A Comprehensive Guide to Planning a Website Redesign
In this day and age, no business can hope to be successful without some kind of online presence. That presence starts with a website. While most companies, from giant corporations to small mom-and-pop shops, have websites, whether or not these websites are effective is a whole other matter. If your website isn’t helping to drive your business forward, then you may need to invest in a website redesign. However, knowing where to start with a website redesign can be quite overwhelming. Fortunately, we can help guide you through every step that you’ll need to take, including how to identify whether you need a website redesign in the first place.
Before you redesign your website, you’ll need to develop a website plan that implements the best modern website design practices. The best way to create a website plan is by dividing it into stages. The first two stages make up the planning stages, while the next five stages concern the actual design of the site.
Stage 1: Forming a strategy
Before you develop your website redesign plan, you’re going to want to use our website redesign checklist to benchmark your current metrics, determine what your website goals are, define your brand, define your buyer personas and analyze your competition. This information will inform not just your strategy, but also your continued efforts to improve your website as you move forward.
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Once you have a basic website redesign strategy in place, it’s time to craft a modern website plan. There are five different facets of a modern website plan that you will want to address:
In order to create an effective website plan, you’ll need to ask yourself several questions that will help you understand how big of a redesign is needed.
What do you like and dislike about your current website?
This doesn’t just refer to what works and doesn’t work. You should also take into account your personal preferences. Do you like the layout of some of the pages? Do you like the font you’ve used? Are you happy with your use of images or do you think new images need to be used?
What is missing from your current website?
Using what you’ve learned from checking out the websites of your competitors, determine if there are any features that your current site is missing that you would like to add. For example, maybe your current site doesn’t have a FAQ page, or you would like to add a live chat window so that you can assist visitors in real time.
How does your current site compare to your goals?
Are your new goals different from your old goals? Did you even have goals for your current site? Whatever the case is, compare how your current site’s design to what your new goals are. How does your current site fall short? How is it effective in regards to the new goals you’ve set?
What’s the first impression you want your target audience to have?
How do you want visitors to react when they first arrive on your website? This should inform the general aesthetic of your site as well as the layout and the type of content you use for your main pages.
Does your site currently convey a feeling of trustworthiness and authority?
The more authoritative and trustworthy your site appears, the easier it will be to capture leads. Visitors are going to be hesitant to provide you with their name and email address if they don’t completely trust your site. Some of the things that can affect the trust levels of your visitors include:
- The professional appearance of your site
- The use of SSL certification (which ensures that customer information is heavily protected)
- Clearly marked contact information that includes a physical address and phone number
- Customer testimonials
- Links to your social media channels
- The mention of any kind of industry awards or association memberships
Are you building a completely new site or making changes to your current site?
Not all websites need to be completely rebuilt. If your site hasn’t been updated for years and you’ve undergone a branding change, then rebuilding your site from the ground up might be the best course of action. However, if you’re happy with the majority of your current site’s look and function but are simply having some issues with specific areas, such as converting your visitors, then minor redesign changes may be all that’s necessary.
Will you change your domain name at all?
There are several reasons why you might want to consider changing your domain name. For example, there may be a more user-friendly domain name available or your brand may have changed names. If you decide to change your domain name then you’ll need to set up 301 redirects for old content in order to avoid duplicate content penalties and to maintain the search rankings you earned for your old website’s content. You’ll need to report your domain name change to Google as well.
What platform do you want your new website to be on?
There are many different platforms that you can host and build your website on. The platform you choose will have a big impact on the types of tools that will be available to you. Content management systems, such as WordPress and Joomla, are popular platforms because they provide user-friendly tools. Templated website builders, such as GoDaddy, provide both hosting and design tools and are considered extremely easy to use as a result of their basic website templates. Development platforms, such as PHP or ASP, offer more customization, but require some web development language skills.
What is a realistic timeline for this redesign?
You should define a target date for the launch of your website redesign. The longer it takes, the more it will affect your budget. Not to mention that it will affect your ability to market your brand.
What is your budget for this project?
The more features you want to incorporate into your website redesign, the more it will likely cost. Remember that your budget isn’t just for upfront costs — you will need to budget for the long-term as well, for such things as analytics, content creation, public relations management (interacting with visitors) and basic website maintenance and updates.
Do you need to outsource your website redesign?
Most smaller to mid-sized businesses tend to outsource their website redesign because they don’t have the necessary in-house capabilities. If you plan on redesigning your site in-house, you’ll need skilled web designers, web developers, copywriters, digital marketers, quality assurance testers and a project manager. You would also need to retain these positions over the long-term since managing your website is a long-term process.
