You might have several reasons for considering a website redesign. Standards for web design change over time – and your site may be looking out of date. You may wish to update your corporate image or even launch a new product line. The possibilities are endless.
Is your website mission critical to your business? If so, then a website redesign can have a huge impact on your bottom line. Of course, you want that impact to be positive. And that’s where we come in.
Bowen Media’s ten things to consider for a website redesign is not a comprehensive guide – but rather a framework to promote success. Without any further ado, let’s get you ready for the perfect website redesign.
1. Define Your Marketing Goals and KPIs
Your first step is to set clear marketing goals for your website redesign. Of course, marketing goals vary depending on the business. Some websites are designed to sell, while others serve to collect sales leads or provide customer support. Whatever your goals, define them from the start. Only then can you measure and track them with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Your most important KPIs – ‘conversion’ actions – signify a change in the relationship. For example, an anonymous web visitor fills out a contact form and then becomes a sales lead.
Your goal is to lead visitors through your website towards actions that benefit your business. Typical conversion actions include product purchases, newsletter sign-ups, and marketing document downloads.
You also want to set up supplementary KPIs to track overall site performance. For example, bounce rate – or the percentage of visitors who only view one page and exit your website.
High bounce rates indicate your content may not be appropriate for your intended audience. Other useful KPIs include Average Time on Site and Average Pages per Session. Use various KPIs to gauge the success of your website redesign campaign.
Also, remember to start tracking KPIs before your website redesign. Only then can you establish a baseline for comparison.
2. Define Your Target Audience
You might be thinking it makes sense to define your target audience as broadly as possible. After all, why run the risk of excluding potential business? Quite the contrary, this strategy is rarely successful.
The real danger is that by trying to include ‘everybody’ you end up pleasing nobody. Do you really want your website to read like an anonymous letter from the electric company? Of course not.
Instead, your website should read like a love letter to your target audience. How? It’s simple. First, get into your reader’s heads. Understand their motivations and speak directly to them in their language.
Remember, your target audience is probably two or more people. Consider selling to corporations, for example. Does your message go straight to upper-management? Probably not. Typically, middle-management receives the initial message and then passes it along.
No matter your audience, the solution is the same – to create a profile (or avatar) for each audience. Describe their unique interests, needs, and motivations. Yes, it’s hard work but – as you’ll learn below – the extra effort pays dividends.
3. Create Relevant Content
Delivering ‘relevant content’ is Google’s mantra. It’s also the single biggest reason the company dominates Internet search. In Google’s eyes, ‘relevant’ means helping searchers find exactly what they are looking for.
One of the best ways to define relevant content is by the target audience. Luckily, you already created profiles based on their interests, needs, and motivations (see step 2). And this is what it truly means to get into your customer’s head. Just answer these important questions:
- How and why did this visitor arrive at my website?
- What problems does the visitor want to solve?
- What pains are those problems causing the visitor?
- How do we solve them in a way nobody else can?
- How will the visitor feel once we fix the problem?
One sign that your content is relevant is the bounce rate of your home page and key landing pages. If a large percentage of visitors leave without a second glance, then your content is obviously not relevant to those visitors.
Relevant content also results in higher conversion rates, which is good for business. That’s reason enough to work on those avatars, isn’t it?
4. Optimize for SEO
Panda, Pigeon, Hummingbird, Pirate, Phantom. Over the years, Google has released a series of algorithm updates –all in the name of rewarding relevant content.
Traditional SEO meant ‘gaming the system’ to rank higher in the SERPs and gain more traffic. For the most part, that game is over.
Today, SEO is all about making it easy for Google to understand your content. Any competent web design company will follow Google’s guidelines when redesigning your website.
If content is the king of SEO – then keyword research and page optimization are the two princes. Simply use a tool like Wordtracker to identify search terms that align with the interests and motivations of your target audience. The optimization process is easier than you think.
First, choose a single keyword for each important landing page on your website. Then, optimize the page by using your keyword in the title, URL and throughout the page.
Exactly how to optimize your page is a subject of debate. That’s because Google refuses to divulge its ranking algorithm. However, you can use Google Webmaster Tools to discover the keywords Google finds relevant on your website.
5. Consider an Explainer Video
Back in the bad old days of limited bandwidth, text and images were the only way to tell your story on the web. Today, you also get to use video.
Why are explainer videos are all the rage? Because they work – plain and simple. A well-produced video – with a solid script and engaging visuals – can easily capture the attention of your audience.
More than text and images, video enables you to showcase your brand’s personality. It also helps your viewer retain information. Video can help you achieve higher conversion rates – and even rank higher in Google!
6. Mobile-Friendly vs Responsive Design
Hopefully, you already know your website redesign needs to look good on a variety of different screens. There are two ways to achieve this important task.
Your cheaper option is a mobile-friendly design – which makes your website look the same regardless of screen size. Your content scales to fit the screen – which means using smaller images. Certain features such as drop-down menus display poorly on mobile devices. Mobile-friendly design eliminates them.
Mobile-friendly design is a mediocre in-between, but if more than 35% of your users access your website on a mobile device, then it’s worth investing a bit more for a responsive website.
Responsive design simply means your redesigned website adapts to suit the viewing environment. Text and images may change from three-column display to a single column. Smaller screens may hide unnecessary images. All design elements look great – no matter the screen size.
7. Set up Google Analytics
At a minimum, you should be using Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. The good news is – both of these services are free. It’s smart to start tracking before your website redesign – to establish a baseline for comparison.
Google Webmaster Tools is particularly useful for SEO. A few months after your website redesign, check back to identify your top performing keywords. Optimize underperforming pages, or build new pages targeting more high-value keywords.
You can use Google Analytics to track the KPIs you defined at the beginning of your website redesign. You can also track the performance of your marketing campaigns, and much more.
8. Consider Marketing Automation
As you plan your website redesign, you should also consider investing in Marketing Automation. The tools are pricey, but can be well worth the improvements to your marketing campaigns results.
There’s plenty you can do with a marketing automation tool. You can plan, coordinate, manage and measure all aspects of both online and offline marketing. Most automation tools enable you to build and track landing pages, grow email lists, and much more.
9. Forward Existing URLs
Redesigning your website might mean eliminating outdated pages. Unfortunately, that also means visitors who arrive at your website through your legacy links will hit a 404 page. Obviously, that’s bad for business. Luckily, there’s a solution.
If you want to avoid the dreaded 404 page, redirect all legacy URLs to the appropriate pages on your redesigned website.
Start by building a map of your existing website content – listing each URL. If you eliminate any of these pages in your website redesign, then use a server-side 301 redirect to send visitors to the right page.
10. Optimize Conversion Paths
You started your website redesign by defining your marketing goals. Once you launch the website redesign, you probably think the project is complete. Well, think again. The real work has only just begun.
You already completed step one – launching the website. Hopefully, step two is also in the works – driving traffic to the site. The final step in the process? Optimizing your conversion paths.
What is conversion optimization? It’s an iterative process of making changes to your landing pages to convert more visitors.
Thinking in terms of conversion paths is smart, since you may also wish to change other parts of your website that feed visitors to landing pages.
Conversion optimization is essentially one part science, one part voodoo. It’s nonetheless a demanding skill. Even a change of less than one percent can have a huge impact on your bottom line.