Reasons for website redesign range from “Our current website is keeping us from achieving our business goals” to “Hey, why do we still have a spinning globe on this website? Is it 1999?” and everything in between. Regardless of the motivation for a site redesign, we at Watermelon Web Works bring twelve years of experience in designing, redesigning and generally co-creating awesome websites. We have learned a lot about what to pay close attention to in the process of redesign over the year – this post aims to share a few of them with you.
301 is a number that anyone coming near a website redesign should know. It is the status code for permanent redirection from one web address to another one. So if your old link was elvis_slippers.html and the new one is shoes-of-the-stars , you will want to capture the link equity (the number of inbound links to a given page) from the old page and bring it with you to the new page. A 301 redirect is the way to do that. Your site stays relevant (and retains the ranks of its most important key phrases) while Google is scratching its chin and understanding just what has changed on your site.
The other important reason to pay close attention to 301 redirects is that when someone clicks on an old link from a search engine, an external site, or an old advertisement, she will be elegantly redirected to the new page without ever knowing that the address changed. Creating an awesome user experience on your website is crucial to your success, and managing broken links is an easy step toward that goal.
For your website to achieve business objectives, it must first have business goals. Sometimes the most important goals are obvious: Increase website sales and business leads.
Sometimes website goals are slightly less intuitive: gain additional e-mail subscribers in order to build interest in the site and fortify the base of customers.
Sometimes they are out of left field, but crucial to the success of the organization: measure sales penetration at trade shows and other marketing events through the use of specific metrics. Or measure engagement of suppliers, retail and wholesale customers as distinct groups and provide that data to the marketing team.
An elegant look and feel that represents your organization is always important, and it is always a focus. Sometimes the aesthetics run away with all the attention, but a pretty face with goals is a pretty face that will go much further. Clear redesign goals will help to ensure that your development budget doesn’t go up in smoke.
A website redesign is an opportunity to make some good decisions about the engine that will propel your organization’s website forward for the foreseeable future. Will it need to support e-commerce in a year? Will it be a blogging platform (if not, why not?)? Can we choose an underlying technology that we can be fairly certain will be around and relevant the next time that a redesign is needed? Does it support the latest in “device technology” so that people using the Google Beltbuckle will be able to see your site in all its glory (just joking, folks – we don’t know of a Google Beltbuckle as of yet, but don’t be surprised…)? There are many ways to build a new website, and choosing technology carefully when you redesign will pay dividends in the form of reduced development cost, increased conversions, and ease of extensibility for many years to come.
Measure twice, redesign once
Website analytics are a necessary part of any website. They are the speedometer, odometer and roadmap for your internet enterprise. They tell you all about sales, traffic, conversions, likability, demographics and lots more. For a redesign, it is important to have analytics installed both on the old site and the new one before the newly redesigned site is made live. Ideally, you will have a year of data to compare old site to new. Properly designed, the new site will compare favorably to the old one. You can see which goals are being achieved with more frequency, which need more attention, and identify opportunities from unexpected search phrases that are lighting up your analytics since redesign. Also, if something goes wrong with the new site (major rankings drop, lots of page not found errors, etc.), you will know – comparative data from the old site can help to highlight any trouble areas quickly.
Social media on websites is not so much a “whether” as a “which and how” in modern webdom. Integrating the right social sharing buttons into every important page of your site is a given. The questions that really get you somewhere are more along the lines of: How can we engage our audience where they already exist on social media? Which platform makes the most sense for now and for our long term business goals? How do those platforms integrate with our chosen website solution? How do the search engines regard different social media activity?
Using the right social media should feel like an extension of your existing business goals, and with some intelligence and planning, they can be a boon to your redesign project.
There are compelling business reasons to blog. One study (conducted by hubspot) measured 1400 websites: half blogged and half skipped blogging. The result? 55% more visitors, 97% more inbound links and 434% more indexed pages than the non-bloggers. Wow. We love setting up blogs for our clients. Why? Because we like seeing our clients be successful, and blogging is key. Also, it is quick and easy. We also like to make your life easier by setting your blog up to accept a post from an email or text message – or to syndicate a blog post from your favorite blogger onto your site. Or we can give access to a content writer so that she can blog for you without having access to the rest of your site. We can help you understand how valuable your blog post might be to search engines while you write it.
In short, blogging is a high value activity. It is worth figuring out how to incorporate into your redesign plans.
As of the end of 2013, mobile traffic made up 28% of all internet traffic. If your site is not friendly for mobile devices, you are losing more than a quarter of your audience, and that number is growing quickly. A redesign is an excellent opportunity to integrate mobile into your new look. That can take several different forms depending on your customer base. For some sites, mobile apps are a great way to connect with special functionality, and for others, a mobile-happy rendering of the desktop site is sufficient.
Keyword research is often the process that takes place at the beginning. In some cases, it is never updated, but the industry lexicon moves along. The client is often the best judge of “the right” language to use in communicating with their customers, and keyword research helps to inform that judgement. At its most basic level, keyword research (often it is actually key phrase research – think “bunch of bananas” instead of just “banana”) comes to our clients in the form of a list. It is a list of important and related terms and their synonyms, ranked in order of popularity (and competitiveness). Redesign is an excellent opportunity to revisit the list and see if it still makes sense for the business goals associated with the redesign.
Redesign with the Competition in Mind
No time like redesign time to take account of the competition and to choose the best of what they are doing and improve upon it. We like to quantify the opportunities in this exercise as they pertain to your business goals. So if your business goal is to increase lamp sales by 25% in the next fiscal year and your competition is optimizing its site for a specific type of lamp shade, we can identify that and calculate the cost to compete with paid advertising, organic optimization and banner ads. Competitive advantage comes in many shapes and sizes. Customer relationships, pricing, recurring relationship models – the list goes on, and evaluating your competition with an eye to improving your competitive advantage should be included in a redesign plan.
Dolphins, Penguins and Pandas (oh my?)
Google algorithms (recent algorithms have been code-named Dolphin, Panda and Penguin) have become more important in the pursuit of good search engine performance from your website in recent years and months. The good news is that the basic mantra: “Create interesting content that will be useful to your customers” and your customers (and the search engines) will beat a path to your website – still holds true. Google has simply gotten better (or more confounding, depending on your perspective) at detecting shenanigans that may mislead their highly valued search engine users. Factors such as the ratio of unique content to “boilerplate” content, existence of “duplicate content” (you may be surprised at what is included in this growing bucket) and other somewhat obscure content rules (Google refers to them as algorithms) are important to understand. When redesigning a website, make sure that you are working with web developers who know which efforts will get you in trouble and which will be lauded by the big G.