The platform you choose will affect what features you can use to build your site and how your site will perform. The following are some of the things you should consider when comparing platforms:
What platform(s) are you evaluating?
There are a number of features that you’ll want to compare when evaluating various platforms. These include theme options, blog features and customer support features. Don’t forget to compare the cost as well.
Does the platform have a good reputation?
Look into the reputation of each platform you consider. Be sure to check out user reviews as well. Not only do you want to make sure that your website will function properly on the platform you choose, but you’ll want to make sure that the service you go with provides excellent customer service. You should be confident in their support in the event that something goes wrong and you need immediate assistance with your site.
Does the platform have good deliverability?
Deliverability refers to performance, such as speed and uptime. Uptime is extremely important since the last thing you want is for your website to experience any downtime, which can result in the loss of potential leads and sales. Speed is important too since it will affect the load time of your pages. Consider scalability as well if you expect to grow significantly over the next few years. You’ll want a provider that can grow with you and that can handle the traffic your site is likely to experience as a result.
Is the platform SEO-friendly?
You’ll want to choose a platform that’s SEO-friendly, meaning that you can have full control over the URL structure for each page. You’ll want to be able to input meta data in order to customize your keywords, descriptions and page titles.
Your current website’s best assets are pages that you won’t want to lose, so be sure to use analytics to identify your site’s best-performing pages. The following questions will allow you to figure out what those pages are:
What is your most shared or viewed content?
You’ll want to keep highly shared or viewed content as it will help you maintain your brand authority.
What are your most trafficked pages?
Take note of the pages of your site that has seen the most traffic. Odds are, a combination of keywords and external links helped bring that traffic in.
What are your most ranked pages?
Your highest ranked pages are the pages that likely have the most exposure.
Do you have any duplicate content?
While going through your current website, take note of any duplicate content you come across. Duplicate content is not something you want to have on your new site since it will incur a ranking penalty from Google.
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Planning out your site architecture is important because it’s basically a roadmap for every page on your site. In effect, it has a big impact on your site is organized and whether or not it will end up being user-friendly as far as navigation is concerned.
Plan the new site architecture/structure
Planning your site architecture is important not just for navigation purposes, but for SEO purposes. If you don’t plan it out, you may end up with pages that aren’t linked together. If your pages aren’t linked properly or in a logical way, your users will have issues navigating your website. Not to mention that Google’s bots may miss pages while indexing your site, which can affect your search rankings.
Define which pages will be part of your main/secondary navigation
Part of what makes a site easy to use is having a navigation menu with links to your main pages. Generally speaking, the main pages of a website should include the homepage, the about us page, the contact page, the blog page and the e-commerce page. In some instances, there may be a few other pages that are part of the main navigation bar as well, such as an FAQ page or a customer testimonial page. Secondary navigation is usually added through a drop-down menu from the main navigation bar. This can include links to different sections of each main page. For example, an “our services” page could be part of the about us page.
Put together a draft outline/sitemap of the new website design
Using your main and secondary pages, create an outline or a sitemap and list topics and resources that fall under each page. The map should make it easier to link all of your pages together into the final design.
Perform a full audit of your current website’s content to determine what you want to keep, get rid of and rewrite, and to identify where new calls-to-action should be added.
Outline content you want to keep
Content that remains relevant to your brand and that ranked highly on your current site should be kept. The last thing you’ll want to do is to lose high ranking content, after all. However, make sure that if you’ve undergone a branding change that the content you’re keeping is still relevant.
Outline content you want to get rid of
Content that is no longer relevant to your current brand or that is simply outdated as a result of the subject matter should not be used on your new site. For example, content promoting sales or new product launches that have come and gone is no longer useful.
Outline content that needs to be rewritten
You may find that some of your content is still usable but needs to be updated, This is especially true if anything in your NAP (name, address and phone number) has changed.
Identify where new calls-to-action need to be added
You may want to update your opt-in offers, which means you’ll need to change some of your calls-to-action (CTA) to reflect this. Go through the content you plan on keeping and determine if the CTAs require revisions. Don’t forget that content that you plan on rewriting may also need brand new CTAs. Make note of content that’s missing CTAs and where a CTA could be added to capture your leads as well.
Once your website redesign plan is in place you can begin to focus on implementing, building, optimizing and launching a modern website design. Read our next article which discussed stages 3 – 7 of the modern website design approach.