The Ultimate Website Redesign Guide
20 keys to success to supercharge your next website refresh
Should I Redesign My Website?
The best way to thrive in today's digital economy is with a strong business website.
There are 3 primary drivers of most website redesign projects:
- Lead Generation
- Recruiting & Retention
- Brand Awareness
The quality of your website is crucial to all 3 of these areas. In fact, 50% of consumers believe that the design of your website is crucial to your brand.
A negative brand perception will hurt lead generation, recruiting, and brand awareness. Don't let a poorly designed our outdated website keep prospective customers, employees, or partners from engaging with you.
Suggested Article: The Warning Signs of an Outdated Website.
So ask yourself the following:
- Am I trying to increase sales, leads, or revenue?
- Am I trying to hire and retain talent?
- Am I suffering from a lack of brand recognition?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you should definitely consider a website redesign.
Tip #1: Identify Business Goals
The first step in any project is to identify goals. Without goals, you will have no idea if your website redesign was worth your efforts.
Write S.M.A.R.T Goals
When creating goals, they need to be SMART. Let's take a look at what that means exactly.
Don't be vague. Clearly understand what the goal is, who is accountable, and what specifically has to be done to achieve it. Specifically document how you plan to accomplish the goal.
You have to be able to look back and determine clearly whether the goal was achieved. You need numbers to make the answer as black and white as possible. Make sure you are confident it's a number you can measure.
Don't set lofty goals just because they sound nice. Nothing is more defeating to a team than setting a goal everyone knows is impossible. Setting an aggressive, yet achievable goal will provide the perfect motivation.
Don't set goals that don't matter or to boost your ego. You need to figure out what success looks like for the business. Create goals and measurables that align with the goals of the business.
Goals can't go on forever. They need a target date to create urgency and realization that the goal was accomplished. Make sure the entire team is on board with a reasonable timeline for which the goal can be reached.
Examples of Website Redesign Goals
To get you started, here is a list of some actual website redesign goals set by our customers. These are all great examples to get you started. Feel free to use and tweak them to fit your business needs.
- 60 inbound form submissions within 6 months of launch. This will be accomplished by having a relevant call-to-action on every page of our website and blog.
- Increase traffic to our blog by 35% by December 1st. This will be accomplished by writing 12 new blog posts over the next 6 months and creating partnerships to generate backlinks to those pages.
- Grow our mailing list to 2,500 subscribers by the end of the year. This will be accomplished by setting up a mailing sequence of 52 emails over 52 weeks highlighting our most visited articles.
As you can see, these goals meet all the criteria of SMART goals and provide a clear vision for success.
Need help setting your project's goals? Contact our website experts for a free consultation.
Tip #2: Learn From Your Current Site
If your existing website only needed minor changes, you probably wouldn't be reading this article.
Before getting too far ahead of yourself, you need to fully understand the pitfalls of your current site so you don't make the same mistakes on your new site.
Here are 4 important areas to study on your current site:
- Calls to Action
Let's look at each one of these in more detail.
Assuming you use Google Analytics, hop in and write down your key metrics. You can learn a lot about a website through its analytics.
You'll want to have a snapshot of your key metrics so you can measure improvement when reporting back to management.
Some of the key metric to pay attention to are:
- Average Session Duration
- Bounce Rate
Check out our article on how to find the metrics that matter in Google Analytics.
Take a look at your current navigation and menu structure. Most businesses go crazy with their navigation and cause a user experience train wreck.
Navigation needs to be simplified as much as possible. Use clear, plain language and talk in the words your customers would use. Don't use your own industry jargon if that's not how they think of you.
More on navigation in Tip #11.
Odds are, you took every bit of content you had, plus the kitchen sink, and threw it on your old website. More was better but maybe it wasn't well planned out. That's a problem you'll want to address on your new site.
You need to think very strategically about your content this time around. You cannot succeed in today's digital economy without a solid content strategy.
Take a look at your current website analytics and make a list of the content that is most popular. This can be done simply by looking at the pages that get the most traffic and then looking at the content on those pages.
Knowing how your visitors are navigating inside of a page is powerful information you need to know.
