilled in these matters, able to make the transition in a way that avoids traffic loss. For guidance from the googlemeisters themselves, take a look at https://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=83105
As well as optimisation, you’ll also need to redirect email, update your passwords to any online services you use. Security is a priority. In all these matters, brief your in-house expert or make sure you’re working with professionals who know how to protect your interests.
Moving and updating your content.
It can take a long time to transfer all your content over to a new site. And as you move all that text, all those images, blogs, articles, comments and photo files over, the simplest way forward may be to keep the same CMS (Content Management System). But if you do want or need a new CMS, it’s advisable to ask the web design agency you choose to work with to automate this important but potentially time consuming task for you by writing scripts.
On the other hand, if you’re redesigning from the ground up, it’s actually a great chance to make sure all your content is saying just what you want before you start the new design – and this is by far right way round to do things – words first, design later.
Explain the change to your customers.
You’ve spent a lot of time and presumably money acquiring your customers. So, the last thing you want is for your new website to jeopardise their support. Which is why it’s important to explain that you’re improving the site to make it easier and more enjoyable for them to use – but to do this in plenty of time before you actually launch your new look. This is especially true if you’re rebranding, changing your email addresses or telephone numbers – just so your customers know these details in plenty of time.
Use your new design as a PR platform.
What you’re doing to your site is positive news, marking a move forward for your company. It’s not just good for you, but for your customers, proving your commitment to a keep on improving every aspect of your operation – all of which makes for excellent PR. Time to plan an email marketing programme to spread the news. Press releases to relevant PR agencies and publications. Reach out to appropriate bloggers and tweeters. In fact, if you haven’t got a social media presence yet, this is the perfect moment to get one started. All this activity will drive even more traffic to your new site.
Simplification is the name of the game.
People. Have. Short. Attention. Spans. So when you’re restructuring your website, the more succinct you can make the text and the simpler and more streamlined you can make it, the better. And importantly, you won’t only be making your new website quicker to comprehend and react to for your customers, you’ll also be creating content that can tend to load faster … making your site even better for search engines and for your visitors on yet another important level.
Listen to colleagues, but stay in control of your redesign.
Depending on the structure of your company, there may be a number of colleagues you’ll need to consult with as your redesign is developed. Of course, their opinions are valid and could be useful, as may any reactions you may gain from your customers as you progress through the project. But the final decisions should ideally stay yours and yours alone – whether you’re producing the redesign internally or working with an external agency, the decisive voice of the project should be singular, because committees only produce confusion and compromise.
What’s happening out there?
In the digital sphere, everything moves forward at the speed of light, but our advice is that it’s often a mistake to just automatically grab every new technological tool that happens along. On the contrary, do keep your eye open for innovations that may be appropriate to your project’s particular needs, but exercise caution with those that don’t. Also bear in mind that when new ideas first come along, they often need time to get the bugs out.
Your customers are going mobile.
One unstoppable trend you really should consider is the fact that more and more of your customers access the web on their mobile devices. Recent research says this figure is currently at around 69% with every indication that it will just go on climbing. So, it is vital to ensure your new site design is built to be responsive – meaning it will adapt automatically to the smaller screens of smartphones and tablets, with the same look and feel as when seen via a desktop on a bigger monitor. If you’re unsure about this, working with a good web design agency is the best policy.
Add the power of analytics.
There are some very powerful and therefore valuable analytics packages available and they can help you measure your site’s performance in all sorts of ways. The best known and some would say the most proven of these is Google Analytics, through which you can get reports on how well your competitors’ sites, as well as your own, are working and how they compare. Now is the right time to build analytics into your activities – before you even start your new design. The data analytics will help you make your redesign even better.
The more you tell your agency, the better.
We have no way of knowing whether you intend to conduct your redesign yourself, with an internal team, or by using a web design agency. But if you were working with us, (which obviously, we’d love you to be) one thing we’d say is please, please, please tell us as much as you can about your product or service, about your original site’s performance to date and crucially, about your feelings as the new design is developed. Experienced web design agencies like us are always happy to hear even the most negative comment as long as they’re accompanied by reasons why. As in not just, ‘I hate this idea/text/image,’ rather than, ‘I’m uncomfortable with this for the following reasons …’ We web designers want to work closely with our clients, to design and build their new site as a collaborative process.
Be ready to get feedback as soon as you re-launch.
It’ll be a great feeling. Your new site will be finished and working productively for your business. But before your re-launch, while you’re still finalising those last few aspects of the design, don’t forget to incorporate a feedback mechanism, a channel through which your users can communicate the quality of their experience on the new site once it’s live. Because as soon as you are up and running, you’ll need to know from your colleagues and customers how well your new site is functioning for them. And finally, make sure your team is ready to act fast to amend or correct anything they’re not happy.
We hope our advice here is useful to you in your plans to redesign your website. If you would like to discuss the possibility of our working together, we’d be delighted to talk to you.
Just give us a call on 01553 766760 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a cost-free initial consultation and audit of your current website.
To check out web design and management work for clients right across the business spectrum, please go to at www.websmartstudio.co.uk.