The two stage process for a successful website redesign
There are plenty of reasons to undertake a website redesign. Perhaps the technology is out of date and your unresponsive site is losing mobile visitors. Maybe your offering or brand has evolved and the content, look and feel no longer reflect your business. Or perhaps people aren’t finding your business because your website isn’t optimised for search engines or fails to support a content strategy.
Any of these issues are a good reason to consider redesigning your website. But considering a website refresh is a major undertaking and one that should not be under-estimated. Get the process right and your website could deliver more, better quality leads, increased sales, and greater brand awareness and engagement. Get it wrong and you could be left with a lame duck and an expensive bill.
Developing a plan is fundamental to meeting your business needs. But what do you need to consider to take your website from deficient to delivering? This article provides a two-stage process to guide you from establishing strategic goals to creating a perfectly-crafted website redesign process.
Stage 1: Creating a SMART Website Redesign Strategy
This section provides the questions you need to answer to establish a strategic framework for your project.
Although you’re right at the start, you need to establish now what a good end-result looks like for your business. Setting SMART goals will enable you to establish Specific, Measurable goals and set Achievable and Realistic outcomes to specified Timescales. These goals will form the basis of your activity and provide direction for your strategy.
Where Are You Now?
How long has it been since you last looked at the metrics from your website? If the answer is ‘too long’, it’s time to get specific and take a look at your numbers.
The key metrics to focus on are:
- Number of visitors (monthly average)
- Bounce rates (monthly average)
- Time on site (monthly average)
- Domain authority
- Number of new leads or form submissions (per month)
- Top performing keywords (for rank, traffic and lead generation)
- Total sales generated (if applicable)
You’ll find many of these figures from your webpage statistics report. Alternatively, use a website like Google Analytics to find out when your site was visited, who by and how they found your page.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to filter out your own page visits and junk traffic as these will skew the results.
Establishing your site’s domain authority will help you assess how well your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is working. The greater your site’s authority, the higher up the list of search engine results your website will appear.
Collecting this data will give you a picture of your website’s performance in key areas. Just as importantly, it will identify any issues which will indicate areas of focus for your project.
Where Do You Want to Be?
Now you have an overview of your site’s performance, it’s time to think about where you want your results to be. Because your website is part of your overall marketing strategy, it’s helpful to contextualise your website redesign process within these overarching plans.
Be really clear about your marketing goals and consider how you want your website to help you meet them. Perhaps you want to improve brand engagement or increase the proportion of your company’s revenue from online sales. Whatever your marketing goals, prioritise them and identify whether your website needs to be changed to achieve them.
Now consider the key metrics from the previous section and create SMART goals for each bullet point with reference to your marketing strategy. This will help you establish what good looks like for your business and will give you metrics against which you can evaluate the success of your website redesign strategy.
What Does Good Look Like?
It can be difficult to establish achievable goals for all the metrics. Setting realistic targets will depend on different elements such as the current performance of your website and your product or service.
For example, Bentley might have a large number of site visitors because they are a well-known brand and people want to lust over their cars with no intention of buying. In this case, the lead conversion rate would likely be low because the vast majority of people can’t afford the product. Marks and Spencer would likely expect higher visitor numbers and higher conversion rates because their products are affordable for a significantly larger population.
For some of the measures, such as domain authority, a perfect score of 100 is attained by sites such as Google and Facebook. Remember that you want to set SMART goals so pick Realistic and Achievable goals such as:
- Increase conversion rates by 25% within the first six months of the new website launch
- Increase user engagement by 10% within six months measured via number of likes, shares and comments on blog posts
- Improve the website’s SEO increasing the DA score by 10% within the first year
If you used Google Analytics to establish your current position, you can continue to use it to measure your results. Other options are available such as Alexa or Compete but, like the advanced options in Google Analytics, you will need to pay for these. These costs should be factored into your plan during stage two.
Who Are Your Competitors?
Assessing your competition is a good way to start getting ideas about industry trends. It will also give you a feel for what you like and what you don’t in terms of design, colours, fonts and logos.