This will help you understand what's most important on a page. From where a user clicks to where they hover their mouse, you'll have great insight at your disposal. This will help you decide what to prioritize on each page of your new site.
Call to Action
What is a Call to Action?
A Call to Action (CTA) in marketing is a visual element that prompts the user to take a specific action and links them to a destination, such as a webpage. A call to action is typically implemented as a button, text link, or graphic.
70% of small business websites don't have a call to action. Below is an example of a call to action in the hero spot on the homepage of one of our clients.
Most businesses don't put a lot of thought into their calls to action. Don't make that mistake.
When analyzing your current site, pay attention to the calls to action you are using. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the calls to action on this page?
- Are they appropriate?
- Are there enough calls to action?
- Are they in the right place?
- Am I using the right type?
- Am I using the right language?
Study your analytics as well as your heat map results to see how users are interacting with your calls to action.
Want to learn more website terminology? Check out our website jargon explained article.
Tip #3: Document Your Pain Points
Understanding your primary redesign goals is your first priority. But you also need to know your pain points.
You don't want a repeat of the same mistakes you made on your last website.
Website pain points, once identified, can turn into some really key business opportunities.
You should be able to categorize your pain points so you know how they line up with your business goals.
What are some common pain points? Here's a list of the ones we typically see from our clients:
- Our content is outdated
- Our design is too busy
- Our menu is too complicated
- Our website gets very little traffic
- Our website does not look good on a phone
- Our website doesn't generate any leads
- It's hard to edit content and add new pages
- Pages load too slow
Get a LOT of input. Talk to your employees, customers, and partners. Don't leave any stones unturned.
Most businesses can find at least 20 to 30 pain points that they want to solve. Some of our clients have identified over 100.
If your list is short, keep going and talk to more people. You'll be glad you did.
Tip #4: Confirm Target Audience & Buyer Personas
You need to understand the motivations and habits of your customers.
This will allow your website to appropriately target groups of people with the right information and calls to action.
What is a Target Audience?
A target audience is a specific group of people based on a set of demographic, geographic, and psychographic characteristics. It is typically used in the context of defining a business' customer base or in the implementation of a marketing campaign.
You need to understand who your customer is. Without a target audience, you introduce risk that you will make inappropriate website design decisions.
Here's a quick breakdown of what demographic, geographic, and psychographic mean when identifying your target audience.
- Demographic: Basic characteristics such as age and gender.
- Geographic: Where they live.
- Psychographic: How they think.
For example, let's say you own a high-end women's clothing boutique in your local town. Your target audience might be:
Women ages 25-25 (demographic) who live within 100 miles of our store (geographic) who value high quality denim (psychographic).
Keep in mind that your website may have multiple target audiences. You may have separate ones for customers, vendors, partners, and the media.
Each audience will have its own set of considerations when it comes to designing their area of your website.
What is a Buyer Persona?
A buyer persona is a clearly-defined and detailed example of an ideal customer profile that fits within the definition of a target audience. It is most commonly used in business to provide focus and direction in a marketing campaign.
To make a simple sports analogy, a target audience is the entire football team and a buyer persona is the quarterback.
You will need to create at least one buyer persona per target audience. You will have several buyer personas, especially if you have multiple product or service lines.
We also recommend creating buyer personas for vendors, partners, media, and other audiences. While they are not "buyers" in the traditional sense, you need to understand and design for them on your website.
Tip #5: Follow a Proven Website Redesign Process
Without an agreed upon process, your website redesign project will quickly fall off the rails. Don't let that happen to you.
While there are many variations of the website design process, here is the basic process we follow when working with clients:
As we discussed above, there are things you need to do to prepare for your website redesign. Setting goals, analyzing your current site, and identifying your target audience and buyer personas are just a few.
We've compiled a couple of checklists to help you make sure you don't miss anything. One is a general redesign checklist and one is eCommerce specific.
While it may sound great, there is no single magic person that can handle all aspects of your website redesign. You need to build a team and assign tasks accordingly.
Clearly defined roles and responsibilities need to be established at the onset. There are a lot of moving parts and you don't want people stepping on each other's toes. You also don't want balls getting dropped because nobody thought a certain task was their job.
