Surviving a Website Redesign: What You Need to Know

Andrea Miller

Written by Andrea Miller on Wed, Apr 08, 2015

Breaking up with your website can be hard to do. You may be able to admit it's no longer working for your business, but you also know that a redesign can be expensive and a lot of work. As business owners, we may fool ourselves into thinking our current site can get us through one more year of business even if our marketing department is demanding an end to the relationship now. Times change, and websites need to evolve just like our businesses do.

In fact, we are embarking on such a project right now here at SPROUT Content. A lot has changed in the content marketing industry, and we've worked hard over the years to establish ourselves as an inbound marketing agency specializing in telling the stories of B2B clients. That message is certainly available on our current site, but it could be better highlighted and in a more modern way.

1-3Since we're starting the process again and having completed the process many times for our clients, we would like to share what you need to know to survive a website redesign.

Why Redesign?

First, you have to understand the goals for your new site. Could you improve your customer experience or do you need to incorporate a new brand strategy or updated look? Are your goals financially driven and you want to increase visits and convert more leads into customers? Here are some possible objectives to consider for your new site:

  • Number of visits/visitors
  • Bounce rates
  • Time on site
  • Domain authority
  • Number of new leads
  • Total amount of sales generated
  • Current SEO rankings for important keywords

Don't Redesign for the Wrong Reasons

Marketers typically redesign their websites every 18-24 months. But just because you are bored with your site doesn't mean your customers are. Weigh the cost of a redesign carefully with the possible benefits.

Another common reason for redesign is to add fancy design elements such as sliders, scrolling logos or the newest craze: infinite scrolling. Be sure you are adding value to the visitor experience, and not just flair.  

An online move by the competition also sparks many website redesign projects. But instead of obsessing about what your competition is doing, find something they aren't doing well, and do it better. 

Know Who You are Redesigning For

It's absolutely essential that you formally document who you want to visit your website before you start redesigning it. You'll do this by interviewing and surveying current customers to create buyer personas. These are fictional representatives of your ideal customers, and actually the foundation of your content marketing strategy. Every piece of content you produce, including your website content, should be created with these people in mind.

Preserve your Assets

You've worked hard to achieve the stats and rankings you have with your current site, so don't just trash it and start from scratch. Be sure to preserve your assets such as:

  • Most shared or viewed content
  • Most trafficked pages
  • Best performing keywords you rank for and associated pages
  • Number of inbound links to individual pages

Before you remove a page with a lot of history, be sure to preserve your SEO. Learn about the different types of redirects and how they should be used.

It's a lesson Toys R Us could have used in 2009 when it paid $5.1 million to buy the domain name Toys.com in order to benefit from having a prominent keyword in their domain.

However, Toys R Us forwarded the entire domain of Toys.com to ToysRUs.com without using 301 redirects. As a result, Google de-indexed all of the Toys.com pages basically rendering them useless in search. Expensive epic fail.

Go Mobile

Just a few years ago, it was standard practice to design a separate mobile site. But the rules have changed and responsive design (i.e. sites that serve all devices on the same set of URLs, with each URL serving the same HTML to all devices and using just CSS to change how the page is rendered on the device) is the way to go now. In fact, Google's new algorithm rolling out on April 21st will use mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. That means if your website is not mobile-friendly, you could be penalized in search results on mobile devices. 

ESPN just launched its first redesign since 2009, complete with a responsive facelift. It also provides a personal experience for users depending on the sports and teams they care about. Sign in, select your favorite sports and teams and it will remember your preferences and display content to match. So if you don't care about hockey, you can be spared who was sent to the penalty box.

If your website is not already using a responsive design platform like HubSpot's Content Optimization System, which also offers smart content like ESPN, now may be the time to redesign.

Don't Overlook the Content

A beautifully designed website will only get you so far. The words on the pages matter. In fact, website content development is just as important as the design and structure of the site. Here are three reasons why:

  1. The right content attracts customers and retains their attention. Focus your content on customer needs rather than touting how great your products and services are. Instead, show people how those products and services make their lives easier, more efficient, faster, economical or more fun.
  2. Content is important on every page, not just the home page. People will be directed to your site through various pages depending on the keyword phrases they use to find your site. Every page of your website is indexed by the search engines and is important.
  3. Content shares knowledge. The content on your website showcases your industry knowledge, experience and expertise. Having good website content can help you become an authority in your niche.
  4. Content creates action. Ensure you have a specific goal for each page of your site and appropriate and at least one clear call to action (CTA) on eahc page. There's nothing left for the reader to do than exit out if you leave them hanging. 

If your current website's content could be fired for its messaging, then it is time for a redesign.

Keep it Simple

Your website should be so simple to use that a drunk person could navigate it. Huh? Seems crazy, but it's true. HubSpot recently enlisted this drunk guy to evaluate its site's home page. Obviously entertaining, the evaluation also provided thoughtful insight, especially that it's not clear what HubSpot is and what they sell from this page. As the HubSpotters work furiously to fix this, this exercise is a good reminder to always remain focus on your user, not your CEO, not your CMO and not your designer, throughout the redesign process.

Take advantage of our free website evaluation to determine whether a redesign should be in your company's future. We promise to be sober for it!

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