There are many reasons to give your site a redesign. It could be that you need to add a content management system, or it could the site is using outmoded techniques, or has simply has an unfashionable appearance. If you want further proof that you need to update your site from time to time, why do you think platforms such as WordPress have interchangeable themes?
With the necessity for redesigning a site, here is a complete guide which details all aspects of redesigning a website.
Time for a change?
Take a look at the list below, and if these are making clear and perfect sense, then it is time to redesign.
While outmoded code and programming techniques are an obvious reason to redesign your website, there are others.
Frames. Frames have not been used in web design since around 2000. They are to limited in scope and complex to update. Though the odd iFrame is ok, if your site is designed predominantly around frames, then it could be time to think about redesign.
Page intros. Intro pages kind of went out with the ark a while ago. Some sites still use them to a degree, but generally now a flash or audio based intro page is a little cheesy, and can be considered a complete waste of time for many websites. If you take this one step further, they are annoyance to visitors who have to wait for the orchestra to stop playing before they can get to the part of a website everybody loves- the content. Maybe if you have an intro, it’s time to clear out the cheese?
Content. Content is King, and in the current age of web design, it has to be updated regularly to stay relevant. If a site’s content has not been changed for a while, they soon start to look redundant and abandoned. The easiest way to update a site is to build it on a CMS such as WordPress. If your site is not structured around a CMS, it will be a pain to update it, especially if you are not experienced with coding. Time for a redesign.
Flash sites. Websites constructed entirely in Flash are well and truly a thing of the past. Many sites that appear to be Flash sites, are in all probability constructed in XML. Great designs and effects can be had by implementing Flash, but its usability and SEO options, make it redundant. Redesign your site for your own well being.
Tables. Tables were intended to be used to format data and were never intended for design. However, some designers realised they did have potential for layout and started to use them for complex web designs. Though tables were good for their time, they have had their day largely because of CSS. If you site has been constructed using tables, then updating a site is not only difficult by time consuming. You’d be better off redesigning it altogether using CSS.
Trendy elements. Though many sites have caught on to the web 2.0 design bug, and started putting in glossy buttons here, there, and everywhere, sooner or later they are going to start to look dated. It is a good idea to have a long hard look at your site, and see if any of the trends are beginning to fade. If it is, then it is probably time to make a few changes, for your site to stay current.
If your site is around two years old then you will probably not have to do anything to drastic to keep up with trends. Every two years, a little tweaking will do the site a power of good. Consider these as routine overhaul:
CMS? If you are not using a CMS then you should start straight away. Modern web design is about simplicity, and CMS’s make it easy to modify and add content to a site. Photo’s, text, and themes can be added or changed with a few mouse clicks. Once you have a site built on a solid CMS such as WordPress, you never go back.
Nowhere on search engines? SEO companies find it harder work to get search engine robots to crawl through an older site, than with new CMS structured ones. If you’ve had all the jazz done to the alt and meta tags, and are still at the bottom of the list on a Google search, its time for a change.
Part of your site is underperforming? If you are not achieving the conversions you are hoping for, or you feel some of your customers are going elsewhere, it could be time to think about redesigning your website. The best way to track whether or not you are missing out on potential customers, is to use an analytics program to do this job. This will show you at what point people are exiting from your site. If it is a step along the path to a sale, then you need to look at this in detail to see if you can stop this from happening. Time for a redesign.
Competitors redesigning? If your competitors have just invested in a redesign, then it may well be time for you to have one to. Consider, users can use your competitors site which has improved navigation, a clearer, more up to date and relevant content featuring all the services and products that your company has, but are not featured on your outmoded site, and a nicer look and feel about it. Or they can come to yours, spend ten minutes trying to find information, or indeed do anything constructive with the website. Wonder which one they will pick?
The key to redesigning under these circumstances, is to take a look at your competitors site, and see if you can improve on the design, and then make the change.
A great advantage here, is that if you can improve the design that your competitors have, then they are unlikely to alter things as they have already invested in a redesign of their own. Leaving your site, the pick of the bunch.
All this begs the question, “So what do I do now?” Well sadly, it is not as straight forward as saying to a designer, “Give me a website and I’ll be back for breakfast.” There is quite a lot of points to consider to ensure the redesign goes well.
What parts of your current design are working? Review your visitor comments and your analytics programs to see what parts of the site are performing how they should do. If you can try and get someone who you know as never seen the site to give you an outside perspective. This gives you a good basis for improvements.
What parts of your current design are not working? Once you have determined what is working the same process can be used to determine what is not. This may sound like I have rewritten the last paragraph, but what I am talking about is the parts of the site that fail! Once you have discovered these damaging elements, then you can change them. Simple really.
