It is essential to focus on the right things when seeking to generate a healthy return on investment from a website redesign. In this post, we explore the seven factors that could make or break your site redesign.
For most organisations redesigning their website is a significant investment, and so the pressure is on to get it right. Unfortunately, all too often, those same organisations focus on the wrong things.
Their attention is on design and functionality. Although these are undoubtedly important, these elements are not the only crucial components that define a sites success in most cases.
I would say seven factors are as critical (if not more so) when planning your website redesign project. Probably most important of all is being clear about the audience you are targeting.
Before undertaking any digital project, it is fundamental to define your audience as narrowly as possible. The more specific about who you are trying to reach, the more you can tailor the site to meet user needs and persuade them to act.
However, defining our audience is not enough; we also need to know them. What are the user's goals and pain points? What questions do they want you to answer, and what tasks are they trying to complete? What influences them, and what is their journey? Finally, and probably most importantly, what are their objections? Why might they not take action?
These are the kind of questions that need to be resolved even before your redesign brief goes out to potential partners. It is why an increasing number of organisations are first doing a discovery phase with suppliers before undertaking the main redesign.
Once you have a clear picture of your audience, then you can tailor your messaging accordingly.
Before you can start creating the copy for your redesigned website, you first need to define your overall messaging. That typically consists of four critical components.
We often start writing copy from the wrong premise. We ask ourselves what we want to talk about, rather than asking what the user wants to know.
By taking the time to define what we offer to the customer and how it benefits them, our final copy will prove more compelling.
Of course, that will be for nothing if the user does not find the website in the first place.
Your website does not exist in isolation. It is one part of an extensive digital footprint that encompasses everything from social media to online advertising and search engine rankings.
If you wish to get the most from your website, it is essential to consider how all of these pieces fit together. Unfortunately many times they are considered separately with one supplier redesigning the site, and another responsible for digital marketing.
Although this can work, these suppliers must be working together to ensure good results. That can mean you as a client may need to mediate between these different perspectives. Either that or you find a supplier who offers both.
Presuming you solve the findability issues, the next challenge that needs consideration is the accessibility of your site.
When most people hear the word accessibility, they think of disability. However, that is not what I am referring to in this context.
Instead, I am referring to how easy or otherwise it is for a user to access your website. In particular, this manifests itself in two ways.
First, there is how easy it is for a user to access your website on various devices. There are more devices with web access than ever before, and yet many sites exclude people.
Most websites are responsive these days, meaning they work in principle on mobile devices. However, in many cases, the reality is somewhat different, especially for those using older devices.
The second consideration regarding accessibility is performance. If your website is slow, you will lose users and see fewer conversions. It is black and white.
Poor performance has a significant effect on conversion and page views.
A one-second delay in load time leads to a 7% drop in conversion and an 11% fewer page views. A staggering 1 in 4 people will abandon a page that takes longer than 4 seconds to load. What is more, things are even worse on mobile with 74% of users giving up if a page takes 5 seconds or more to load. (Source)
Poor performance will also impact your search engine rankings, so undermining findability too.
Users are impatient and so performance matters. However, the usability of a website can test a users patience too.
In my experience, many of those who commission website redesigns are focused on branding and aesthetics, rather than usability.
Although brand and aesthetics certainly play an important role, if the website is hard to use, people will abandon it no matter how attractive it may look.
Part of the problem is that many clients assume that if a site makes sense to them, it will also make sense to end-users.
Unfortunately, the more knowledgable you are on a topic (and most clients are extremely knowledgeable in their chosen field), the less likely they are to be able to judge what the average user will experience.
To make matters worse, users are rarely giving a website their full attention and so often miss things that seem obvious.
That is why testing with users is such a crucial component of any redesign process. However, that testing should not stop when the website goes live. That is because we need to plan for the long-term success of our website.
It is important to remember that launching a redesigned website is the beginning of the journey, not the end.
A website is something that should be continually iterated upon, not redesigned every few years and abandoned.
I would encourage you to see your next redesign as the last and shift instead to a programme of continual iteration.
That means your website will be continually operating at peak efficiency, by refining it through a cycle of identifying weaknesses, prototyping solutions, testing those and then pushing them live.
A process of analysis, prototyping, testing and deploying will ensure your website improves over time.
As part of this process, take the time to build a solid foundation for future growth. Build a design system, rather than another redesign, invest in putting together a content style guide and put in place the best technology stack you can afford.
Of course, a big part of planning for the future is to assemble the right team.
More than anything else, the team working on the project will define the return on investment you can expect.
Not only will you need a robust in-house team for overseeing the project and producing content, but you will also need a team of third party specialists.
You will need marketing expertise to help with messaging and findability. You will also require developers for accessibility, and designers for usability.
Also, never underestimate the importance of having robust project management capability. All too often, a project fails because the client is overwhelmed, attempting to deal with multiple specialists all with different priorities.
Make sure your team has all of the skills you require to deliver all aspects of the redesign.
My advice is to ensure you find a relatively small agency with all of the skills you require. Avoid larger agencies where your work is "just another job". Instead, look for a team where you would be a big client for them. That way, you ensure you get their best work.
Another advantage of smaller teams is you know the team you meet is the team you are going to work with. The last thing you want is to be impressed by meeting their A team and then getting the B team working on your project.
I am aware that this may all seem overwhelming. So much to consider in an area that is by its nature complex. However, if you find a team you can trust and rely upon, they will guide you through the rest of the process, as well as help you grow the effectiveness of your website for years to come.