For the past twenty years, websites have provided a critical touch point for prospects and customers. Despite the increased popularity of social media platforms and more recently, ChatGPT, websites are still an important component of an online presence and marketing mix. As such, it’s essential that your website not only provides relevant information but also offers a seamless and engaging user experience. If you’re considering a website redesign, it’s a significant step that requires careful planning and execution. In this article, we’ll explore the key considerations and best practices to ensure a successful website redesign.
Define Your Goals and Objectives
Too many times in the past, I’ve discussed website redesigns with clients that had no clear vision or objective for the new site (other than I don’t like the current site, or it seems dated). Before you embark on a website redesign, it’s crucial to outline your goals and objectives. What do you aim to achieve with the redesign? Are you looking to enhance user experience, boost conversion rates, improve SEO, or align with current design trends? By clearly defining your objectives, you’ll have a solid foundation to guide the entire process. Bonus tip: make sure every page has a relevant call-to-action (CTA) to maximize conversions.
Set a Realistic Timeline
Allow plenty of time for the redesign – at least 2-3 months for a small business site. Building in time for planning, design iterations, development, testing, content migration, and launch is essential. Trying to redesign a site too quickly can result in key steps being skipped. While redesigns often move more quickly than new websites due to existing content and structure, a refresh provides an opportunity to leap ahead of competition, so pad timelines for adequate planning, inevitable delays and surprises.
Audit Your Existing Site and Create a New Sitemap
Thoroughly evaluate your current website before making changes. Look at site architecture, navigation, page load speeds, forms, product/service pages, and more. Identify what’s working well and what needs improvement. Create a new sitemap reflecting how you want users to navigate and find information on the redesigned site. Ensure the information architecture and navigation schemes make sense. Bonus tip: ensure you’ve built in email capture (via a popup window and/or include an email signup in the footer of your website template to build your email list). In the ‘cookieless’ age, this is particularly important.
Know Your Audience
Understanding your target audience is paramount. Conduct user research, gather feedback, and analyze user behavior on your current site. Knowing your audience’s preferences and pain points will help you tailor the new website to their needs, resulting in a more engaging and satisfying experience. I recommend developing customer personas (typically three to five for an optimal balance between accuracy and simplicity).
Revisit or Create a Content Strategy
Content is king, and a website redesign is an ideal time to review and enhance your content strategy. Identify which content is still relevant and which should be updated or removed. Ensure your content aligns with your brand and resonates with your audience. A well-structured content plan will contribute to a successful redesign. The content should be tailored to your goals. Add, revise, or remove copy to enhance SEO, user experience, and conversions. Create new page titles, meta descriptions, alt text, and calls to action. The highest performing SEO-friendly content includes FAQs and a blog. Ensure all new content is truly unique (both across the website and across the Internet). Bonus tip: create ‘linkable’ content (i.e., podcasts, webinars, white papers, calculators) to boost domain authority and credibility with Google.
Select a Content Management System
Depending on your industry, company size, budget and objectives, selecting a platform can be tricky. The more robust the CMS, the more limiting it in terms of customization and site speed. The slower the website is, the less Google favors the site as it creates a lackluster user experience. WordPress is one of the most popular, SEO-friendly and scalable platforms on the web today and is a great starting point for small and mid-sized businesses, although it is also used by global corporations.
Revise Information Architecture
Information architecture (IA) plays a vital role in the user experience. Organize content logically, create user-friendly navigation menus, and ensure that visitors can easily find what they’re looking for. A clear IA simplifies the user journey and minimizes frustration. Hire UX experts, benchmark against competitors and solicit input from heads of key departments to minimize revisions down the road.
Address User Interface and User Experience (UI/UX)
The website’s UI/UX should be a top priority. A well-designed user interface should be aesthetically pleasing, but it should also be intuitive and easy to navigate. UX considerations should focus on making the user’s journey as smooth and enjoyable as possible. A good user experience translates to better rankings in search as well. Bonus tip: consider incorporating a chatbot to streamline sales and customer service.
Enhance Visual Design
A visual refresh can modernize the look and feel of the site. Explore new color schemes, fonts, layouts, and branding elements. Balance aesthetics with usability. Research emerging colors, technology and messaging to ensure the visual language feels fresh, current and relevant.