Chop, change, edit, add. Print out your site map if you have one, or if not make a list of all the pages on the site. This will give you an idea of the structure and content of your website. From here try and decide if there are any pages that can be deleted, combined, or if you need new pages.
Blogs and galleries were not popular until most people started to have a broadband connection, and as for video, you could forget it with dial-up. It is common for older sites to have pages such as these ones added to them in a redesign. This could be as a result of new products or services you now have and want featured in the new design.
This whole process is very cleansing, and from it a new fresh redesigned website idea, should emerge. Also consider:
What parts of the site attract visitors? This is an all important discovery for you to make. Once you have thrown in all the direct traffic and search terms visitors are using into the melting pot, you can determine where they enter the site and at what point they are leaving it. If there are important parts of the site they are not reaching, in comparison to other more popular websites, then you should focus on why this is and target the redesign accordingly.
New photos and images? The pictures you currently have on your website could well be ten years old. Outdated images and their respective feel is one of the reasons for a redesign in the first place, so it maybe worth investing in new imagery to reflect the new you. Though this can be expensive especially if custom pictures were used in the first instance, a new crop of photos to go with the new website just seems like common sense.
Also, you may want to reflect the company in a different light now it is 2009. Changing the photos is a good way to do that.
New site, new image? The new site can also be a good time to reflect how the company has changed. Of course it may not have changed, so your companies message and services will remain pretty much unaltered. It is obviously, an important decision to be made, but changing the image in line with the redesign makes sense.
Consider these too.
As with designing new sites, many of the considerations are similar in redesigns. The difference being that with the redesign analytic program data can also be used to hone the site to a target audience. Screen resolutions and connections speeds should all be taken into consideration when redesigning. You do not want to lose half your traffic because your new site is too sophisticated for their equipment.
The great thing about going through this process, is that it ultimately tells you if your website needs to be changed, tweaked, or is fine as it is. It could be that if you already have a CMS structured site, you may just want to change or alter the theme. This can breathe new life into a website, and it can be done at a very low cost.
If your site was not structured around a CMS, then a whole new makeover is called for. Ensure sure your redesign is built around a good CMS such as WordPress, to make changes that much easier.
When implementing a redesign, there are certain elements to avoid. These can damage the site’s reputation, and or damage the site from a search engine optimization perspective.
301 redirects. Ensure your new design features a 301(permanent redirect) for visitors and search engines if you are changing the URL for your site. It may be necessary to change the URL either for SEO purposes, or because you are switching to a CMS.
Some redesigns just feature a link from the old site to the new one. Though this is fine for visitors, it is not for search engines, and your new site could be penalized as a result.
If your site is using an apache server, you can setup the redirects in a . htaccess file. If you are on a Windows server it is more complicated, but well worth the effort. This way you can retain your SEO status.
Announce the redesign before you redesign. Many of your regular visitors maybe not take to the redesign straight away. Remember they have been doing things a certain way for sometime, and are well into the groove of doing things on the old site. Having to relearn to do the same things in a different way can be annoying to say the least. By announcing the site is going to change, gives them time to prepare. You could also run a feature about the new site, pointing out advantages, showing how the site will change, and may be provide a few tantalizing screenshots of the new site, just to fuel the imagination and build expectations.
After a while, the improvements of the new site will shine through, and your site will in all probability be well received. Though some may carry a blast of nostalgia for the old site.
Choosing the designer. This aspect of the redesign can not be overstated in terms of importance. Not only should it be someone with the experience of redesigning websites, but it should also be someone who understands the purpose of the website. Finding the designer who has both these qualities may be harder than you imagine. Not only have they got to tune into your business, but they must also understand your perspective to implement the important necessary features that you require of the site from a business or organizational view point.
From a technical point of view, they have to be able to cope with factors such as existing logins, and retaining functionality of the existing parts of the site that you want to keep. Couple this with entirely new pages and transferring the whole lot to a CMS structure, and you can see this wonder person has their work cut out.
General rule of thumb here is to go with a designer that you feel is right. This way it will be someone you can work with and someone who understands the nature of your business. Never be afraid to speak to your mind, and ensure the parts of the old design you like are still there, if slightly tweaked. Remember though, an experienced designer will be a fountain of knowledge when it comes to what works and what does not, so at least consider his or her points of view.
Redesigning a website is as almost a huge step as creating one in the first place. It many ways it can be a harder task to achieve from a technical perspective, and can be an emotional process if you are attached to the existing site. The benefits though, are considerable, as investing in a CMS structured site, will not only allow you to change or add content whenever you want to, but will also give you the capability to change the theme of the site with a mouse click or two.
This will save you money in the long run, and help you better understand your customer base.
If you have any tips on design or redesign, wont you share them with us?