Planning a Website Redesign?

October 6, 2010

Planning a Website Redesign? Keep These Resources and Ideas in Mind

After working in a growth capital fund with multiple expansion stage companies, I have seen a number of website redesigns. I can say that some redesigns were for the right choices and others – not so much.  Before you propose a major – and perhaps costly – overhaul of your corporate website to your management teams, stop and think the process through.

Key Questions to Ask Before You Submit a Website Redesign Proposal

1. What are your goals of a redesign?

Make sure you have a cohesive strategy in place, and not just some off-the-cuff reasoning for what could prove to be a hard-fought battle. People have an unusual fondness for “more of the same.” Take Google’s attempted redesign of its news page for instance. Just two weeks after Google launched a personalized version of its news site – replete with aesthetic makeover – criticism poured in to the point where Google bowed to the pressure and was forced to go “back to normal.”

2. Are you simply tired of the looking at the same old thing?

Staring at the same pictures, the same text, and the same boring menu navigation can stir restlessness in even the most apathetic of viewers, but it’s important to know whether you’re instigating a major change based purely on personal preference.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to inject some verve into a placid picture, but remember the Google example above—sometimes people just don’t like it. Try making minor changes, like adding dynamic Flash graphics or integrating videos; don’t jump the gun and attempt something that may bite back.

3. Have you taken web analytics into account?

Your web analytics – or the charting of site traffic, retention rates, page tagging, geolocation and more – are the bread and butter of your website. You don’t want to fiddle too much with them or else you run the risk of losing your audience. Instead, should you get the go-ahead to conduct a site redesign, research ways to strengthen your search engine optimization.

SEO Design Solutions gives a list of the top 10 ways to enhance SEO on your newly redesigned website. Some key tips:

  • Use keyword research: a page should have 3 to 5 keywords per page
  • Gather quality off-page links that promote a sense of trust and security
  • Keep site architecture flat: don’t get fancy with your http links—a streamlined passageway through your site allows for search engines to find you more easily.

High Rankings also has a list of 6 items your website developer may not know about for SEO. These are more on the technical side, so definitely share that link with someone with an understanding of building websites.

4. What other implications might a website redesign bring to your company?

Let’s say you come up with a brilliant graphical layout that will pit your site against the big dogs in terms of UI.  But let’s say that once your site is given a fresh coat of CSS, the original feel and intention of the site is lost.  For example, you wouldn’t want to slather an .edu site with pictures of wild-eyed youths engaging in illicit activities. Even though some prospective students might find that appealing, it’s almost guaranteed their parents won’t.

This should be a given, but whatever you do with your company, make sure you always keep its core values at the forefront of your consideration. Brilliant ideas may come, but if they are in direct conflict with what your company represents, they’re best avoided.

Now that you have your proposal in hand, hit up that board room!

Strategies and Resources For Planning a Website Redesign

Focus on “User Experience Optimization”

SEO is great and all, but if your users aren’t enjoying themselves on your site, it doesn’t matter how they got there—they may never come back again. Entrepreneur has an excellent piece on enhancing your UEO. Here’s a rundown of some great brain food:

  • 1. Define why you’re a destination. Give your audience a reason to stick around and learn more. This means your site’s primary real estate should be branded, taglined, and must clearly state who you are and what you do.
  • 2. Brevity is key. Avoid wordiness. Sure, people read blogs, but they’re not going to want to parse through gallons of text just to get to the point you can make in two sentences.
  • 3. Simple, straightforward navigation. Make sure links to your main content are clearly positioned. Avoid business jargon, as tempting as it may be.
  • 4. Design with a purpose other than SEO. Again, site traffic is important, but if you’re bloating your site with text to capture Google’s attention, most likely you won’t catch anybody else’s.
  • 5. Cut out the garbage. There’s no need for massive flashy images or—worse yet—unnecessary music.  If you’re promoting a band, great; if not, try to keep those MP3s away.

Keep Communication Tight and Productive

Sometimes when you’re dealing with a large group of people from different departments, conversations can get a little hairy. It’s important that everybody on your website redesign team stay in close and amicable communication to ensure everybody is on the same page, working towards the same end goal.

To this end, eMedia Vitals has a great piece about department cohesion for the common goal of a website redesign. The tips and tricks listed are a lot like building a cohesive senior management team: it’s all about transparency, reasonable expectations, patience, communication, and giving others creative space, but reigning in potentially damaging behaviors.

Additional Resources

There are a lot of website redesign resources on the web—free and otherwise—that are worth checking out.  Here are a few recommendations for further research.

If you want to focus your redesign on marketing aspects, check out this 2010 Hubspot webinar that’s geared towards enhancing your site’s marketing value. The webinar touches on a few aspects discussed above, and also gives helpful hints on how to leverage social media for business purposes.  According to a recent Nielsen study, Americans spend more time browsing social media sites online, presenting an opportunity for businesses to take advantage.

Web Design and Marketing Solutions for Business Websites may also prove helpful when concentrating on marketing strategies. The book explores the notion of expanding your company’s story through a corporate blog and using testimonials, case studies, and other third-party validation to reinforce the marketing message.

Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability supports the previously mentioned notion of putting UEO at the forefront of your redesign. The link above provides a sample chapter and, if you like the author’s point of view, his recommended reading list.

Stuck? Need additional ideas for your redesign? The Web Designer’s Idea Book Volumes 1 and 2 offer contemporary examinations of popular and effective websites that may get some ideas churning in your head. Emphasis on the word contemporary – don’t waste your time parsing through volumes of writing that may have already been outdated.

As more companies move to executing content management marketing strategies, web redesigns make more and more sense.  Executed for the right reasons, and following a regiment of unified structure and usability, your company’s website overhaul can be a stunning success!

Content Marketing Director

<strong>Amanda Maksymiw</strong> worked at OpenView from 2008 until 2012, where she focused on developing marketing and PR strategies for both OpenView and its portfolio companies. Today she is the Content Marketing Director at <a href="">Fuze</a>.