Redesigning your website is a great way to revitalize your online presence. However, without proper planning and implementation, you may find that your online revitalization has turned into an online ruination. Here are a few key points to remember when undergoing a website redesign.
1. Self Audit
Your users know your site, and so should you. Ensure that the key functionality that your visitors use on a regular basis remains easy to locate and access. Review your site analytics to see what pages have the most visits and ensure that these pages are easy for your visitors to find.
You will also want to perform an audit of your site. Make a list of the pages that are bringing in the most traffic and where they are listed in the search engine results page (SERPs). Create a list of every page in your site and the URL to that page. You will also want to make a list of any additional URLs (such as aliases or redirects) that link to each page.
Do not forget about your sub domains. Be sure to make a list of any active sub-domains and to have a plan in place as to what will happen to them during the migration to your new site. Without a plan, your sub domains could be missed and all their pages could disappear from the SERPs.
2. CApture the Now
Along with auditing your site, you will also want to create a performance benchmark. This is important as it will serve as a reference after the migration. You will use this to determine what pages are under-performing after the migration so that you can make necessary adjustments to regain any lost performance.
3. Yes, It's Pretty, But Does it Work?
Before you begin a website redesign, ensure that you have identified the purpose of your website. Are you trying to inform and educate your visitors, make online sales or generate online leads for offline sales? Identifying an overall goal for your site will assist you in making decisions on what content should appear on your new site. If the content doesn’t align with your goal, it doesn’t belong on your site.
Goals should be set on the page level as well as the site level. Each page should have a singular goal. For instance, if you add a page describing how to install a widget, you shouldn’t have information on the benefits of one widget over another. If you feel that this information is vital to the reader, create a simple link to another page whose purpose is to compare the benefits of these two (or more) widgets. Not only does this help to focus your content, it also helps you to generate additional pages that can be listed in the SERPs.
4. 'Smarketing' Alignment
Even if you are not selling online, your site should still be designed to move visitors farther down your sales funnel. Your new website should perform like a new employee - one that never sleeps or takes a day off. Design your new site to assist in generating Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and/or Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) to assist your brick-and-mortar business in generating additional revenue.
5. Consider the User's Experience
With any website redesign, a few unnecessary pages are always removed. You will want to make sure that if any users attempt to load a page that no longer exists on your new site, you provide them with easy means of finding what they are looking for. This can be done by adding a simple search box to help them on their way. You could also just create something cool to keep visitors engaged so that they don’t just click off your site.
6. Show Some SEO Love
On-page SEO validation is the act of verifying that the generated HTML page follows all the rules for the structure of a webpage as defined by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) guidelines. This assists the search engines in reading your page and helps to ensure proper rendering across browsers. You can use the W3C Markup Validation Service to help you test your website generated HTML.
7. TRy To Break It - Testing
There are a multitude of browsers and operating system combinations in use. Test as many of these as is feasible within your budget to ensure that every user will get a page they can read and use. You can do this by testing under a subdomain. This will allow you to provide the link to a select group of users for evaluation. It also allows the site to be rendered using numerous browsers and operating systems.
Don’t forget to test your site on mobile devices. More and more people are using mobile devices to access the internet. If your site is difficult to use on mobile devices, your traffic will suffer. Use a tool like Responsinator to view your site at various sizes.
8. Map It Out
This is good practice for any site, but is especially important for new and redesigned sites. A sitemap will provide the search engines with an easy-to-follow list of all the pages in your site.
9. move Your Site in Webmaster Tools
Both Google and Bing have tools that allow you to tell them that you have redesigned your website. Use these tools to assist the search engines in re-indexing your new site. This is where proper use of 301 redirects is really important as they tell the search engines where content from the old site can now be found on the new site.
10. Feed The Flames
This step is all too often overlooked, but can assist greatly in enhancing the user’s experience after the site launch. Let user’s know that the site will be changing before the change occurs. Post ‘teasers’ of the new layout on social media and allow users to submit feedback and/or just make comments. Use this data to make any necessary adjustments to ensure a smoother transition. Post comments about how the redesign is progressing to help your users feel involved in the process. If your users feel like they are a part of the process, they will be more likely to accept the changes.
Once your new site is launched, post comments about it on your social media channels. Allow your users to share in the excitement of the new site launch. Not only will this help them accept the changes, it can drive additional post-launch traffic.
Not sure what most of this means? Don’t worry – you are not alone. We have the tendency to geek-out when explaining the tasks that fill our days. Request a site audit to let our geeks do the information gathering and analyzing (aka the dirty work).