There’s a lot to consider when redesigning your Web site. Are you simply updating the look? Do you need to improve search-engine friendliness? Are there accessibility issues you’re trying to address? Whatever the redesign is aiming to accomplish, you want to make sure you get it in the first shot. There’s nothing sadder than a business that invests time and money into a redesign only to find out it doesn’t meet their needs. Or worse, that it completely blocks off search engine traffic and they have to start over! Unfortunately, we’ve seen it happen far too many times.
So, what are some questions to ask yourself before redesigning your site? Here are six questions we always ask prospective clients.
What is the purpose of the Web site?
Essentially, what does the site do? Is the site there to provide basic information about your real life business? Are you looking to get sales from the Web site? Are you just providing contact information like hours, directions, and email? Do you want to build a full community around the brand and encourage reviews and make your site more social? Knowing what you want to accomplish through the site helps determine how things should be set up and the platform that you’ll want to use to build it. If you’re going to be updating the site constantly with a blog or frequently changing information, you know you probably want to use a CMS for easier upkeep. If you won’t be constantly updating, then maybe there are stronger options for you.
What’s currently working on the site? What’s not?
Make a list of everything that you like about your current site. It could be the navigation or the internal structure or even just the logo on the home page. Identify what is currently “working” so that you know what you want to keep with the next iteration. Once you know what is working, break out the parts of the site that irk you. What have you always wanted to change? What areas do customers typically get tripped up on? Do the search engines have a problem accessing all of your content? It may also be worth asking a loyal customer or someone not directly associated with your site what they like (or don’t like). This will give you an unfiltered look at what you may want to change. Sometimes the features you’re really fond of (like say, a Flash navigation) actually annoy your customers and act as a deterrent in getting people through your site.
What is the best way to tell your story?
Your Web site is the face of your company on the Web. Sure, you have a presence on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, but your site is you. It’s where all of your contacts are going to turn to get “your story”. So what’s the best way to tell it? If you’re a photographer then a slick intro with lots of photos may be the best way to show your work and tell your story. If you build homes, then maybe a video of some of your latest projects is the best way to get people up to speed. Or, if you’re really good with words, maybe you just need a text-heavy page all about your business to get customers wrapped around your finger and digging through your site. Every site will lend itself differently to certain tactics and mediums. Consider which helps you best tell your story and connect with your audience.
What’s the most important part of the site?
Every site has a focal point. For some it’s the contact form, for others it’s a blog or an ebook, maybe it’s examples of your work, or maybe it’s where you break down your list of services and explain what you do. Your new design should emphasize these areas and help them to get more attention. Put teasers on the home page with a call-to-action leading them in. Make sure they’re accessible from every page on your Web site. Provide incentives for visitors who make it to these pages and take a desired action. Your site should be set up to funnel people to these pages so that you’re sure they’re seeing them.
How can SEO be improved?
Any time you’re redesigning or making major changes to your Web site, search engines should be considered. You always want to ensure that your site is as accessible and friendly as it can be so that spiders will be able to present users with the information that they’re looking for. Look for ways to tighten up page Titles. Re-do your keyword research to make sure you’re still targeting the appropriate terms. Make sure your internal linking is as optimized as it can be. Find out what pages and terms are bringing the most people to your site so you don’t mess with those and look for ways to build on the traffic you’re already getting. If you’re going to be spending the energy to redesign your Web site, you may as well get the biggest bang for your buck that you can. And that means paying special attention to your SEO.
Is it time to change the branding?
When’s the last time you change your logo or the look of your Web site? If you can’t remember and things are starting to feel a little stale, it may be time to update your image. Be careful not to do something too different as to not confuse people or make them question if you’re still the same brand, however, do take some steps to modernize your image, if needed. Sometimes a fresh take on an old logo or a new design can help give your site the quick scrub it so desperately needs.
Sometimes a simple redesign is all your site needs to scrub off the dust and attract new customers. However, a redesign that doesn’t take into account everything you want to do with your site may put you even worse off than when you started. Make sure you’re asking the right questions so that your site is serving both users and the search engines equally well.
This is a good article; sometimes folks seem to think a site redesign is a magic bullet. These are good things to think about.
If every company asked these questions and answered them fully there would be a lot fewer crappy sites out there (and a lot of design agencies on the hot seat).
With all the experience gained and the knowledge about what has worked and what has not with a web site, a redesign should be an opportunity to turn your web presence into a success. This will just be a theory though, if you don’t think it through and properly plan the process. Thank you Lisa for the list, this will be helpful for anybody considering a web site redesign.
The more I speak to people about their websites, the more I find out that their websites are under the control of the “Webmaster” and no changes can be made. In this age of SEO, it is ever more critical that a robust CMS system is interwoven into each website so that employees of the business can make changes, add content, post news releases, archive email newsletters, add reciprocal links, etc. Having the webmaster be in sole control of SEO will not work in the long-run.
I guess the SEO question could have been discussed further …
One of the most common reasons for redesigning these days is to get the on-page SEO aspects of websites up to speed. Making sure your website is W3C compliant is the first step, and then you need to start looking at page load time (faster is better, to both the search engines and the human visitors who get distracted so easily), keyword research, keyword density on your pages, meta details, alt tags to describe images with keywords to the search engine bots, etc, etc. This on page SEO aspect of a website design alone is worth several posts.