Your website is the single most important piece of marketing collateral your business will ever have. It’s often the very first glimpse of your brand that a customer or client sees, which means it’s responsible for a whole lot of first impressions.
But like anything else that high-profile, your website needs a facelift every now and then. In fact, 58% of business owners say they plan to invest in a new and improved website within the next year.
If you fall into this category, there are some steps you need to take before diving right into a website redesign. We explain each one below.
1. Choose a web design agency
One of the most important decisions you’ll make when redesigning your website is which design company you’ll work with on the project. Your website needs to both look great and run great, so it’s OK to be a little bit picky about choosing a designer.
First, start by looking at creative services marketplaces and review sites like UpCity and Clutch. These sites list some of the top-rated web design agencies in the country and even curate their own “Best of” lists, which are a great way to quickly narrow the playing field down to a few candidates.
Next, take a look at each design agency’s portfolio and work samples (you can find ours here). Which company’s design style best fits your current brand? Are there any sites that particularly speak to you? Are there any that you think are completely awful?
Whichever designer you choose should also have plenty of examples of mobile-responsive websites. More than 80% of internet users accessed a website from their smartphone in 2017, and that number is expected to rise significantly over the next few years. Choose a designer who excels at mobile websites now so you won’t have to pay for another update sooner than you expected.
2. Perform a site audit
Once you’ve chosen a design agency to work with, you’ll need to perform an audit of your site to determine what works and what doesn’t.
This step is much less scary than the type of audit we typically think of — essentially, you’re just diving deep into your Google Analytics to get a clear picture of how your visitors behave, then examining your website for improvement opportunities. And if you choose the right designer, they should be able to walk you through each step and explain the results to you.
First, log into Google Analytics and take a look at your stats for the past year. Are your numbers trending upward or downward? Have there been any major spikes or dips in performance? What events within your company did those peaks or valleys coincide with? For instance, do you see a spike in traffic every time you publish a new blog post? Did you see a dip in click-through rates when you changed your button color?
Here are some more metrics you should look at:
What’s your average bounce rate — i.e., how frequently do people leave your website without clicking to a second page? Which direction is that trending?
Are the majority of your visitors new or returning? How does that align with your current marketing and business goals?
What are your top 10 most popular pages? Top 20? Which pages aren’t on those lists that you think should be?
Which pages do people visit first (landing pages)? Which pages scare visitors away (exit page)?
Where does your traffic come from? Are visitors primarily referred from other websites or do they find you through an organic search?
What role does your social media play in referring traffic? Which social media platforms bring in the most visitors?
While in Google Analytics, take a few minutes to record the basics of your site’s performance for the past 6-12 months in a spreadsheet. This will come in handy for comparison once your new site is live.
Now that you have a better picture of how your audience sees your site, take a look at it through their eyes, giving extra attention to pages that don’t perform as well or are frequent exit pages.
Can you identify any reasons for your site’s sub-par performance?
Do these pages contain information that’s out of date? Is there too much or too little content on the page? Is it a wall of text, or is it broken up with images and other design elements? Are the images proprietary, or do you rely heavily on stock images? Do you include enough calls to action? Are those CTAs written in a way that your audience finds them compelling?
Make notes about any problems you see here and share them with your designer, so that they can be sure to address them during the redesign.
3. Research your competition
Before diving into a website redesign, you should also spend some time studying your competition and the strategies they use on their sites. The more you do this, the better you are able to identify industry standards you may be missing — for instance, do you include your lunch and dinner menus on your restaurant’s website? — as well as trends that you want to avoid.
Most importantly, pay close attention to what the top contenders in your field are doing that you’re not, and talk to your design team about how you can incorporate some of those same strategies into your new site. How can you differentiate your business from the majority in a way that appeals to your customers?
As you research, be sure to save examples of websites you like (as well as ones you don’t) to show your design team. The easiest way to do this is to save them to a Pinterest board, but you can also just save a list of URLs or take screenshots.
4. Set measurable goals
Goal-setting is another important part of any website redesign. If you want your new website to perform better than your previous one, you have to know why you’re embarking on a redesign in the first place.
Think about what you want your new site to accomplish. Do you want more traffic to your product and service pages? More conversions on your checkout page? Better ease of use for patients when they schedule appointments?
Whatever your goal is in redesigning your website, make sure that it’s something you can measure. This way, you’ll be able to tell how well your new site is meeting those goals once it’s up and running.
5. Set a timeline
A project without a deadline is just begging to be forgotten. If you want your website done in a reasonable timeframe, you absolutely must have a deadline for completing it.
From our experience, the best way to make sure that deadline is met is to establish a project timeline at the very beginning. And when creating this timeline, you should work closely with your design team, as they have the expertise to know how long each step of the process should take.
Be sure to let them know, too, of any important dates you have coming up that you’ll need your site ready for, like program launches, major shopping days (Black Friday, anyone), etc.
A typical website that we design takes about 2-4 months from start to finish, depending on the size and complexity of the project. And more often than not, the websites we finish quickly are the ones where our clients are quick to respond to requests for imagery, content, and feedback.
The faster you finish your part of the project, the faster we’re able to get your new site up and running.
6. Gather and create content
One of the final steps before starting your website redesign in earnest is to gather and/or create any content your new site will need. This includes updated page copy, brand taglines, calls to action, a freshened-up logo, team and office photos, other brand photography, etc.
You must have these in place before your design team starts building your site. Without your page copy in hand, your designers won’t know how big to make each section. And without your imagery to choose from, they won’t be able to come up with the most appealing layout for your page copy.
Your entire website hinges on its content, so until that’s in place, your new site’s design just won’t get very far.
Here at Trajectory, we often help our clients out with this part of the process. Our in-house team of copywriters works with you to capture your brand’s voice and phrase it in a way that your audience connects with. And if you need help sourcing updated photos, we may even be able to connect you with a professional photographer in your area.
7. Make a plan for the interim
The last step of the pre-design process is to plan how you’ll deal with web traffic while your new site is under construction.
Some businesses choose to take their old site down completely and replace it with a simple “coming soon” landing page. However, we strongly urge our clients to NOT do this.
The way we see it, some traffic is always better than no traffic — yes, even if it means they see your old, outdated brand when they visit. If you’d like to announce that you’re building a new site, you can always add a banner or blog post to your current website announcing the coming changes. But keep the old site live to serve any new potential customers who come through during the design process.
Build a website both you and your customers love
If you’re planning to invest in a new and improved website soon, our team at Trajectory would love to help. Together, we’ll turn your outdated and tired web presence into a marketing gem that your customers and clients love to visit. Want to know how we do it? Contact us to learn how.
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