The beginning of the New Year is a good time to make resolutions and commit to the work that often gets pushed aside during the busy year.
For a lot of business owners, that includes redesigning your website.
The website that was bright and shiny and looked just how you wanted it to a few years ago probably isn’t pulling its full weight anymore. Every website owner should periodically revisit their website’s design to look for opportunities to improve.
How to Tell When It’s Time for a Website Redesign
Taking on a website redesign project requires a commitment in time and money, which makes it easy to find excuses not to do it.
But there are few compelling reasons that are good enough to squash those excuses and move forward in 2019 with a website redesign.
It’s been years.
Web design best practices change. Just because your website was intuitive to visitors five years ago doesn’t mean it is now. And if you haven’t done a thorough update in a few years, you’re likely missing opportunities to get more out of your website based on current trends in SEO (search engine optimization), UX (user experience), and new technology.
If your last website design project was years ago, at the very least you should do a thorough review to figure out if your website is currently meeting your needs or could use a makeover.
You’re not getting as many visitors as you’d like.
If you’re not seeing much traffic, you should both step up your online marketing and look for ways to strengthen your website. A website redesign presents the opportunity to analyze any weaknesses in your current website and spot missed SEO opportunities, so you can create a version that will perform better in search and bring in more visitors.
Your visitors aren’t sticking around or returning.
Getting visitors to your website doesn’t matter much if they immediately click away and never come back. A good website is designed to get visitors to stick around, click through to additional pages, and keep coming back for more.
If your visitors aren’t doing that now, you’ll want to reconsider your website strategy and look for ways to redesign your pages to encourage longer and repeat visits with useful content and compelling CTAs (calls to action).
It doesn’t work on mobile.
One of the top sins of web design in 2019 is having a website that’s awkward or difficult to use on mobile. Too many people do their web browsing on mobile devices now for you to get away with providing a bad mobile experience. If your website is hard to use on a small screen, visitors will click away and the search engines will punish you in the rankings.
This is probably more urgent than any other item on this list. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, a website redesign project is imperative.
Your business strategy has changed.
For business websites, a New Year means revisiting your business plan and considering if your overall strategy and goals need to change. Anytime your business embarks on a new strategy—developing a new unique value proposition (UVP), introducing a new product, deciding to target a new demographic, etc.—your website needs an update to bring it in line with your new approach.
You’re tired of the website you have.
Really, this is a good enough reason on its own. If you’re no longer happy with the website you have—maybe you want different colors, think the design looks outdated, or have recently come across a few websites with designs you like more—that’s a good enough reason to change your website so it better matches what you really want.
10 Steps to Include on Your Website Redesign Checklist
When launching a website redesign, you can cut down on a lot of guesswork and risk by spending time on research and planning. Here’s a ten-step checklist to help you get your website redesign right.
1. Clarify your goals.
Before you start working out the details of your website redesign, define what you want to accomplish. Every website will have some main overarching goals, such as making sales or developing an engaged community. In addition, you may have a number of smaller goals that help you achieve your main ones, like increasing traffic or getting people to sign up for your email list.
Write out a list of the main goals your website ought to achieve, and determine the priority levels of each so you know what to focus on in your website redesign. Where possible, assign specific metrics to track to each goal so you can better measure your success once your new website is up.
2. Analyze your website metrics.
Dig into your website analytics to gain a clear understanding of what about your current website is working, and what isn’t. Your analytics will reveal insights about who your audience is, how they find your website, and what they do once there.
Look for trends in the data that suggest the types of topics, CTAs, and design elements your audience responds to. And confirm that the audience you’re attracting now is the one you want to reach—otherwise, your website and marketing may need to take a different approach to get in front of the right people.
3. Develop a persona.
While you definitely want your website redesign to produce a website you like, that’s actually less important than making sure your website appeals to your target audience. For your website to work for the people it’s really for, every decision about the website’s design needs to put them top of mind.
A buyer persona is a basic sketch of the type of person you most want to reach. It typically includes demographic details, a description of their interests and online behavior, and notes on their common questions and problems. A persona lets you picture the person you’re building your website for, so it’s easier to get inside their head and make sure you center their experience in your approach to the design.
4. Do keyword research.
Keyword research is both a crucial step in optimizing your website for the search engines, and a useful way to gain knowledge about what your audience is looking for and the language they most commonly use. Using the terminology your customers use is a helpful way to make the website more user friendly for them, and increases the chance that your site will show up in the search engines for the terms they’re looking for.
