10 Steps: How to plan a successful website redesign
29 July 2018
Planning a successful website redesign is always difficult for any organisation.
Many things add complications to most website redesign project:
- Tight deadlines – Most businesses need their new website asap. It is their most significant sales tool and lead generator.
- Limited resources – Businesses need to manage client needs alongside their own project.
- Differing opinions – Most companies/organisations have a number of heads at the table—each with their own unique point of view!
To help you with your next website redesign project I have put together this website redesign best practice guide. The guide contains a useful website redesign checklist and will be helpful to anyone thinking of redesigning an existing website but unsure where to start.
Knowing where to start with redesigning a website might seem the biggest hurdle but it will make the whole process a lot less stressful for you and your business if you follow my 10 step guide to planning a successful website redesign:
- Identify your target audiences
- Set goals and objectives
- Create a sitemap
- Separate design from content
- Create a content strategy
- Set a budget
- Request a quote
- Define roles and responsibilities
- Beta testing and launch
- Post-launch maintenance and marketing
Step 1. Identify your target audiences
The first mistake a lot of businesses make is redesigning for redesigning sake. The first thing you should look in to is who is your new website design targeting.
You need to ask yourself:
- Who are your current website users?
- What do they do on your website? (What pages do they visit? How long do they stay on each page? What path do they take to and from that page?)
- When do they visit? (What day and time?)
- Where do they visit from? (What is their physical location? What site or search engine led them to your website?)
- Why are they visiting? (What do they need from your website?)
- How do they visit? (What device do they use—desktop, mobile, or tablet? What web browser did they use?)
- Who do we want to visit your website who isn’t already? (How would they find us? What would they be looking for?)
Many different types of people browse your website: prospective clients, current clients, employees, job seekers, competitors, students interested in internships, vendors, media, and industry folks who read your posts to stay up-to-date on your latest offers and services.
It’s important to remember if you try to chase too many rabbits you will catch none. Focus your new website on those most critical to your bottom-line:
- Prospective clients/customers who may need your services
- Current clients/customers who use some of your services but aren’t aware of everything you offer or new services you’ve recently introduced.
Step 2. Set goals and objectives
It’s best to keep your goals simple, and the most straightforward goal for any website is to generate new leads.
Your objectives will depend on your business aims, but it’s easy to split these into to two or three categories:
- Communicating – Share your services, including any new offerings, and examples of your past work
- Conversions – Making it easy for visitors to close the loop by putting a call-to-action button on every page
- Actions – In addition to call-to-actions you can add forms to key service pages to monitor enquiries
Step 3. Create a sitemap
A sitemap doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be structured like a flow chart and built-in PowerPoint or Google Slides. Alternatively, you could just create an outline with bulleted lists and indentations that indicate pages, sub-pages and other structural breaks.
In order to create a new sitemap you’ll need the following:
- Your current website sitemap.
- A list of all your current key services/products.
- A clear link title format so that everything is clear. For instance, “Help Sheets” could become “Downloads” as users are more familiar with this word when looking for resources.
You might find that the top-level navigation doesn’t change much from your existing site, but the sub-navigation might be where the significant changes take place.
Step 4. Separate design from content
It is essential that design and content work in harmony on any website, but it’s important to remember they are different elements. Your site content in its raw form is entirely free of design styling. Let’s look at a simple example. All WordPress websites will have posts. For each post, there should be:
- Meta title,
- Meta description,
- Date of publication,
- Main text.
When combined these pieces of information contribute to a whole article. It doesn’t matter what design you apply to this content: fonts, layout, colours, author photo thumbnails, etc. The content is valid even in the absence of design and follows best practice guidelines for online content writing. It may not look amazing in plain text, but it reads correctly, all the critical information and elements are present.
This differentiation conforms to Web Standards, a grassroots coalition fighting for standards which ensure simple, affordable access to web technologies for all.
The other advantage to using this type of content structure is when it comes to the next time you want to redesign your website, you can easily apply an entirely new design to your existing content because you’ve maintained the separation between content and design. Keeping it simple is nearly always best.