We'll discuss building a team in more detail when we get to Tip #6 below.
As an agency working with clients, the project starts with a kickoff meeting. The kickoff meeting includes members from Onsharp and the client and is typically 2-3 hours in length.
In the kickoff meeting, we review with our client all of their goals and pain points. We also discuss budget, timeline, and identify the project team on both sides.
Coming out of the kickoff meeting, we have a strong plan of attack and a clear understanding of deliverables, milestones and due dates.
Whether you work with an agency like Onsharp or handle the project internally, a productive kickoff meeting is a great way to get the project started.
Design & Develop
This is the phase of the project where the meat of the work is done. We typically work in 1 or 2 week sprints, depending on the size of the website.
At the start of each sprint, we identify what work is to be accomplished. Throughout the week, we identify and knock down roadblocks in our way. The goal is to complete all work by the end of a sprint.
Don't make the mistake of launching your new site without thorough testing. We're not saying it has to be 100% perfect. Small things will slip through the cracks. We are, in fact, human.
But there should not be countless problems when you launch. Have as many people on your team as possible review the following aspects of your site:
- Responsiveness: Do all pages render nicely on mobile?
- Look & Flow: Does the content flow in a logical way? Pay attention to how things break on mobile.
- Grammar & Spelling: Are sentences too complex? Are there spelling mistakes? Don't use more than 3 sentences per paragraph in your content.
- Links: Are there any broken links? Broken links are dead ends for users and bad for SEO.
- Contact Forms: Do all of your contact forms work as expected? One of the biggest frustrations for sales is when leads are lost.
Recommended Article: How to test your company's website.
Don't forget page speed when testing. And we're not just talking about your home page. You need to test the load time of EVERY SINGLE PAGE of your website. Your target is 3 seconds or less for every page.
70% of consumers say page speed impacts their willingness to buy from an online retailer, according to Search Engine Journal.
One tool we love using for testing page speed as well as other technical aspects of a website is GTMetrix. It's free and very helpful to identify and fix issues before launch.
Lack of training is one of the key failures of most website redesign projects. Most teams are so exhausted from the project at this point that they don't have any gas left in the tank to think about training.
You must train those that are responsible for keeping the website updated. If you don't, they are unlikely to make the ongoing changes that will keep your site running like a well-oiled machine.
A huge benefit of formal training is that it gives you a chance to fix small things such as spelling mistakes and design anomalies before launch. Real world training is much more effective than made-up changes.
Training will give your team the time it needs to learn the backend CMS and make common updates. Make sure your training covers all of the common tasks across the company.
For example, we train teams how to complete the following tasks in their CMS:
- Edit content on a page
- Add an image to a page
- Create a new page
- Update the menu structure
- Insert a link in the content
- Add a job posting
- Update a banner image or hero spot
Launching a new website takes great coordination and timing. You want to ensure you don't have any downtime when switching from the old to the new site.
If you are launching your new site on the same server, you may simply need to swap out the old for the new. If you're launching to a new hosting environment, you will need to make some updates to your DNS records. These are the records that tell the internet where your website lives.
We've launched hundreds of websites and have developed the perfect website launch checklist.
Tip #6: Choose the Right Team Members
Assembling the right internal team is a critical part of ensuring your project is successful.
Website redesigns are a very collaborative process involving people from several departments.
Stakeholders are those in the business that helped define the high level business goals. Examples of stakeholders are the owners, CEO, and VP of Sales. There will likely be multiple stakeholders defining the business requirements of the project.
You need a strong project manager that can drive the project to completion. The project needs to be completed with all requirements met, on time, and on budget.
User Experience (UX) & Graphic Designers
Your design team will ensure your site is well organized and looks professional. Design is more than just pretty pictures and graphics. Like a house, both the layout and the finishes have to be right.
You need strong content writers that can articulate your message clearly. It's an art to talk to the customer in a clear and concise way. Find writers who can cut through the noise and resonate with your audience.
You also need someone on the team with strong SEO skills. You will want your website to rank for certain topics and your SEO expert can guide your writing strategy.
