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In our previous article, we discussed what a website redesign is and why you might need it. Today we’ll continue talking about the redesign and will go through the actual process step by step. We hope our guide will help you create a solid redesign strategy so let’s get started!
The first step in a website redesign process may seem tedious but is absolutely necessary. We are talking about research and analysis that are needed to establish redesign goals and metrics. The results of this analysis will serve as a base for further website navigation and content mapping so it’s highly recommended to invest some time and effort into it.
Define your redesign goals
Before starting to update the website content and navigation, it is important to actually define your goals. These goals may include better user engagement, a certain increase in conversions, reduced bounce rate, etc. Note: every goal should be measurable. That means it should not be “more conversions” but rather a “30% increase in conversions”. In this way, you will be able to monitor the progress and measure the redesign success.
Define target audience
In order to engage the users, you need to understand who they are and what they are looking for on your website.
Maybe you’ve been having a wrong perception about your users from the start or maybe you want to change the focus and target a different user group. Whatever the reason is, a website redesign calls for the definition of your user persona and a detailed description of their online behavior, preferences, and habits. As well, the analysis of the target audience will help you define the biggest bottlenecks that might stop the users from navigating the website.
Research your competition
While you should aim for standing out from the competition, it’s not prohibited to actually study your competitors and see their strong sides.
Do their websites offer better navigation or are their CTA buttons much more convincing? Use this analysis to identify weak areas in your own website and fix them during the redesign process.
After you are done with analysis and research, it’s time to document everything that you have at the moment (i.e. current metrics and pages, traffic sources, etc.). There are several reasons for that.
First, a redesign does not mean that you have to redo everything. If you have well-performing pages, you might want to retain them. Second, you want to know the current state of your website and use it to do a “before and after” analysis.
Document current metrics
As already said, you’d want to have your current website performance documented so you can use it as a basis for the redesign. We recommend creating an Excel spreadsheet where you can list all your pages and their metrics. The metrics can include:
- Bounce rate;
- Primary traffic source(s);
- Average time spent on a page;
- Conversion rate;
- The main goal (i.e. fill a form, click on a CTA button. etc.).
As you see, all of them are measurable and give a good perception of a page’s current state.
Document the best-performing content
As said above, if during a redesign you decide to simply redo everything, this may lead to major SEO-related issues in the future. The thing is, your website may have certain high-performing content that already generates leads and conversions. Hence, you’d want to retain this content in order to protect the SEO and attract visitors.
Examples of such content are:
- Engaging content: the most viewed, the most commented, or the most shared one;
- Best-performing keywords;
- Pages with high traffic;
- Inbound links to certain pages.
List down and document all your valuable content and make sure to include it in your website during the redesign.
Create and document your strategy
Though being quite obvious, this step is still necessary and should not be overlooked. Before getting down to working on your website, we recommend creating a spreadsheet where you will list down:
- People responsible;
- Estimated deadline;
You can also create spreadsheets for your action plan and strategy trackers. In these spreadsheets, you can list down your SEO, UI, and conversion goals and assign people responsible and the desired timeline to deliver results.
Create a new sitemap
A sitemap is basically a “skeleton” of your website. It contains all the pages, shows the hierarchy and the relationship between them, and also shows the way users interact with your website.
When doing a redesign, you will most probably create a new sitemap in accordance with your goals and based on the defined user flow. But first, document your current sitemap and analyze it with Google Analytics or a similar tool of choice. The sitemap analysis will show the current user interactions with the website and will help you see what areas of the site need improvement.
Work on the content and visuals
Content is the core of any website. Depending on the content quality, users will engage with the website and complete the needed actions. As well, outdated content is one of the biggest reasons for the redesign so you need to pay double attention to it.
Hence, you need to prepare new content for your new website. Note though that you can keep the well-performing content – we discussed it above. But if you have terribly outdated design or your articles (and other copy) are uninformative and poorly written, you’d want to replace them with something relevant and engaging.