You might find that your competitors consistently provide offers, like free e-books, to gain visitor details and build their database. Or your keyword research reveals they use similar keywords across their websites or have a blog that drives visitors to their webpages. Whatever you can glean from the competition is useful in understanding how you want to fit in with, stand out from and do better than your competition.
HubSpot’s website grading tool allows you to rank your own, and your competitors’, websites for performance, mobile, SEO and security.
What is Your Brand?
For marketing to be effective, it should be aligned at every customer touchpoint via your company brand. Defining your brand and establishing how you want to convey that to your customers is a critical component of your website redesign strategy.
Already got a strong brand? Then ensure you communicate it to your web designer by sharing your brand story and guidelines.
Is your brand unclear? Or has your business changed and your brand no longer reflects who you are? If so, now is a good time to firm up your branding and decide how you want to represent your organisation in the world at large and online.
Your website will rely on your brand to project what’s unique about your business. From the first page of your website, customers should understand who you are and what you offer that your competitors don’t.
If you have an in-house marketing team, this stage of the project should be a breeze. If you don’t and you’re looking for a website redesign services provider, make sure you find one who delivers more than the platform nuts and bolts.A good agency will help clarify your brand and use it to inform the design of your website.
Who Are Your Customers?
Now it’s time to look outside your organisation and consider your customers. Buyer personas are a fantastic way to establish a clear picture of your customers’ needs, goals and behaviours.
Having this knowledge at your fingertips will ensure you present your business in a way that captures and engages the attention of your customers and gets them to take action. Even if you already have a clear picture of your customers, it can be useful to update your personas to capture any changes.
Understanding your customers helps inform the tone of voice for your website copy. It can also tell you which social media platforms your customers hang out on so you can add relevant social media links to your website.
Stage 2: Planning for Success
Now you’ve established the strategic context for your website redesign process, it’s time to map out a plan. This should cover your project scope, deliver on the goals created in part one and get you started and finished on time and on budget. Each of the following sections should form a workstream in your plan. Establish an owner, set reasonable timescales and scope out any cost for each step.
Establish Your Project Scope
Your strategic analysis may have highlighted that your existing website is performing well. In this case, your project might be about refining specific aspects of your webpages rather than conducting a complete overhaul.
However, if you answer no to more than one of the following questions, you may require more changes:
- Do you like more of your website than you dislike?
- Does your website deliver against all of your organisation’s marketing goals?
- Does your website create the right first impression, generate trust and authority?
- Is your brand well-represented on screen?
If a full website redesign is required, you will need to consider technical issues like whether you will change your existing domain name or use a new web-hosting platform.
Then there are practical considerations: do you have the skills and expertise in-house to deliver the project? Do you need to find an external company to provide website redesign services? You will also need to establish realistic timescales and a budget in conjunction with your company’s decision makers or with your provider.
Picking the Right Platform
There are more web platforms available than pizza toppings in Dominos. Picking the right platform is integral to successfully delivering your website redesign strategy.
Some platforms are well-known for hosting particular types of website because they have been designed with specific businesses or content in mind. Pick WordPress when you want a complex e-commerce site, or pick Shopify when your focus is service-based content, and you’ll face difficulties.
Whether you are seeking a website platform or a Content Management System (CMS), you need to pick the right technology.This will ensure you get the right performance and look to deliver your marketing strategy.
If you’re building the website yourself, ease of use will play a big part in your decision. However, if you’re working with a design agency or freelancer, they may have a preferred option that they recommend.
With this in mind, there are a few questions you need to discuss with your provider to ensure the platform meets your needs both today and in the future.
Will the website be customisable?
If you’re going for a complete brand refresh you may want a fully customisable solution to provide a unique website that’s yours and yours alone. A simple brand tweak may mean you can retain and refresh existing templates in which case full customisation may not be required.
What functionality does it deliver?
This is as simple as being clear about what you need to be able to do and making sure the platform allows you to do it. If you expect your business to expand significantly in the future, ensure the technology is future-proofed.
For example, if you intend to add 2,000 additional product lines, make sure the platform can cope with this and provides functionality such as stock level management systems.
