Why Redesign At All?
Let's begin with an obvious question; why redesign your website in the first place?
As well as being obvious this is a really important question because it flushes out what’s at the heart of your new website project. Over the years we’ve seen many businesses engage in a website redesign for all kinds of reasons such as; because their competitors have a better-looking website or that they don’t feel that their online brand is aligned with their current business or that they are not happy with how many visitors the website is getting. The list is extensive but tends to sit around the following campfires:
- Performance issues (lack of conversions, sales, enquiries, etc.).
- Technical challenges either limit the functionality or cause the site to become prone to error/security issues.
- The competitor landscape moves on leaving the existing website lagging behind.
- The business moves in a different direction (change of product range, service profile, target market, etc.).
- There is a general feeling that the design is dated.
- There was emotional baggage from the last build of the website which undermines the relationship between the company and its website. (This frequently occurs when specifications are poorly defined, costs escalate, and launch dates are constantly deferred.)
- A change of personnel leads to a desire to stamp their mark on the business through the redevelopment of the website.
Finding The Commercial Reason to Redesign
Now, whilst there are instances of where the look and feel of a website may have a detrimental effect on its sales performance it’s rare to find that it’s enough to justify dumping the entire site and starting again. Usually, there are other elements which contribute more significantly. For example, the information may be in a disordered state making it difficult for the visitor to find what they’re looking for. Or because the content management system is failing to deliver the required functionality.
whilst there are instances of where the look and feel of a website may have a detrimental effect on its sales performance it’s rare to find that it’s enough to justify dumping the entire site and starting again
What you need to weigh up is whether the need for a web redesign is significant enough for you to junk what you’ve got and start again or whether you can take what you’ve currently got and improve it. Put differently, would a redesign throw the baby out with the bathwater?
Let’s take an example. Let’s say that you haven’t been getting the financial results from your website that you want and you think the best way forward is to redesign it from scratch. Consider the following things.
- Is the reason why the website’s not performing down to the marketing of the site? In other words, would you see better gains if you invested in improving your digital marketing rather than an entirely new site?
- Can you reorganise the website’s content to make the visitor’s journey better and more focused on them taking the action you want them to take?
- If the technology supporting the site is working fine then can you get away with just performing a face-lift on the website?
- Or the reverse, if the site looks fine can you retro-fit better technology more suited to your goals?
- Do you need to redesign the entire site or can you simply redesign those areas which are not generating a return?
Now, the reason why we’re raising these issues is that it’s true to say many businesses make the assumption that if their website’s not working then they have to start again from scratch. However, it’s worth remembering that there are alternative options that may well work out cheaper and be just as effective.
Losing The Bathwater Not The Baby!
So even if you are settled on a complete top-down redesign it’s well worth considering what currently works well on your website so you can make sure that it’s included in the new version.
This means that you should review your website’s analytics information to see what were the hot spots of activity and interest on your site, which pages convert well, what keywords delivered good traffic, what pages had the highest length of browsing time, and so forth. Have a really good trawl through the stats to see what’s working well. Then flip all those questions around and look at what’s not worked well and didn’t perform.
And, that gives you an insight into the objective facts and figures about your site but what about subjective opinion? What have your customers said about your site, what have your suppliers said, your colleagues, your friends and so on. Getting a sense, a rough thumbnail sketch, of people’s perceptions of the website, will add some depth to your knowledge and reasoning about how you take your redesign forwards.
For example, if everyone universally says how awful the website looks you can confidently proceed with a redesign of the look. If people say they couldn’t find key information or didn’t know that you did X, Y and Z then you know you need to focus your attention on structuring your information in a more easy-to-find format. Whatever you get back will help direct your redesign so that it focuses more on what people want rather than on what you think they want.
At the end of that analysis, you should end up with an excellent picture of what’s worth keeping and what needs dumping. Doing this will give you a clear idea of your starting point before you progress any further.