A well-executed website redesign can have an amazing impact on a company’s online brand and bottom line. But redesigning a website takes a lot more time and energy than many anticipate, especially to do it right and get the results you want.
If you’ve already determined that your company needs a new website, it’s important for you to thoroughly evaluate, plan and execute your website redesign project to avoid wasting valuable time and money. To help you with the planning process, we have compiled a list of 13 costly mistakes to avoid when redesigning your website.
A website redesign process should start with identifying the reason for the redesign, the problems you are trying to solve, the challenges you want to overcome and the ways in which you want your new website to be different from the one you have now. You should also identify the overarching goals of the redesign that will drive the process, as well as specific objectives that you’re trying to accomplish. At the end of the day, you should understand what success looks like and be able to convey that succinctly to your web design/development partner.
Many companies make the mistake of jumping into a website redesign without defining the specifics that will drive everything else in the process. However, it’s critical to the ultimate success of your website redesign to nail down the scope before getting started. Halfway through a redesign project is not the time to dramatically change course or adjust the scope. And in order to obtain an accurate proposal estimate from an agency, they’ll have to know what they’re building before they can tell you what it’s going to cost. Think through what you want your new website to look like, how you want it to function, what features and functionality it should have and how/if it will interact with other systems.
It’s tempting to rush through the redesign process rather than committing the time and resources needed to make sure the website is strategically and meticulously planned. So avoid this mistake by committing upfront time and resources for planning and strategy including:
• Evaluating your current website analytics
• Understanding your target audience
• Assessing the competition
• Auditing your website content
• Taking inventory of your website assets (images, files, videos, pages, etc.)
• Identifying tactics for achieving your website goals
• Focusing on content strategy and content creation
• Developing an effective website redesign RFP
A website redesign can be a long and tedious process, but jumping in without a plan could make your redesign efforts futile.
If it’s been 5 or more years since your last website redesign, don’t expect to budget what you did last time—especially since you’re likely expecting more from your redesign. Where an online brochure was once sufficient, today many clients are looking to build much more sophisticated websites and web applications that feature advanced and custom functionality.
With the advent of things like responsive design (see #9) and content management systems (see #5), coupled with the growing expectations of user experience and overall website functionality, websites cost more than they used to—at least custom websites. And often, inspiration for features and functionality are drawn from websites of big brands with massive design and development budgets. The point is you can’t expect to build the Taj Mahal on a budget better suited for a starter home.
Along the lines of setting a sufficient budget, unless you are a very small business or non-profit with little to no resources, you should be investing in custom design and development. As tempting as it may be to go with the cheapest route (e.g. SquareSpace, prebuilt WordPress premium themes, etc.), these products are built for the masses and are incredibly limiting to what your able to do, both on the front-end and the back-end. Aside from the fact that there may be thousands of other, similar companies using the same exact theme, these template options are not designed around your specific content (see #7) and often lack the uniqueness and functionality that you desire. And while the cheapest option might temporarily solve an immediate need, they are rarely a sufficient long-term solution.
The truth is, your new website is only going to be as good as the firm you hire to design and build it. Websites are arguably the greatest marketing asset that a company possesses, so selecting a partner that lacks expertise in your industry in addition to proper design and technical abilities, can be a costly mistake. Developing the right kind of website redesign RFP (or at least identifying project scope and agency selection criteria upfront) plays a big role in a successful selection. And once you’ve narrowed down your options, it’s important when interviewing potential partners to ask the right questions to help you identify what agency to partner with.
To design and build a custom website the right way takes time. And one of the biggest mistakes you can make with your redesign is to try to force an unrealistic timeline on the project. When thinking about a launch date, clients often don’t take into account everything that will be required on their part to cross the finish line.
In addition to developing and delivering content on schedule (see #9), design can often be an iterative process, with multiple rounds of edits and delays in approvals. While this is all a normal part of the redesign process, it’s important for your redesign partner to know the approval process ahead of time so they can give you a realistic schedule. The desire for a new website shouldn’t trump the necessity of getting it right. While launch dates do matter, be sure to set a timeline that is realistic and allows room for flexibility.
Website redesign by committee is likely to be a recipe for disaster, not only for your agency partner, but also for the end product. The committee approach, which is intended to give the process proper input from a cross-section of stakeholders, often leads to a website design that is a mash-up of many different ideas and personal preferences.
Stakeholder’s input is critical to the planning process and in determining strategic goals for the website. However, the design and development phases should be limited to as few people as necessary. By having a smaller number of people involved during these phases, it helps ensure that the website will be built strategically with industry best practices and the end-user in mind—not the personal preferences of internal stakeholders.
Designing a website before determining what content is essential is a mistake that can offset strategy and waste time and money. As tempting as it may be to start with design first and figure out the content later, you should adopt a content-first approach to redesigning your website. This approach underscores the importance of content strategy, site architecture and developing persona-focused content at the beginning of the redesign process, not the end. Content is after all the reason visitors come to your website, and the purpose of web design is to present content in a meaningful and user-friendly way (while setting your brand apart and looking good in the process). So design around content, don’t create content for the design.
In the past, websites that weren’t ecommerce oriented (especially B2B services companies) functioned primarily as online brochures, not revenue generators. But today, a website should be a platform for business development and thought leadership. Because the goal of your new website isn’t to simply attract visitors; the goal should be to establish credibility, build thought leadership, convert unknown visitors into identified leads and nurture identified leads throughout the entire buyer’s journey. This requires using the right website building blocks and a shift in thinking—not just in design and development, but also in strategy and content. Regardless of your business or industry, content marketing and lead generation should be considerations in your redesign.
Building a website that works well on nearly every device is critical in our multi-screen world. Responsive design provides a viable solution and has become price-of-entry for new websites. Effective responsive design requires careful planning, testing and adapting throughout both design and development. And while responsive design is a wise investment, it does require a larger budget (see #3) due to the additional planning, design, development and testing that is needed to ensure a consistent and optimized user experience on every device. A responsive website will help your company meet the growing demands of mobile visitors and provide a good user experience for all of your prospects and clients.
While the bulk of the work has been completed, failing to complete critical testing and last-minute tasks before launch can leave a stain on an otherwise flawless redesign project. Before your new website launches, it needs to be tested extensively and many last-minute things need to be completed and double-checked. Some of these include (but are not limited to):
You can’t have a “launch it and forget it” attitude when it comes to your new website. As with any marketing strategy, your website should be constantly measured and refined for optimal performance. Even the best websites that seemed perfect upon launch need to be improved along the way. Technology, web standards, search algorithms, best practices and even your company are constantly changing over time. This requires ongoing improvements to your website on a regular basis, so be sure to allocate some of your annual budget to your website every year. Your website should be viewed as an investment, not a line item expense.
A website redesign is a big investment of both your company’s time and dollars, so it’s important to approach it in the right way and avoid costly mistakes along the way. While there are other mistakes to avoid in a redesign project, these seem to rise to the top of the list.