8 Things To Consider When Redesigning Your Website
Every time you look at your website you wince. It was built for a screen resolution more suited to Friends Reunited than Facebook. You can only see the top corner of the homepage on your phone screen. Your business has moved on and your website is so full of holes it would reflect badly on you — if only anyone could find it in Google.
Yes, you need a new website. So where do you start?
It can seem like — ok lets face it, it is — a mammoth task to restructure and rebuild a company website, but the process is clear enough if you build around your audience, their pain points and your solutions.
Here's a process to help you plan your restructure to ensure you have the information you need to inform every content decision you make.
1. Set Your Goal
Without a goal you've nothing to aim for, and without anything to aim for, you don't know whether what you did (or spent) to get there was worth it. The first task then, when restructuring or rebuilding a website, is to define your goals.
Common online goals include:
- Growing traffic
- Increasing the number of leads
- Increasing online sales
In reality though, there is only one goal, one reason to spend any money on your website or any kind of marketing, and that's to grow your business. The first task, then, is to set yourself a reasonable, achievable business growth target.
Then break it down to the specific elements that will help you meet your goal — what it will it take to grow your particular business? For some it's as simple as selling more stuff or getting more people to book onto your courses. If you provide a more complex service, you may have goals to remove or automate the tasks you don't like, as well as increasing the amount of business you do with the right kind of customer.
Lastly work out the role your website plays in helping you achieve those goals. For example, if you're wasting time preparing quotes for people who balk at your prices, you could publish a price list on your site, or aim for a more high-end visual experience. If your books aren't selling, watch as your friends find and order them in your own mini usability test. Is anything broken or difficult to find?
2. Define Success
To carry out any kind of measurement you need a baseline from which to measure the uplift, and a way to link any increase in sales or profits back to the changes you made.
You may need to put in place processes that will enable you to track the effect your website has on your business. For example, do you record how every customer found out about you? You may feel you spend a lot of time writing up quotes you never hear back on, but do you actually track wasted hours?
3. Know Thyself (And Your Brand)
Next, make sure you know who you are and what is special about the way you deliver it. This is vital to presenting a coherent and consistent message about the true essence of you to your customers.
If you don't have a core message already, read my post on branding for small businesses to find out why a brand is essential, how you can achieve one and how it feeds into your site.
4. Know Your Audience
A functional, practical website is a perfect combination of visual impact and information that caters precisely to its audience's needs.
Start by making a list of all the different types of people who might come to your website:
- A ‘stakeholder' is anyone with an interest in your business. For example, a charity's stakeholders are fundraisers, shareholders, donors and advice seekers. A small online shop's stakeholders are its customers and suppliers.
- A ‘persona" is a complete picture of a hypothetical stakeholder. For example, the online shop might have three obvious types of customer, each of whom you can flesh out into an imaginary person with a name and a few interests and habits.
Once you've defined the stakeholders, see if each naturally falls into one, two or three personas. It's ok to generalise here — aim for five or six personas in total.
Draw pictures (or find photos online) to represent your personas, give them names and get to know them. They need to be realistic enough that you can empathise with their challenges and understand exactly what they need from you.
5. Walk in their Shoes
It's tempting when you talk about your business to describe it; to talk about your expertise, your years of experience, and to wax touchy feely about how much you love doing what you do. But people really only need to know what you mean to them. What problems do you solve and what beauty do you leave in your wake?
This is why personas are essential to the design of your website; they enable you to put yourself in your audience's shoes so you can create a picture of how they might find you, feel an affinity with your brand, journey through your website and leave fulfilled.
For each persona, write a storyboard of the steps they take before, during and after they arrive on your website.
6. Build a Content Map
Now it's time to take your persona journeys and your content audit and translate them into a new content map.
Follow each persona through their entire journey. Determine what they want to know at every step and make sure the answers to their questions are clearly signposted.
Some of these journeys are, rightly so, quick — a great big ‘Renew your contract' button on the homepage will keep your regular customers happy. Other journeys are longer, taking different customer personas through the buying process or walking them through detailed health advice. You may find you'll need to write new pages about how you or your products make life easier, blog posts of advice and opinions, and thought leadership posts to fire up a passion for you and your business.
Some use spreadsheets to document the map, but a small site only needs a bunch of post-its or a whiteboard.
At the end of this step you'll know which categories and links you need to surface on your homepage and how your content should be structured.
7. Audit Your Existing Content
It's likely you've already got much of the content you'll need for your new site, but you might need to bring it up to date and plug the gaps. A content audit is a chance to document what you already have — usually in a spreadsheet.
An audit is always a useful exercise, whether or not you're carrying out a full redesign. You might find forgotten content, duplicate pages, or out-of-date references to old products and business practices.
Reviewing your existing content will help you to spot relationships between pieces of information, and continue to build the content map.
8. Only After You've Done All That, Design It
Modern homepage designs often seek to sum up the core brand message, the function of the business and the target audience with a large and stunning image overlaid with a few choice words. If you have one purpose, a clear value proposition and few stakeholders, this approach is very effective. Fauvé and Escape Committee are great examples.
If this looks over simple, think about it this way. Our brains absorb words one at a time. If you fill your homepage with too many words, you'll overload brains. Pictures are absorbed all in one go, so represent yourself
More complex businesses can provide something for every stakeholder on the homepage, without muddying the design. Anglo American is a huge global corporation with a lot of stakeholders to please. Their homepage achieves a clean, inspiring look, while catering to every need. Hubspot keeps things clear and simple, while clearly signposting what it can do for its diverse audience.
Once you have a new design, usability testing is important to make sure no one has been left out, the structure makes sense, and everyone in your audience can find their way to the information relevant to them.
Redesigning your website isn't a task to take lightly. Your site is a valuable business development tool that builds confidence and trust in your brand. As your company grows, your website will provide ways to generate leads, convert them to sales, and streamline your business model and internal processes.
There's no magic to making a website that works. Your brand, business plan and customers define the information it should include and how that information should be presented. Carefully follow the steps outlined above and let your new website design itself.