You may decide that day-to-day content management will be accomplished in-house. If that’s the case and you’ll be uploading daily content, like videos, ensure you can do this quickly and simply without the need for coding.
Is the platform any good?
You can do some research into any proposed platforms’ reputations to see if it consistently delivers a good service, particularly in response to critical issues such as site crashes. Check out online ratings and reviews for customer feedback and, for service levels, check out average site speeds using HubSpot’s website grading tool and uptimes via Pingdom.
How much does it cost?
You might have found the perfect platform, but if all the bells and whistles cost more than your budget, you’ll need to find the next best option.
Establish What You’ve Got
It’s easy for websites to grow arms and legs as you add pages, so create a site map to find out exactly what you’ve got.
Capture the names, number and type of pages including webpages, blog posts and landing pages. Identify whether the design on each page is coded or template-based and whether there are any features like responsive pages or integration with other platforms.
Understand page performance
Assess each page on your website to establish whether you have any duplicate content, which pages receive most traffic and which content has been shared or viewed the most. You also want to know which pages are ranked most highly on search engines.
To do this, you will need to use a Google Analytics to establish the percentage of visitors from:
- organic search from Google, Bing, Yahoo and any other search engines
- referrals from links on other sites
- social media like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn
- links in email marketing
- direct traffic from users who manually enter your website URL
Now repeat this process to establish the percentage of visits from mobile devices.
Check your marketing channels
Establish your best performing website and blog pages by picking a relevant marketing metric. For your website it could be visits, conversions or leads and for your blog, visits or inbound links. Choose one measure and use this to gauge your five top-performing web and blog pages.
Must-Know Technical Terminology
Unless you happen to be an IT genius, some of the technical elements of web development sound like a foreign language. But that doesn’t mean you get to turn a blind eye. Understanding the terminology will allow you to work with your website designer to ensure they deliver the right technical setup.
How you structure your site helps customers find what they’re looking for and navigate easily to the information they want. At the back end, it plays a part in determining your website’s SEO. Work with your web developer to define which pages will form part of your primary and secondary navigation menus then create a sitemap showing which pages sit where.
Hosting, Security and Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)
A site host provides server space for your website to sit in. Good hosting is essential so that your website is available and secure.
Security is important for all websites as it protects against people who want to hijack or crash sites and prevents threats like malware. This is particularly important for sites that store personal and financial information but it is also impacts the SEO for all websites. A single security breach could severely impact business relationships so this is a key area of focus.
CDNs ensure content downloads quickly so it’s available for consumption. Join the half of all businesses whose traffic is served by CDN and ensure your customers get content without the wait.
URL Mapping and 301 Redirects
URL mapping ensures your entire website is fully optimised for the right keywords. This process should take into consideration any changes to site structure and URLs or page merges.
301 redirects will provide a message and guide users to another part of the website when a page is missing or a link is broken.This can be essential in retaining customers when something goes wrong.
Outline Your Content Plan
You will need to decide which content stays and which goes. Where your brand and tone of voice will remain the same, a good deal of your content may be useable. For full re-brands and a new tone of voice, a full re-write is the only way forward.
Your sitemap and page analysis will help you establish which pages need to be rewritten. You also need to determine who will be doing that writing. Website redesign services often include full content generation and management. Alternatively, you may choose to do this in-house if you have the capacity and skills.
Pro tip: Don’t forget that all your content should include a call to action to direct your customer to the next step on the buyer journey.
Now you’ve got your plan sorted out, you need to consider your budget. Here are all the elements you are likely to incur a cost for as part of your website redesign strategy:
- Domain name
- Content Management System
- Landing Pages
Content and design
- Images and custom graphics
- Mobile/responsive design
- SEO strategy and re-directs
- Copy writing and editing
- Advanced customisation
- Style sheets and templates
Existing content migration for blog, website and landing content
Establish your predicted costs and assess against your actual budget as the project advances to ensure you stay on track.
Website redesign blends technical expertise with the alchemy of branding. You may have one set of skills in-house but lack the other or perhaps you require full support with every aspect of your project. Either way, the steps outlined in this article will help you create an effective plan covering the different elements that are required for a project of this type.