Fame Foundry - A Charlotte Website Design and Marketing Firm

Friday, 1st February, 2013 | By Jeremy Girard | Category: Website Design and Development

Right from the Start: The Secrets to a Successful Website Redesign

redesign-article

Your website should be your number one salesman 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But if your site has lost its luster and isn’t performing as it should, a redesign might be just the right prescription to boost its ability to capture and convert new leads.

Redesign your website is an exciting prospect filled with so many possibilities. It is, quite literally, the dawn of a new day for your company’s web presence, but how and where do you start?

Here’s a website redesign road map that will put you on the track to success right from the start.

Start with your “wish list.”

Naturally, when you’re embarking on a website redesign project, your first inclination is to make an exhaustive list of all the features and functionality you want to incorporate in the new site.

Having a wish list is helpful, but clinging insistently to executing every single one of those items can be a recipe for a budget-busting project.

Go ahead and create your wish list, but once you’re done, the next step in the process is to put on your editor’s hat. Strike through every single feature that is not essential to success. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive in your editing. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Keep only the mission-critical features that will create a better, more value-packed user experience. Shed the “nice-to-have” features that will appeal to only a very small sub‐segment of your audience or that represent a personal “pet project.” These will only clutter your site and make it harder for the majority of your customers to find what they need quickly and easily.

If you can maintain a critical, objective eye through this editing process, your wish list will be substantially reduced, and you will have a much more solid foundation for a successful project.

Fight the “now-or-never” mentality.

One of the obstacles you’ll face when trying to pare down your wish list is the thinking that if you don’t do something now, you won’t get the chance to do it again in the near future. After all, how often do you redesign your website?

Instead, take a phase-based approach to the project. With your long-term goals and objectives in mind, decide what you must have now and what can wait until your company and your customers’ needs have reached the next plateau.

By mapping out anticipated future iterations and additions at the outset, you can make sure that your new site is built with the underpinnings it needs to support later growth and expansion.

Also, by breaking your redesign project into phases, you can launch the first version more quickly and without blowing your entire budget. This will give you time to gather feedback on the site and shape your future development plans accordingly.

The responses you receive from your customers after your new site launches may reinforce your decision to shed certain unnecessary features, or you may discover that they’re asking for another feature you had not previously considered. By breaking your project into smaller phases, you can take action on this valuable feedback quickly, instead of waiting until the next big redesign project. In this way, you can show your customers that you’re listening to them and that you care deeply about what they have to say – a great way to continue to build customer loyalty.

So now that you have your wish list and your phase-based approach nailed down, what’s next? It’s time for the big “d” – design.

Never cut corners on design.

Many redesign projects center around the need for a new look and feel for the website. Maybe your site’s current design isn’t a good reflection of your brand, or perhaps your company has simply outgrown a site that was launched early on in its history. Or you may just feel that your site is tired and outdated and in desperate need of modernization.

Regardless of the reasons driving your redesign, creating a Class-A look and feel with a user experience to match is a critical, yet often undervalued, piece of your website redevelopment project.

Adding new features or functionality will be pointless if the look of the site or the experience it creates is not up to par. Success starts with great design, and quality design should never take a backseat to fancy bells and whistles.

Consider this scenario: Let’s say you have a website with an outdated look that’s lacking the helpful features your customers want. If you were to update it with a strong modernized design but include none of those new features, you would still realize some measure of success. You’d have an attractive new design and a quality user experience, and that alone is an improvement that you can then build upon in later phases. If, however, you go the opposite route by trying to shoehorn new features into a bad existing design, your site will still suffer from that outdated look and poor user experience, and your investment will be for naught.

Great features supported by bad design have a very steep hill to climb. By investing in good design early on, you’ll ensure that all future investment in the website – when you do add those extra features – will have the best chance for success instead of being forced to fight a losing battle against a poorly designed user interface.

Design with the future in mind.

Deploying a website that is streamlined, efficient and customer-focused is a great start. But the feedback you receive after launch and the desire to continually improve the site will ultimately drive what comes next – those subsequent phases that you have already planned for. To this end, you will need to make sure that the new design and platform will support future growth.

As you edit aggressively early on in this process, you should also continually ask yourself if the plans that you’re making will scale appropriately. How will the site grow with your company over the next 6 months? How about the next 12 or 24 months? How will this mesh with the future phases you have planned as well as the unexpected feedback you may get along the way?

Whether you are hiring a web development firm for your redesign project or are working with an in‐house team, ask them about the technologies that are being used on the new site, from HTML5 to CSS3 to responsive design to the content management system (CMS), and think about how those technologies will work for you today and tomorrow. When it comes to the foundation behind the scenes, never make a choice to save money in the short term that isn’t the best choice for the long term, or else you’ll ultimately end up shelling out a lot more money over time.

A successful website redesign project can start small and focused on critical elements, but to achieve long-term success, that streamlined approach must allow for future scalability so your website will grow with your company, evolve along with emerging technologies and continue to fuel your success.

Take the plunge.

There are many different ways to get from point A to point B when building a website, but regardless of the process you and your team follow, the fundamental principal of starting small and focused on critical elements for success and adding improvements over time is one that will never steer you wrong. Instead of trying to do everything at once, taking this approach will allow you to launch a new website that is a visual and functional improvement without getting bogged down by “nice-to-have” features that will ultimately add very little value but potentially cause very big headaches.

A great design bolstered by key usability features and an eye towards future growth and scalability are the keys to creating a website that will serve as a catalyst for the growth of your business today, tomorrow and beyond.

Jeremy Girard
Jeremy Girard has been designing for the web since 1999. He is currently employed at the Providence, Rhode Island-based firm Envision Technology Advisors and also teaches website design and front-end development at the University of Rhode Island. In addition, Jeremy contributes regularly to a number of websites and magazines focused on business and the Web, including his personal site at Pumpkin-King.com.