When an ordinary website needs an update, you might get away with a few quick tweaks here and there. When a corporate portal requires an overhaul, however, you'll often have to move heaven and earth to get it done.
Alternatively, you could just follow these handy steps to plan and execute a successful makeover – Starting your website redesign with a bit of strategic thinking is the smartest way to keep it on track.
Your website redesign might serve various purposes. Maybe your enterprise is overdue for a digital rebranding. Perhaps you want to make the most of ongoing user feedback and complaints regarding your flaky digital presence. The once bleeding-edge technology that powers your site might have simply dulled with time.
No matter why you're in the market for an upgrade, you need to be explicit about defining the goal. It's impossible to keep a creative project like this from wandering off into the weeds without knowing exactly which path it ought to follow in advance.
There are countless directions you could take with your redesign. The early planning stage is the time for decisiveness, even if you're awaiting input from stakeholders or end users.
It's not enough to simply know something's wrong with your existing site. To ensure your redesign does its job, you'll need to go into more depth.
How might such an exploration pan out? Suppose you've got a site that lets users save their preferred items from your online store so they can receive email reminders when those items go on sale. The system ought to register a favorite product whenever someone clicks the appropriate "Add Favorite" button – but you've learned that the site sometimes forgets an item.
The end-to-end problem-solving method suits more general redesign tasks. For instance, you might apply it to crafting a user journey or tracking common site visitor workflows. By identifying all of the target milestones your website should achieve during a specific process, you clarify precisely where it falls short.
This is also a handy trick for overcoming your unmet website goals. Prior to diving into broader problems, such as poor accessibility, insufficient payment provider support, or inconsistent visual branding, compare yourself to the ideal – whatever that may entail. Always break big redesign goals or problems down so that they're more manageable before building something new.
There's no guaranteeing all of your content will survive your website redesign. From search tools and navigation flows to underlying code frameworks and external integrations, you can and should refine anything that might offer improved user experiences, usability, sales performance data, or other results.
Be similarly discerning about your redesign plan. Don't be afraid to relegate to the chopping block anything that doesn't fit within your stated budget or schedule – including the idea of trying to do it all in house.
What does a good plan look like? For starters, the most effective redesigns accomplish their goals under budget and with time to spare. This leeway is crucial because you might discover that a revamp isn't quite right even if it ostensibly satisfies your objectives.
In some cases, it's easier to zero in on problems with a fresh set of eyes. Now is the ideal time to hire third-parties to conduct SEO audits of existing content, perform feasibility studies of proposed solutions, and engage in market competitor research. Doing so will strengthen your plan by helping you minimize wasted effort and avoid project-killing budget overruns.
Depending on your goals, audits may also prove outright necessary. For instance, if you want to offer your visitors more payment options or save their shopping info, then you'll need to prove you've complied with PCI-DSS, GDPR, or whichever data security certification framework applies to your use case and target market. What better time to start establishing a digital paper trail?
Not all redesigns have the same price tag. In general, however, companies can often expect to pay as much for a redesign as they would for a new site.
Even though you might reuse some of your content or even visual elements like layouts, you or your designer will still have to rework all the underlying code. This is a hefty task, and a lot can go awry along the way, so it's important not to skimp. You may, however, be able to save by finding an agency that offers a package deal or discount on closely related work, such as follow-up testing.
Save frequently and non-destructively – meaning don't overwrite all your old versions until you're absolutely certain you won't need them. Before changing your site, back it up, preferably using some kind of change-tracking version control tool.
Your contributors should rarely ever work from anything but copies of the original. Assign one central decision-maker to maintain exclusive control of the main source code and approve all changes before they're added to the whole. This stakeholder will also serve as the originating source of information when new bugs crop up during testing.
It's impossible to future-proof your site against every possible bug or evolving code standard. Nonetheless, there are certain outcomes you can shore up your website to sidestep, like how your corporate structure or needs might change.
Flexibility is key: Your redesign should result in a complete website that's easy to modify in the future. It should use code that adheres to commonplace standards governing style, readability, and security best practices. It also ought to incorporate search engine optimizations and third-party services that integrate smoothly yet can be removed without breaking the entire kit and caboodle, in case you want to try something different later.
What does this mean if you're working with an agency? In short, avoid providers that only offer black-box services. If someone's going to handle your redesign, make sure they're transparent about it – They should supply documentation, instructions, compliance paperwork, credentials, and any other supplemental information that helps you leverage whatever they create.
Now that you've figured out what's wrong with your site and picked a plan to solve it, you can start hacking away, right? Not so fast – If you just make changes willy-nilly, it's going to be pretty difficult to tell which modifications caused which results.
Keep your redesign as organized as possible by:
This doesn't mean you can't work on multiple areas or have different teams making progress at the same time. You just have to be judicious about applying those changes to the real site and collecting feedback. Here's how such a scientific-method-inspired approach might work in the previous "Add Favourite" button example:
Some changes can go more than one way, such as picking a new background colour scheme or menu layout. Since you don't know which alternative users might like best, it's simplest to give each a fair shot. Another term for this practice is A/B or split testing – where you test different versions to compare the results and feedback from each.
Website redesign projects can get complicated fast. Start with a clear expectation of what you'd like to achieve, how you plan to do it, and what you'll measure to gauge your efforts. By taking these critical issues to heart as early as possible, you'll give yourself more room for error, experimentation, and eventual success.