Redesigning a site is much more than laying on a new set of fonts and colors for your widgets. Site redesign goes beyond branding and changing the perception of your site by visitors and users, it is a complete overhaul of your site and thus a lot of consideration has to be employed before you even begin the redesign. There are many things that must be done before you redesign your site and this post highlights the most important of these factors you should consider before taking the big leap through your admin dashboard and clicking ‘Edit’.
Do we really need a new website design?
When redesigning your site, the first thing to do is actually determine if you need the website redesigned. It is common for people to think that website redesign is based on a schedule so every two years it is time to swap the widgets and get a new CMS. Redesigning a website should be based on a goal and not on an attempt to keep up with what is in vogue. Simply making changes to the appearance of your website is not the same as redesign and you should not embark on an overhaul if that is all you really want to do. If you are not redesigning to make the site more user friendly, to make it more accessible, or to improve its SEO capabilities, then whatever reason you most likely have is moot. Accessibility, search engine optimization and user experience are the most viable reasons for web site modification.
You should identify the issues that are present on your site as regards these reasons and the goal of a new website design should be to solve those problems.
Create SWOT analysis and Identify KPIs
One of the first things to do after you have identified that you actually need to redesign your website is to create a SWOT analysis of your present site. This involves taking note of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing your present site. You should be able to identify what things about your site interests your present visitors and what they do not like and would prefer to change. This would enable you to create baseline metrics you can use to identify your key performance indicators. The indicators you identify would help you to create a goal you should aim to achieve by redesigning your site. Your goals should include indicators such as an increase in traffic to your site, increased conversion rates, faster responses to your CTAs etc. Your goals should also have a time limit, sometime between five to seven months to allow the effect of your site change to take hold.
Finding out what your users and visitors like about your site and what they would love changed requires user feedback. The feedback received would let you know what exactly was wrong with the old site and help you to plan the new one. It is likely that the issues you and your team have privately determined would be echoed by the users. The user feedback should inform the manner in which the new website would be designed to ensure it solves all the problems. Monitoring the path users take through your site from your web statistics can help you to identify some likely problems users and visitors are facing.
Plan the redesign
Especially if your redesign is to going to require a migration from one CMS to another, you would need to draw up a plan. Your plan should identify when you are going to start the redesign. This is especially important for ecommerce sites where an absence in service at peak times can result in massive loss of customers or clients. Content migration should be done at non-peak periods when clients are least likely to visit the site, and it is ideal to change only some pages of the site at a time so as to check the user perception as you go along. There should be a detailed plan for the migration, determine what kind of CMS you want to use and make a plan for how long the redesign would take and put in place modalities to ensure that you can continue operation for as long as possible, at the most optimum levels.
When creating your timeline for the redesign, you should be sure to include modalities for repetitions and time scale extensions. Even after your website has been redesigned before or after your deadline, chances are there would still be last minute adjustments and you should be prepared to tie such loose ends. Do not be too stiff or precise in your timeline.
Minimize URL changes
Usually, when you first create your website there are some mistakes you make and redesigning that site often presents as an opportunity to change every single mistake that you may have made initially. This may involve you changing formerly improperly filed directories, and this could affect your URLs and that makes it a bad idea. Moving pages from one directory to another results in a loss of whatever ranking the former page had on search engines, which is especially bad if the reason for redesigning your site is to increase your SEO ranking. This is because links pointing to the old page do not refer to the new one.
You can rectify this in some simple ways:
• You redirect requests from the old page to the location of the new page and you can do this easily by creating a .htaccess ASCII file that redirects the old page links to the new site
• Linking category indexes from the new directory to whatever folder or directory the old pages were. This method applies when you are redesigning your site but retaining the same server and host and not moving to a new CMS
You should never ever forget to backup your old site before you start any redesign. There should be a copy of an up to date version of your site available. Even if you have anticipated difficulties and made room for them, you should be aware that it is possible for even the most mundane redesign to go wrong, and this is why you must have an up to date backup.