When I started working at Intergage I had absolutely no idea how much work was involved in planning and building a website from scratch. I would argue that a redesign is even harder as there is a degree of emotional attachment to the existing site and it is entirely possible for you to still be bearing the scars of the initial build even if it was 6 years ago! We get it - it can be painful with a humungous capital P!
Here we have some tips that will help you to stay on track, build a site you can be proud of that performs and above everything else – keep you sane!! Here goes…
Define your goals for the website
There is no point investing your time and resource into a project if you are unclear on your goals. Make them specific and ensure they are not vanity goals. What’s a vanity goal? A goal such as, 'I want to increase website traffic.' Of course, everyone does… but surely it would make sense to have a website that provides useful, relevant content for your audience to increase interaction or conversions. Your goal may not be numerical. Challenge this – how are you going to know if it has worked if you haven’t got anything to measure?
Evaluate the reason why you need a redesign
Does it just feel like the right thing to do? Have you had customer or employee feedback? Are your sales in decline? Have your conversions dropped? Has content stopped working? Understanding this will help with defining your goals for the website. It also acts as a sense check throughout the planning stage – it will help you validate the actions that you are taking and ensure you are confident that they are going to solve the problem that you have now.
Have one person managing from start to finish
Having learnt this the hard way I cannot recommend this strongly enough. You need one person who is the hub of all things 'website redesign.' They should know where you are in the project, timescales, milestones, problems and contacts. Often this person isn’t the ‘doer’ but holds everything together ensuring that every person working on the project is aware of everything impacting the work that they are responsible for.
Ensure you are clear on the needs / challenges of your personas
OK… to be fair… I wouldn’t skip this either. You see the challenge with website redesign is that every element is as important as the other. It isn’t like painting a room. If you paint the walls and don’t bother glossing the woodwork the room still works but when you try and skip jobs in a rebuild the website simply won’t work – either in style or function.
Ensure that you understand your personas thoroughly, question that you have this right. By understanding your personas you get to be a real expert. You get to know what makes them tick, what switches them off, but more importantly the pains, challenges and needs that they have. If you understand these you can begin to break through and answer the questions they didn’t know they needed to ask in your website layout and content.
Complete a SWOT Analysis of your site
No, you’ve not gone back to school! This is an incredibly powerful way to grasp what to keep on the site and what to ditch. You also get to know what stuff on the site is helpful and what stuff is a hindrance.
Characteristics that help you achieve objectives and have an advantage to being on the site.
Strengths could be an effective way of presenting content, ecommerce functionality, good calls to action
Characteristics that prevent you from reaching your objectives.
A disadvantage could be out of date content, tired brand
Opportunities are the things that aren’t directly in your control but you can be aware of to quickly move to make the most of or plan for them now. I.e. new technology, upcoming marketing activity, new emerging markets
This is anything that is out of your control but might get in the way or hinder your business. This may include regulatory changes, legal changes, new competition, technological changes
Test your user journey thinking – share with others
Once you understand your personas and their challenges you will want to design a user journey that does 2 things :
- Solves the challenges for the user
- Encourages them to take the positive action you want them to on the site i.e. convert into a lead or customer
Your user journey should be a collaborative effort and should use data from your existing site to help you come up with a journey that will be part art, part science. Your data should include metrics such as page by page performance, previous and next page paths, page values for converting pages etc. There are a number of tools you can use. Google Analytics will, of course, be your first port of call among others such as HotJar.
Inviting others to challenge the user journey is an important stage as it is through this that you have to justify your science and rationale. During this process you may find there are contradictions or there are simpler ways to find and present the same information.
Create a content audit.
For this you will need a spreadsheet! The purpose of this audit is to identify the content / pages that are performing best, understand the themes / topics that your audience engage with most and which content or posts are so old they are doing more harm than good.
Firstly, you will need to export the crawlable URLs of your existing site and export them into an Excel sheet. Then you will need columns where you will enter other data such as page title, target keyword, meta description, time on page and conversion data. Really you are selecting a metric that will help you to determine the relevance of each page to your new website and how well they performed on the old one.
You can then rank each page as ‘Keep’, ‘Update’ or ‘Remove’. This will help you in forming your site map and user journey.
Create a site map
A site map provides you with a clear two dimensional structure that you can use as a reference point throughout your redesign. You will be in a position to complete your site map when you have locked down your user journey and understood the performance of the pages that you wish to keep. The site map is an incredibly useful tool for cross checking the build with the original plan. The site map forms part of that original plan. It ensures that you don’t create unnecessary pages or a structure that is over complicated.
Create wireframes for your key page templates
Wireframes are a really simple way to show your intentions for what content goes where. It helps to provide you with a visual idea of the structure of your main page types in the site. Typically, you would have a wireframe for each page type i.e. Home, Landing, Content, Blog and Contact. Once you know the different page types that you think you will need you can assign each page in the website with the page type. If there is a page that feels like it needs a different template / wireframe you now know that you need to create a new one. This saves you from realising this much later in the project. As you can tell wireframes help you save time on the overall project.
Be realistic with your go live date
Whilst I am hoping this blog has been useful… I’m working on the basis that if one piece of information has been helpful then that’s success! You can tell that there is a lot that needs to be done in just planning a redesign let alone moving through the rest of the build phases. This means that there is also a lot that can get delayed or stop altogether. Our experience tells us that this mostly happens when the content is analysed. All of a sudden you can be faced with a full copy re-write and images that you need to source. Pulling all of the blogs / news taking longer than you thought it would. Think of your ideal go live date then add a few weeks on.
If you’re uber confident about your content and the process that’s fab. If you’re making promises to other stakeholders however I would stand by the ‘under promise, over achieve’ mentality!