Ensure that your website is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. Comply with web accessibility standards like WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). This not only expands your audience but also ensures you meet legal requirements in some jurisdictions. An additional benefit: Google and other search engines are “disabled” because they are blind, so following best practices for compliance benefits organic search visibility.
Optimize for Mobile
In an era where mobile devices dominate web traffic, mobile responsiveness is non-negotiable. Most of the website traffic today originates from mobile devices. Your website must function seamlessly on various screen sizes and devices. A responsive design ensures that your site adapts to the user’s screen, providing a consistent and user-friendly experience. Mobile-optimized sites are also favored in Google rankings.
Optimize for Organic Search
Maintaining or improving your search engine ranking is essential. Carry out comprehensive keyword research, ensure that your site’s structure is SEO-friendly, and implement search engine optimization (SEO) best practices. This includes optimizing images, creating unique and valuable content, and improving page load times. Additional code-centric elements for improved SEO include robots text, XML sitemap and schema markup. Most importantly, ensure keywords are in each page title tag (to boost visibility in search results) and the meta description tags are compelling (to maximize clicks).
Optimize for Social Media
Due to the proliferation of social media, don’t forget to integrate social elements into the website. The best place to start is to incorporate links (that open in new tabs) to the big seven social platforms (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok and X/Twitter). Ensure all pages of the site are sharable to the two to three most popular social platforms to maximize citations and traffic. Bonus tip: integrate a social media feed (typically Instagram or X/Twitter) into the footer of the website template (or select pages) to send Google a signal that the site is updated regularly.
Focus on Page Speed
A fast-loading website is essential for user satisfaction and SEO ranking. Compress images, utilize browser caching, and employ content delivery networks (CDNs) to optimize page load times. Test regularly and optimize images, scripts, caches, servers, and code to improve load times. Http/2 and a content delivery network can also boost speed. Bonus tip: use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to maximize site speed.
Develop a URL Migration Strategy
To retain traffic and search ranking, set up 301 redirects from old to new URLs for all top pages. Use a crawler to identify broken links or orphaned pages. Migrate content systematically. To capture any orphaned pages, ensure a custom 404 error page is within a branded template and directs humans (and search engine spiders) back into the new site structure. Bonus tip: develop a link reclamation strategy, to identify orphaned (404 error) links on third-party websites and reach out to suggest an updated link to minimize negative impact on domain authority.
Incorporate Testing and Quality Assurance
Thoroughly test your redesigned website before launch. Check for broken links, functionality issues, and inconsistencies. Perform usability testing with real users to identify any potential roadblocks and gather feedback for improvements.
Validate Security Measures
Website security is a paramount concern. Implement security protocols to protect against cyber threats, including SSL certificates, firewall protection, and regular updates to your content management system (CMS).
Create a Backup and Recovery Process
Regularly back up your website to prevent data loss in case of a mishap. Have a recovery plan in place so that you can quickly restore your website if necessary. Ideally, back up the existing site during development and maintain it for reference for as long as possible, as context is important, even long after launch.
Create a Launch Plan
Promote a redesign launch via social media, email, press releases, and other channels. Announce key features and be clear if there are changes to site navigation. Monitor analytics closely after launch. The most important aspect of a site launch includes thorough QA testing before launch, validating SEO elements are completed and the site can handle traffic spikes if marketing does its job too well.
Redesigning a website is a multifaceted process that involves strategic planning and execution. It’s an opportunity to improve user experience, align with modern design trends, and enhance your online presence. By considering the factors outlined in this article and adhering to best practices, you’ll be well-equipped to achieve a successful website redesign that meets your objectives and exceeds user expectations. If you have any questions about this article or would like help navigating your website design, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or visit my networking group, pdxMindShare.
Kent Lewis founder of pdxMindShare, an online career community and networking group mentioned on Seth Godin’s blog. Formerly a CMO and founder or co-founder of multiple agencies, he’s known as a thought leader in digital marketing. He’s been an adjunct professor for more than 20 years at Portland State University and a volunteer instructor for SCORE. Lewis co-founded SEMpdx in 2006, a trade organization for search engine marketing professionals. His recognition includes Marketer of the Year by the American Marketing Association and Top 100 Digital Marketing Influencers by BuzzSumo.