For on-site optimization, choose a relevant, unique primary keyword for each page of your website, along with a couple of secondary keywords. Work them into the URL, title tag, headings, alt tag, and website copy—but always naturally, don’t try to force them in.
Lots of keyword research tools are available to help identify the best keywords for each of your website’s main pages, and many of them are free. If you do content marketing, keyword research is also a valuable resource for finding the topics your audience cares about.
5. Do a content and SEO audit.
A successful website redesign doesn’t require starting over from scratch—you can still use a lot of the pages you already have, but look for ways to make them better. A thorough SEO and content audit will reveal opportunities to make the content you already have on your website go further and get better results.
In particular, in reviewing your current website, look for:
- Web pages that aren’t well optimized for search now
- Web pages that lack a clear CTA, or have one that isn’t getting results
- Opportunities to improve your site structure so it’s more intuitive for users through more useful categories or a clearer menu
- Successful content that can be repurposed into different formats
- Successful content that can be updated to better drive visitors to take the actions you want
- Underperforming content that can be improved upon for better results
- Broken links or other issues contributing to high bounce rates
- Content that no longer supports your goals, that your website is better off dropping
While your content has little to do with your website’s visual design, incorporating it into your website redesign plan will ensure your new design supports your content—a crucial feature of a strong design.
6. Develop a style guide.
A style guide is a helpful tool for clarifying the general look you want your website to have. If more than one person will be involved in your website redesign, it will keep everyone on the same page when it comes to the website’s primary design elements. Even if your website redesign will be completed by one person, it makes it easier to ensure each web page communicates a consistent visual brand.
Your style guide doesn’t have to be something complicated. It can be as simple as defining your color scheme, choosing your typography, and addressing formatting choices. You can also include choices about the images to use, the button colors and styles to go with, and the proper icons to use (and not use). Whatever you decide to include, a simple style guide will serve as a handy reference point as you work to helps you achieve visual consistency throughout the site.
7. Find the right designer or website builder.
With your basic research and strategy in place, the next step is deciding how you’re going to create you new website design. Your main two options are hiring a web designer or choosing a website builder. Each option has its advantages. Most notably, a web designer allows you more flexibility and control, while a website web builder provides convenience and affordability.
Whichever you’re leaning toward, take some time in this step to research your options. Hiring a web designer that’s a good fit for what you want is crucial to the overall success of your website redesign process. And choosing the best website builder for your needs will make the designing process easier and ensure you have all the features and functionality you need.
8. Consider UX.
UX is the term used to describe design that centers the user experience. In other words, thinking through how your visitors will interact with your website in order to spot issues that may be confusing or difficult for them.
For example, if a significant number of your visitors come to the site looking for kids’ products, then making sure you put a link to the Kids category of your website right in the menu makes it easier for people to find what you’re looking for. Other factors that influence UX include making sure your text and buttons are in colors that are easy to see, your fonts are easy to read, and your links are well sized for people on mobile.
Before you settle on your new website design, go through it looking for any factors that could make it difficult or confusing for your visitors to take the actions you want them to take.
9. Prioritize the mobile experience.
A mobile friendly website is a requirement in 2019. When you’re considering your website builder options, take into account whether they offer responsive templates that make creating a mobile friendly website easy. Or, when you’re interviewing designers, ask about their experience creating responsive websites.
Double check how all your design elements look and work on mobile devices. A too-small button or link can make a website that otherwise seems fine basically unusable on mobile. You can’t treat mobile as an afterthought any more, it ought to be top of your mind throughout the website redesign process.
10. Do user testing.
When you’ve finally got everything else on this list checked off and your website seemingly finished—don’t publish just yet. You’re never going to be as good at seeing your website the way your visitors will as someone who comes to it with fresh eyes.
So find some customers or friends to help you test out your website. Ask them to complete a few main actions on the site, like making a purchase, filling out a form, or navigating to a particular product. Encourage them to do so on different types of devices and in different browsers. And make a note of anything they have trouble with, so you know what changes to make before you go live.
Launch Your New Website!
Once you’ve checked off all ten steps, your new and improved website is ready for the public. Publish it to the web, but keep a close eye on your website analytics to see how it fares. You never want to assume a website redesign will accomplish everything you hoped. Track specific metrics based on your stated goals to see what’s working, and continue to make small tweaks to the design as you go based on what the data tells you.
Your redesign is a great way to make your website go further in 2019 and beyond, but when it comes to website maintenance, your work is never entirely done.
Ready to transform your website? Contact HostGator’s Web Design team today.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.