In case you haven’t noticed already, having an updated website is crucial to your business—especially for small businesses.
Think about your own web browsing experiences: when was the last time your search engine suggested an outdated site? More importantly, when was the last time you stayed on an outdated site for longer than 30 seconds?
Most of us press the back button as soon as we see an outdated site—if the site speed is fast enough to keep us around in the first place—so it’s no wonder that a website circa 2009 may not be doing your business (or your sales) any favors.
Not only does an up-to-date site look nice and fresh, but it also establishes a better connection between you and your audience. If you give users a positive experience with your site, the more likely they are to make a purchase and return. This could also help with your on-page SEO—but that’s something to get into another time.
As a business who just revamped our own website, we know from firsthand experience how intimidating a full-fledged update can be, so we made a comprehensive website redesign checklist to help you out. Here’s our guide to updating your website (without the headache):
Step 1: Determine if it's time to redesign
A website redesign project is no quick and easy task, so the first step is establishing if now is the right time. Some questions to ask yourself may be:
- Does it look outdated?
- Could user experience be improved?
- Would better content marketing (i.e. better product photos) help?
- Have sales been decreasing?
- Would the brand benefit from additional webpages (i.e. a blog)?
Step 2: Analyze and review your current content and design
The best way to go about this is to take it a step at a time. It’s going to be really easy to overwhelm yourself with feeling the need to create more or new content, so be sure to reserve this step for just observing what’s currently working and what isn’t.
For visual content, like photos and videos, make sure to check the quality and relevance of your assets. Are they aligned with your brand identity? Would fresh product photos improve user experience? Are older files slowing down your site speed?
For written content, it’s important to get rid of things that aren’t serving you anymore. Broken links and old or incorrect information are only wasting space on your website—and while you’re at it, double-check your mission statement and make sure it still applies to your brand identity. You can also refresh the text on your call-to-action button (if applicable) to generate more clicks.
Step 3: Check your site’s data
Do yourself a favor and analyze your site’s existing data. This will allow you to learn more about your audience, see what pages are or aren’t driving traffic, and tailor your site to better fit your audience’s needs.
Always make sure that any creative process is tailored to the specific online market you’re trying to reach. Building a site that’s able to target specific users and their needs while also remaining broad enough for creative freedom is the sweet spot you’re looking for.
Step 4: Look at your competition
A huge part of successful business practice is to try to keep up with (and surpass) the competition. Even if your site is better than your competitors, you can still learn from them.
Take a look at their visuals and user experience to get the overall feel. Are they missing crucial information? Is their product page enjoyable to navigate?
Step 5: Get inspired
Here’s the fun part: while you’re studying your competitors’ sites, remember what you liked and see if that inspires you for your own site. Another great place we often look to for inspiration is Awwwards.com, a site that showcases the most beautiful and innovative websites around the world.
Step 6: Create your goals and your plan
Now that you have an idea of what you need to do for your business website and some inspiration for what you want your redesign to look like, create clearly-defined goals and a plan for how you and your team are going to achieve this.
Want to add a blog page? Invest in a content writer. Want to boost sales? Consider a lightbox that showcases promotions.
Don’t skip this step—this could make the difference between an organized project and absolute chaos.
Step 7: Define your brand’s visual language
Has your brand identity changed over time? Are you starting to move into a more niche audience? Maybe you’re looking to move into a new vertical?
No matter how you answered these, it’s crucial to find your site’s visual language and make sure that it fits your brand’s identity, core values and goals. You may even decide that you’ll need an updated logo or color scheme—and that’s ok! It’ll all pay off in the long run.
Quick Tip: Use style tiles. Style tiles are an essential tool for web designers. They are a design deliverable consisting of colors, fonts and interface elements that communicate the essence of a visual brand. Like swatches, they represent the bigger picture of your website’s targeted impression based on design.
Style tiles are vital in developing a common and flowing visual language for clients, stakeholders and team members. Using this practice before constructing will minimize the risk of potential roadblocks while saving you vast amounts of time, cash and stress.
Step 8: Build a sitemap
Is there an unnecessary connection between pages? A missing connection? Can you effectively combine more than one page together?
Having a layout (or map) of primary, secondary and tertiary pages will streamline the entire redesign process so that no one is left getting lost over what page should go where. This ‘aerial view’ of your site also helps you gain more insight into your website’s user experience, a crucial component of user-friendly navigation.
Step 9: Use the best web design practices
Now that you’re ready to begin redesigning your website, be sure that you’re employing these principles:
Always have a game plan for what your website is trying to direct users to do. What is your objective? Are you trying to increase your click-through rate? Or, are you trying to convert leads into paying customers?
Whether it’s a form fill or a phone call, your site visitor should have no problem digesting the information being displayed to them with a clear-cut option to act. Be sure your button or form is placed in the right place and the correct fashion for desktop as well as mobile devices.
However, your button or form shouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Being too aggressive with coloring and text could backfire and negatively affect your conversion rates.
Make sure to have a user flow in mind. This means wireframing a game plan that you would like to see your site visitor follow in order to get to your website’s end goal. This is very important for fine-tuning how your website operates and displays information.
Don’t Hide Information
There are a lot of options out there when it comes to how to display information to your website visitors. A lot of pages will place accordions and carousels as elements for users to scroll through.
While visually they can look very pleasing and help keep the real estate on your page clean, they can serve to hurt your cause by hiding information from the visitor. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to minimize the number of steps your user has to go through to access the information they want.
More Quick Tips
- Hierarchy helps visitors view your site in order of priority
- Contrast (especially color contrast) is an important factor in web accessibility
- Balance helps keep your site looking cohesive and polished
- Imagery and high-quality media features set the mood for your site
- Typography should range from one to three different fonts
Step 10: Use powerful multimedia elements
When it comes to web design, first impressions matter. After integrating the principles of design, look into media features such as animation, images, videos and sounds. This is another way to set the mood for your site—the more visually appealing and the more aligned with your brand, the better!
Step 11: Time to update your content
Remember how we said in Step 2 not to get ahead of yourself with updating your content? Now that you’ve laid out a great foundation, you can get started on this step.
What areas need the text freshened up? Have you decided to launch a blog page? Are you rewriting your web copy from scratch?
What to keep in mind when revamping written content for your website:
- Your brand’s tone of voice should be consistent (consider creating a style guide!)
- Short and sweet web copy performs well for skim-readers
- Microcopy on your CTA buttons and forms matter
Step 12: Keep SEO in mind
It doesn’t matter how gorgeous your new site is—if your search engine optimization is poor, no one is going to be able to discover it! We’ve gone into detail on the importance of on-page SEO elements such as content, HTML and site architecture elements in our other blog posts, but here some basics for you to start out with:
- Use your keywords
- Write alt-text for your images
- Create page meta tags
- Update your domain name (if necessary)
Step 13: Optimize for mobile
Step 14: Test it out
Want an idea of how your redesign is going to perform? When placing content on the web, it can be beneficial to have variants ready so that you can see what works best. One way to do that is with A/B user testing. This form of testing uses two versions of your site to see which elements drive traffic and engagement.
A/B testing is hugely important when it comes to landing page creation. One slight change in the shade of a color or the movement of a button could create a massive difference in click-through rate.
There are many programs available to help produce these results by applying different pages at different times. This gives you the opportunity to make decisions based on real data, eliminating the guesswork.