Your developers make the magic happen. Since your site will be built using a content management system, your developers need to be versed in the CMS that you chose.
CMS platforms such as WordPress have thousands of plugins that provide specific functionality such. An experienced developer will be able to map your requirements to an existing plugin in most cases.
When that's not possible, they will write custom code or create their own custom plugin. While this is more work, it is sometimes required if your requirements are very specific.
Testers can be random employees, willing customers, or other outside parties. It's good to get a mix of testers to make sure your testing is not skewed and no sections are overlooked.
Put together a detailed testing checklist for your testing team, but also give them the liberty to explore on their own. You may not be thinking of all the scenarios that need testing.
Your server administrator will be in charge of setting up your hosting environment. They will work with the development team to launch the site when it's ready.
Recommended Article: What Does it Take to Host a Great Website?
Tip #7: Consider Hiring a Web Design Agency
Whether you go it alone or work with an agency, you need to ensure you have all the right pieces in place for a successful project.
One of the most common questions is "Should I hire an agency?"
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. It depends on the skillset of your team and what you feel the best outcome will be. Here are 3 keys to consider when determining whether to hire an agency.
As you've seen in Tip #6, there are many areas of expertise and team members needed in a website redesign project. It's highly unlikely that you have all of this expertise on your team.
The benefit of working with an agency is that you get all of the needed expertise at a fraction of the cost. There is no reason for you to go out and hire all of these positions because you won't need them at full capacity once the project is done.
An agency provides the perfect match. You get the experts you need only when you need them.
Agencies have at their disposal many tools, licenses, subscriptions, and other assets that you likely will not have. This will save you from having to spend part of your budget getting access to these resources.
Agencies are able to spread the cost of these resources across hundreds of clients. That's a win for you and will ensure you have access to everything you need to build an amazing website.
Time and Money
Your time is best spent running your business. Hiring an agency allows you to participate only to the level required. The agency can do the rest.
You may spend hundreds of unnecessary hours trying to save money on your website redesign project doing it on your own. The opportunity cost of that is immense, especially if you are an owner, CEO, or high-level executive.
Working with an agency who specializes in building websites will be the most efficient use of your time and money.
Tip #8: Pick the Right Content Management System
The days of building a website from scratch are long gone.
CMS platforms have gotten so good that it doesn't make financial sense to not use them.
One important decision to make is which CMS platform you will use. At Onsharp, we have tried over a dozen CMS platforms over the past 20 years.
WordPress is great for small business websites and simple blogging sites. It's well supported by a community of developers who have built thousands of great plugins.
When your requirements are mostly straight-forward and not complex, we recommend you use WordPress.
Recommended Article: 5 Reasons Why We Use WordPress
Umbraco is a powerful platform for medium to large businesses. The nice thing about Umbraco is that it allows you to easily get your hands dirty and write custom code to accomplish your goals.
For larger businesses with complex needs and complex integrations with other software systems, Umbraco is the way to go.
Recommended Article: Umbraco vs CraftCMS
Tip #9: Avoid Getting Too Cute With Your Website Design
We see this happen all the time. Businesses want to do strange things with design elements on their website to be unique or different.
Don't get crazy. Stick to the basics.
Follow design standards. Don't go off in left field when it comes to the design, menu, and core components of your website.
Website visitors are used to things being a certain way. For example, they have certain expectations of a menu system. So going rogue on your menu is only going to slow your users down and cause them pain.
You want the experience to be as easy and fluid as possible. Therefore, follow common design practices.
Create a delightful website experience by following Google's web fundamentals.
Tip #10: Do Not Overinvest In Your Homepage
The homepage has been dying a slow and miserable death.
While it's still a great place to showcase your overall business, it's not going to be the biggest driver of new business for you.
Why is this? It's simple.
The majority of your home page traffic is coming from people who already know you.
They either typed in your web address directly or they searched for you by name.
People spend most of their time researching topics and looking for answers to questions on Google. When they do that, they are being taken to blog posts and articles that provide the best information and answers to those questions.
Therefore, most new prospects are going to find you through your blog posts, not your home page or even your products and services pages. In fact, most of your visitors may never see your homepage.
