What you need to know when redesigning your website

Should you redesign your whole site?

Well, that depends. Redesigns are sometimes considered when the current design is outdated or when the owners are tired of the current design, which happens a lot. This isn’t the best reason to completely redesign a website, as it puts the focus on the subjective opinions of a few individuals and can sometimes override the facts. Analytics must always be part of the project, even if the only info available is – what pages are getting traffic? Which have a high bounce rate?

Redesigns are often attractive to the executive decision makers in a company because they make the website into a project, which has a beginning and end. The best websites are continuously improved, but that approach is not as common as doing a big redesign every few years and spending a lot of money. Why do people do this?

Sometimes it is easier to find a large sum of money for a big project than it is to allocate money and responsibility to consistently measure traffic analytics and make small changes. A lot of companies still think of their website as a brochure that is published; then updated every few years. The slate is wiped clean. This approach is old and will not provide much value on your investment.

Sometimes a redesign of a website is some kind of badge of honor for a marketing manager or someone else who wants to have a lot of projects under their belt. It is rarely about the customers who use it.

Redesigns are also more fun to work on, no question. The continuous improvement and testing of a website is boring. No committee meetings, no sipping of coffee while looking at mockups and there is rarely a “big reveal” at the end. The fact is that people love talking about the graphic design but hate talking about the content. The content is more important because people don’t go to websites just because they look pretty.

What can happen when you start over

SEO is put at risk

Unless your web designer knows what they are doing, a redesign can have a really bad effect on your traffic from search. If you have pages with inbound links from other sites, if they are not properly redirected with “301” htaccess codes then all the links pointing to the old pages will be broken. If the pages have been gaining SEO link juice over time, then if it suddenly loses a lot of those links – rankings will be affected negatively. There are WordPress plugins that can also help with redirection.

Current users were hunters, but now they are finders again

Users generally hate redesigns – especially if they consistently use a website and the navigation has changed. This can make them frustrated. Something that used to take them seconds, now takes longer because now they have to try and figure out the new site and what is going on. The people who use your website the most are often your most loyal customers. Always keep this in mind when approaching a redesign project. It’s always better to make a series of small changes and test along the way. If a redesign causes someone to discontinue using your site out of frustration that you caused, they wont be repeat visitors.

About Grady McNeill

Grady McNeill builds websites, writes content, and does SEO for many clients in North America. He runs Increase Interactive. He also wrote what's in this box.

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