It’s the start of a new year, which means everyone is making their resolutions—and already breaking them, too. To be honest, I am not a fan of resolutions. While I applaud the intent to set goals and meet them, the data shows that making one-time resolutions, for most of us, doesn’t work.
As a digital marketer, you and your team might also have resolutions for your company. The first quarter is a busy time for implementing new strategies, and for some this includes a website redesign. Some more honesty here: I’m as a big a fan of website redesigns as I am of resolutions. Not because redesigns aren’t (sometimes) warranted, but because too many companies think of a redesign as a one-time fix and not an ongoing and incremental process. It’s why only 9% of Americans meet their weight-loss resolutions—quick fixes don’t work. Creating new patterns and standards, however, do. It’s like reaching for carrot sticks instead of cookies.
If your site isn’t nimble enough to withstand incremental changes based on the data its (hopefully) collecting, then by all means, redesign it! Sometimes the only way to make a site deliver the results you want is to throw out the old and bring in the new.
Because you’ve already heard enough from me today, I asked our Smart Panda team to weigh in on website redesign, each from their own areas of expertise–from strategy and planning to database management and development. Here are 10 of their top tips for website redesigns … and for establishing new habits for a better site for years to come.
- Lisa Edwards (Account Management): Avoid the Big Bang. Redesigns can take months and years if you let them. Prioritize your requirements and get all of the mission critical items taken care of first, and then launch the site. After launch, implement a phase two—add the lower priority items from your wish list and fine tune the site based on testing results and user feedback. If you take too long redesigning a site, by the time you’re ready to launch it, the business goals, user needs, technology and industry best practices may have changed, leaving you with a new site that’s already lagging behind.
- Lauren Sanchez (Project Management): Time your launch. Consider when and how to launch your redesigned site. Put a plan in place for creating buzz and get users excited about the new site. Avoid launching during the holidays or near the start of another big promotion, so as to maximize benefit of the redesign.
- Lisa Martino (Search Engine Marketing): Slow your roll. If you have a highly-visited website, roll it out to a small percentage of traffic first, so you can gather insights. If users are lost, confused or not taking the actions you want, you can make improvements based on this data before rolling it out to the rest of the world. This is also a great opportunity to test different page designs, calls to action, or content, for example, to see what converts the best.
- Jessica Magyar (Project Management): Don’t skimp on project management. Assign proper stakeholders to each milestone along the way so everyone knows who is accountable for what. Establish a clear timeline at the beginning of the redesign to ensure proper progress is made. And document the scope of the redesign from the start, referring to this scope along to way to keep the team on track.
- Jessica Porges (Digital Analytics + Testing): Keep the end user in mind at all times. Understanding what users want from the site is key to improving usability. Base redesigns on a combination of historical data and voice-of-customer feedback—don’t assume you know what your users want or how they will behave on the new site. Map out the entire customer journey and make sure your team has a full understanding of the customer experience.
- Erich Andren (Solutions Architecture + Testing): Test, test and test some more. Make sure you clearly define KPIs up front so you know why you are testing and can make sure the tests and their results matter to your business. Once you have the winners and losers, you have both data-backed elements to use in the redesign and a meaningful list of what to avoid.
- Alex Corzo (Customer Relationship Management): Think about your database from the beginning. Data capture is essential for nurturing and retention purposes. First, create strong value propositions with unique content and assets or loyalty programs to drive the growth of a database of prospects and customers to keep them coming back to the site. Then, design the site with elements that can be personalized based on what you have learned about your database at every interaction.
- Charlene Hixon (Email Marketing): Simplify signup. Make your calls to action obvious for data capture. CTAs are the single most important element of any signup page. Make sure the sign-up form (or shopping cart) itself is as efficient and easy as possible for consumers to complete. Keep your eye on form/cart abandons and continue to remove hurdles to conversion.
- Ravi Chandramouli (Web Development + Engineering): Consider the tech. One mistake I see all the time is companies reskinning the site for aesthetics only, while leaving legacy technology in place. On the flip side, don’t embrace a new technology trend without understanding the long term impacts this transformation will have on user experience, database management, testing and optimization, or even simple things time to load. Know what you’re getting into.
- Cheryl Myers (Creative): Question your motives. To echo Shamir’s introduction, unless a redesign is absolutely necessary, don’t do it. Often a site can be improved by making adjustments incrementally rather than starting over. Your consumers are human, and humans often resist change—it’s why Google’s search page, Amazon’s header bar and Facebook’s site design have remained the same for ages. So, unless your brand has been updated, you’ve had a major product change, your user experience is beyond repair, or your site is incapable of withstanding important updates, it’s probably better to keep your changes small, continuous and based on data.
As you may have gathered, we believe the success of your strategy and planning phase will likely determine the success of your new site. Gather your data and customer feedback and let those insights inform your every step. Know your customer, understand their journey and make sure the redesign is for their sake, not just about beautification or new technology.
Whether we just talked you out of a site redesign or into one, we wish you success!
- Website redesign for the sake of redesign is a missed opportunity—and a waste of resources
- If a redesign is a must, do it for the customer. Use historical data and voice-of-customer feedback to inform every step of the new design. Otherwise it’s just “sitting pretty” and delivering no ROI.
- Think about your launch strategically—time it right, create a buzz and roll it out to a small segment first. This gives you the opportunity to test and improve it before rolling it out to the world.
- Think about your database from the very beginning. Data capture is essential for nurturing and retention purposes.
- Resist change—because your customers resist change, too. Don’t fix things that aren’t broken. Incremental improvements, based on data, are usually better than an overhaul.