What does this mean for you? Pay close attention here.
Driving organic traffic to your blog is the key to growth and brand recognition.
You're not going to transform your business by tweaking your home page and product/services pages to death. That's a huge waste of time. You need to put every resource possible into writing content that your target audience will value.
Tip #11: Follow Website Navigation Best Practices
Your website navigation structure is so important. It can make or break how far a user gets inside of your website and how much time they spend learning about your business.
Pay attention to some key items, such as the order, word choice, and number of menu items. Less is more when it comes to navigation.
One smart tactic is to split your navigation into primary and secondary navigation. You will likely have too many items to fit them all into one menu.
So what's the difference? Primary navigation is for links to page that are the most important. In the example above, Products, Online Tools, and About Us are in the primary navigation.
Secondary navigation is reserved for links to page that are less important. As you can see above, News and Manuals Archive are listed in the secondary navigation.
How can you figure this out? Study your analytics to see where most of your traffic is going. That will help you decide how to lay out your primary and secondary navigation.
Don't miss our 10 Tips to Optimize Your Website Navigation.
Tip #12: Responsive Design for Mobile Devices is Crucial
Upwards of 70% of visitors to your website will be on a mobile device.
Make mobile your priority.
If your current website was designed several years ago, it may not look very good on a mobile device. How can you find out if a page is mobile friendly? Run it through Google's Mobile Friendly Test.
If your site is well designed, it should look like the image below. On the left is our homepage on a desktop and on the right is our homepage on a phone.
User experience is so important because it ties directly back to your business goal.
- How are you going to get more leads when you make it hard for the visitor to contact you?
- How are you going to get more applicants when the application process is difficult?
- How are you going to increase brand awareness when users immediately hit the back button?
On top of that, a poor mobile design will kill your SEO, making it nearly impossible to rank high in mobile search.
Your Digital Reputation
If you don't think your site that looks bad on mobile is hurting you then think again. What does it tell the consumer about your business? Don't let your potential customer think that you don't pay attention to the details.
57% of mobile device users won’t recommend businesses with a poor mobile site design.
Tip #13: Find Amazing Content Writers
Great content writers are very hard to find. Really hard to find. But when you find them, they are like gold.
If you don't have a writer on staff and can't afford to hire one, then your team will have to band together and share in the task. To get you started, here are some tips on how to write successful content.
High quality content does so many things to help your business. Here are just a few of the many benefits of great content.
When a user reads great content that is tied to your brand, trust immediately increases. On the flipside, poorly written content will quickly erode trust.
Time on Page
The better the content, the longer the user spends on the page and on your site. If you want users to stick around and become customers, give them great content. It's that simple.
Great content will generate more leads. As they work their way to a buying decision, you will be the one they want to contact.
When your time on page is high and your content gets linked to, you will naturally rank well in search. Search engine ranking is all about relevance and authority. Writing relevant content builds your domain authority, resulting in higher ranking.
Great content that ranks well in search will keep you from having to spend the farm on ads. The great thing about organic content is that it is constantly working for you. With ads, the minute you turn them off they are of no value.
Tip #14: Visual Elements Are Key To User Experience
Content is important, no doubt. But the pages of your website need to be visually appealing and easy to navigate.
75% of people base the credibility of a business on how their website looks.
You need strong visuals to go along with your content. For example, great photography of your actual employees and customers will go a long way to boost your brand image.
Don't use stock photography where it doesn't make sense. Stock photos are perfectly fine for blog post headings and certain pieces of content. But certain pages on your site would be well served to have authentic, real images.
Spend the money and hire a photographer for a half or full day photo shoot. You will literally get hundreds of photos that you can use on your website.
Don't just focus on people shots. Ask your photographer to take lots of photos of your office, warehouse, and any other visually interesting elements of your business.
Those photos will be great background images, hero images, and other filler that you need to make your website pop.
You can tell when a website is struggling from a lack of imagery. It either has none, is fully of cheesy stock photos, or is full of horrible clipart.
More Helpful Visual Resources:
Tip #15: Master Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
You want more traffic from search engines. Besides paid ads, you need crazy good SEO to do it. Search engine optimization is a marathon, not a sprint. So buckle up for the long car ride.
