Without a brick-and-mortar store, your webpage and overall online presence is also your audience’s first look at your business, and subsequently what they glean their first impressions from. Industry professionals agree that on average, a marketer redesigns their website once every 18 to 24 months: a rate that may seem too frequent, perhaps, but it does make sense – a lot can happen in two years’ time.
Mobile browsing used to represent only a small fraction of all Internet traffic, but more and more people are switching to viewing pages on their smartphones and tablets as opposed to sitting down at a computer and a laptop. Just the fact that a new iPhone iteration comes out every two years or so goes to show that the world and how people connect with each other is changing at that same pace. Your business should be evolving at the same rate as the rest of the planet, right?
Whether you’re looking to tweak a few elements or have your website go through a complete overhaul, here are a few things to keep in mind in order for your redesign to go seamlessly and successfully.
Before you toss precious resources into a site revamp, take a good look at what you already have and make a checklist of what you want to change and why. There’s nothing wrong with having a few goals for vanity and aesthetic: I want it to look more modern or utilize HTML5 tricks in order to impress my clientele are valid reasons to want to overhaul your site, but keep in mind that these are low-priority goals and you should focus on making your website function better and more efficiently for a smoother customer experience; everything else is just gravy in the boat.
Fire up your analytics and find your benchmarks for search rank, conversion rate, and other key site metrics. Your primary goal should be how to increase these metrics as a result of your website redesign. Before embarking on any journey, it’s good to be prepared, right? This list will serve as your map as you navigate your redesign.
Focusing on site UX and functionality can really only help you in the long run. Adding in too many visual tricks can be distracting for the casually browsing user, not to mention: research indicates that a whopping 40 percent of them will leave your site if a page takes more than three seconds to load. If your website is jammed loading too many elements at once that it takes forever to get to the content the consumer is wanting, they’ll find another, faster site to get it from. Remember, you’re likely not the only player in your field. If there is an element on your site that is not working towards the enhancement of your user experience, remove it.
Feedback is awesome, and can help you gather insights and opinions that you might not be able to generate on your own. That fancy new typography you’re using might look great to you, but be completely illegible or unreadable for others – this is already an indication that perhaps you’ve designed too narrowly for only a portion of your audience, and might want to rethink your font choices. Listen to criticism, but don’t let it rule you: democracy is great for running countries but the old adage still holds true: too many cooks in the kitchen spoils the pot. Your website may look fragmented or imbalanced as a result of listening to too many people having entirely different opinions on what looks or feels best about your site, so it’s best to have a strong feeling about your overall design from the beginning.
According to Sytian Productions, one of the cardinal sins of a website redesign is taking down your website during the development or redesign phase. Do NOT do this. Your rankings will suffer as a result, or Google may de-index your site completely. If at all possible, try to structure it so that there’s no downtime and continue to serve content as usual while you’re redesigning your site.
While website aesthetics do contribute to the overall perception of your product and company, try not to obsess over the small things, or vanity metrics. As stated before, it’s more important to have a smooth, seamless user experience than it is to have a parallax scrolling homepage; user experience should come before site aesthetics, always. You want it to function better than it did before, in addition to looking fresher.
Never leave mobile friendliness out of the equation. With the introduction of smartphones and tablets, all of them with bigger, brighter screens and the added convenience of mobility and the ability to browse websites even while they’re lying down in bed or watching a movie, mobile browsing is now a sizeable chunk of all Internet traffic and shouldn’t be discounted. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile viewing, the potential to lose that visitor increases, because he or she can’t properly navigate your site.
In your redesign, also consider rethinking your content. While it’s all well and good that you have a loyal user base who likes the way things are going, do you want to settle for a stagnant user base instead of attempting to attract more people to your site? Internet users change and grow, and thus their needs and wants also grow. Examine those very needs and desires of your audience, and figure out what you can add or remove in order to make browsing your site a better experience for them.
Finally, you’ll want to have a flexible launch date. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, and you’re better off being prepared for any eventuality and launching a complete site that works perfectly maybe three months late than you are presenting a half-baked site with certain key elements missing on your projected launch date. Quality over punctuality is your goal here. Don’t launch if you aren’t satisfied, even if you’re a couple weeks to a month late on it.