To execute a successful website redesign, it is essential to implement a structure for your content production.
Step 5. Create a content strategy
Now you understand the importance of content; it’s time to consider what kind of content you will be producing for your website? This process is essential for any successful website redesign. I have provided a list of content a website can include but is not limited to:
- Blog posts
- Documents (PDFs)
- Pictures (such as in a gallery)
- Embedded social media feeds (such as your Twitter stream or Facebook page updates)
A content strategy is a way in which you plan to present your content over time. For instance, you may want to publish one blog post a month, and send out a quarterly emailer for your subscribers to read. I think content is the most crucial aspect of any website. It’s important to take the time to properly plan and prepare your content and invest in content writing if you can.
Step 6. Set a budget
You should always set a budget for your website expenses. This will need to include provision for web design, development, and web hosting at the very least. Additional costs could consist of content writing, image collation and SEO.
Research your competitor’s sites and see what functionality they have on their site as you may wish to incorporate this into your new site. The two biggest cost factors for website design and build are functionality requirements and the number of pages. Try to narrow down exactly what you want before shopping for prices as being vague or unsure of your own needs can have unexpected cost implications further down the road.
Important! A successful website redesign is going to take up a lot of your time unless you can afford to hand off everything to a supplier so make sure to budget for the hours you’ll have to put into the new project as well.
Step 7. Request a quote
Make sure you get a few quotes to compare with before you commit to anything. Prices for website design and development vary massively, but the general rule of thumb is ‘You get what you pay for’. Check out any potential suppliers previous work and things like their Google reviews can help reassure you of their skills and quality of the work they produce.
My websites bespoke WordPress websites start from £750 and include a host of extras.
Step 8. Define roles and responsibilities
If you are a one-man-band, then the buck stops with you on this one. If you are lucky enough to have a small team around you, it’s important to delegate tasks so that you can focus on what you do best, running your business.
Equally, if you do have a team or partners to work with, then it’s essential to avoid having too many cooks in the kitchen. Choose both a project manager and a decision-maker. If there are any questions, the project manager is on hand to come up with the answers by collecting information from the other team members. This process will help avoid any confusion and crossed wires.
The decision maker is responsible for getting the other partners/team members to approve each part of the project, i.e., signing off on the sitemap, design, and final website. In case of disagreement, the decision maker can make the final call, so the project isn’t delayed.
Step 9. Beta testing and launch
Any decent website developer will include a certain amount of testing in the project scope, but it is always worthwhile doing your own in-house testing as well. Check its key functions all work correctly. Check how your new website looks in all the browsers you use. You can see what your website visitors use most in Google Analytics so check those as well including Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer. View the site on your mobile device, your tablet, and your colleague’s phones and tablets too. With responsive design you want your site to be consistent in appearance no matter what the screen size is.
Make sure all of the outbound links work and open in a new windows. Check all the inbound links are working correctly too. Make sure that you’ve replaced all of the placeholder images with actual content, the same goes for any placeholder text.
Test form submissions and make sure you’ve customised the confirmation and notifications emails. Make sure your social media accounts are linked to your new website.
Step 10. Post-launch maintenance and marketing
Finally, before you hit the publish button on your successful website redesign, make sure you have a plan.
Put together a detailed blogging calendar for the next 12 months and assign roles to your team members. For example, if two blogs per week are to be posted, who is responsible for them, and who is that persons stand-in if they get sick and can’t get it done?
If your website requires photos or illustrations regularly, make sure this work is assigned and understood. Decide who will proofread new content, check links, keep on top of the media library etc.
Once you’ve launched your site utilise tools to help you track its progress and growth. This way you can see what’s working and what’s not from your marketing plan.
One last thing to remember
A successful website redesign doesn’t just happen overnight, a website is an extensible communication tool that requires regular updates to stay current, informative and exciting for visitors. Think of your website like an iceberg, most of what makes it goes on beneath the surface.