Almost 95% of newly published pages don’t get to page 1 of Google within a year (Ahrefs).
Why is that? Because most marketers aren't willing to put in the time to build backlinks to their website to build credibility and authority.
Credibility and authority and the keys to ranking high in search.
Your philosophy when it comes to SEO should be long term gains over short term wins. And you do this primarily by link building.
The tough think about link building is that it's hard and it takes times. It's literally a marathon.
But the good news is that there is a formula for SEO success. You just need to be willing to do the work and do it well.
Tip #16: Learn to Navigate Google Analytics
The first time you log into Google Analytics, you're going to get overwhelmed.
There are literally hundreds if not thousands of reports you can run and countless tweaks you can make to those reports.
Neil Patel has an outstanding post on the topic: 21 Actionable Google Analytics Tips That’ll Boost Your Sales. We encourage you to read in detail once you are ready to tackle your Analytics.
Tip #17: Obsess Over Conversion Rate
Your website is designed to convert visitors into paying customers for your business.
It's easy to get bogged down in vanity website metrics such as visits and page views. Yes, they are important indicators but they are not the ultimate goal.
You need to stay hyper-focused on what ultimately matters. To most businesses, that is conversions.
Find the Right Tool
In order to track visitors from start to finish and understand your conversion rate, you need a capable marketing tool. We recommend HubSpot as the perfect tool for the job.
HubSpot Marketing Hub will allow your business to track your website visitors through the entire buyer's journey. This will allow you to understand your Return on Investment (ROI) for the website as well as any future marketing campaigns that you run.
Tip #18: Master the Art of Landing Pages
It's highly likely that you will run an email marketing or ad campaign once your new site is launched. Your goal will be to direct users to your website to take a specific action such as filling out a form or purchasing a product.
You'll be tempted to direct them to your home page or some other existing page on your site. That is not a good strategy. You need to direct them to a targeted landing page that is void of all possible distractions.
What is a landing page?
A landing page is a dedicated page on your website that you direct users to with the intent of them completing a specific action. The action is typically the completion of a form or purchase of a product.
Landing pages are very deliberately designed. For example, it is common to remove navigational elements from a landing page so that a user is not enticed to leave the page.
You want the user to take the one specific action that the landing page is geared to. For example, you may drive a user to a landing page to get them to join your mailing list. Providing them with any other options other than what is intended will reduce your conversion rate.
Tip #19: Don't Overlook Website Security
We cannot stress enough the importance of maintaining a secure website. Stories of malware, ransomware, and highjacked websites are everywhere. The stakes have gotten very high very quickly.
43% of cyber attacks target small business. You've worked too hard to allow your site to be overtaken by hackers. You need adequate security policies and procedures.
At Onsharp, we provide a fully managed hosting package that we call Website Essentials. We have over 300 happy website customers running on our platform.
We named it Website Essentials because we feel that the services we provide under this program are essential to speed, reliability, and security.
Recommended Article: What you don't know about web hosting may be putting you at risk.
Most businesses want to focus on growing their business, not the complexities of hosting. That's why we take care of it for them with our fully managed hosting solution.
Tip #20: Celebrate Your Hard Work
70% of projects fail. So when your project is completed and is a wild success, you need to celebrate.
Share the Good News
A redesigned website is a big deal. Share the news with your customers, vendors, and partners. Here are some quick examples of how you can share the good news about your project:
- Send an email introducing the new site
- Send a letter or mailer to your customers
- Bring in your partners for a tour of the new site
- Make a video walk-through of your new site and share it on your YouTube channel
Now you may be the type that doesn't like to toot your own horn, but this is a great time to create some hype around your business. The more people you tell, the more people they might tell. It could result in some great new business right from the start!
Your term has worked tirelessly to get the new website out the door on time, on budget, and with every requirement met. You need to celebrate their hard work.
Here are some ways in which you can show your appreciation to your internal team.
- Send them a gift
- Give them time off
- Recognize them with an award
- Throw a party
- Plan a team outing
Whatever you choose, do the best you can to show your appreciation for a job well done.