Create a new content mockup
A new content mockup is not obligatory but you might eventually need it. By content mockup, we mean mapping the content on your website and refreshing the way it’s organized.
Maybe after researching your competition or analyzing the user persona you will come to the conclusion that you need to reorganize your content: replace or eliminate certain blocks and modules, regroup certain pieces of content, etc. All these changes need to be reflected in your content mockup.
It is also important to note that you should not follow the design-first approach but the content-first approach instead. It should be the design built around content, not vice versa. Sure, appealing imagery can attract people but only for a moment until they discover that your copy is not engaging or is straight uninformative. This is why you need to write your message first and then build the imagery to support and enhance it.
Create a website wireframe
Since you have an updated user flow and understand how your content will be placed, the next logical step would be to create a website wireframe.
A wireframe is a “skeleton” of the website design. It’s very basic but it gives a good understanding of how a website should look and function. A wireframe usually contains:
- The structure and layout of a website
- The content and the way it will be placed on the website
Wireframe helps visualize the intended user flow and navigation and ensures everything looks good. The next step will be creating a website mockup which is a more advanced version of the wireframe. A mockup contains not only the structure and content placement but also advanced elements, colors, graphics, navigation buttons, etc.
Take care of the SEO
SEO is a critical aspect of a website redesign. When you move your website to a new CMS and pack it with new pages and new content, it can be quite challenging to retain the traffic and your ranking. We highly recommend requesting an SEO audit and assistance from a reliable service provider and below are some of the most important things to pay attention to.
Use 301 redirects
The 301 redirect is basically SEO 101 that should be used by anyone who cares about their SEO. This redirect type serves two critical functions at the same time: it retains high user experience and retains the ranking and visibility of a page.
The way it works is really simple: when you move a page to another URL, you use a 301 redirect to transfer a user from the old URL to the new one. So if a user follows an old URL, they won’t see the 404 error but will see the page they expected instead.In this way, 301 redirects help improve and retain user experience as nobody wants to encounter a 404 error page when searching for something.
As for the SEO part, a 301 redirect informs search engines that the page was moved to a new location and that its visibility should be transferred to the new URL. So it goes without saying that 301 redirects help you keep a significant part of your SEO under control.
Review your keywords
Keywords are an important part of your SEO strategy. They help attract visitors to your website, inform search engines of what your website is about, and contribute to higher rankings.
When doing a website redesign, you will most probably update your content – and new content means new keywords. While you may have several well-performing keywords that you can keep (we discussed it above), we also recommend reviewing the keywords that you currently use and replacing them with more relevant ones. And don’t forget that keywords are placed everywhere around your website, including URLs and meta descriptions.
Choose the right CMS system
This is a critical step of your redesign process. The choice of a suitable Content Management System will impact the performance of your website, its speed, ease of content management, and overall user experience. So how do you choose the right tool among dozens of options available?
Here are the main factors to pay attention to when selecting a CMS system:
- Ease of use and content management;
- Functionality and complexity;
- Needs of your team;
- APIs and third-party integrations;
- Licensing fees;
- Hidden costs;
As you see, the choice of the CMS will depend heavily on your goals, needs of the team and those people who will use the system, your strategy (whether you plan to grow and how much), and the overall ease of management of the system. We recommend reviewing each tool’s pros and cons and weighing them against your needs. But to start with, the most popular CMS tools are Drupal, WordPress, Kentico, and Joomla!.
As well, you can find an experienced software development agency and request it to create a custom CMS system for your business. Though this option is more costly than purchasing a ready solution, in a long run a custom CMS may become more rewarding in terms of functionality, scalability, and maintenance.
Website redesign is a complex process that requires lots of planning and research. At the same time, it is an essential step that is needed to take your business to the next level in order to keep up with the users’ demands and changing trends and technologies.
Don’t forget to test and monitor throughout the whole redesign process to make sure nothing is missed and that there are no minor issues that will lead to big problems in the future. As well, invest some time into choosing the right software services provider as your choice will determine how well a website will perform.