Redesigns give your business a shot at becoming a better, more recognized brand. Just like a physical space, you want your website to be updated and well-kept. If you had a brick and mortar location, you wouldn’t want be okay with peeling wallpaper or scratched hardwood floors. You’d need it took as best as possible for every person that walks through your door. Similarly, your website should deliver a great first impression.
There are plenty of reasons you might want a redesign. Maybe it’s just outdated and you want to keep in line with current web design trends. Maybe your website isn’t currently mobile responsive, which is necessary for today’s businesses. Or perhaps you want to re-align your marketing goals, or enhance the buyer journey. Regardless of your reasoning, overall, you want your redesign to reflect a better user experience, give off a professional appearance, and drive traffic and conversions. So without further ado, here are three important rules you should be following during a website redesign.
Staging Your Website
When you’re working on a website redesign, one of the most crucial things to do is to set up a staging website. A staging site is essentially a clone of your live site. It looks and functions just like your regular website, and its sole purpose is to serve as a testing ground for your redesign efforts. With a staging environment, you’re free to see how every change and design upgrade appears live.
It also enables you to test out new features without compromising the code integrity of the site. For example, if you wanted to try out a handful of awesome new plugins, you might find out that they conflict with another and cause bugs on your webpages. It’s best that you discover these ailments before your site visitors do. One of the easiest ways to set up a staged website is to contact your hosting provider to help arrange it.
Know What Your Target Audience Is Looking For
If you’re going all the way with your redesign, you need to have all your cards in order. What wasn’t working for your visitors before, and what will work? These are questions you have to ask. When you can best gauge what your target audience actually wants out of the user experience, you can ensure that your website redesign will actually convert better.
One way to achieve this is by putting out a survey to collect information from your customers and subscribers. You can also send out a survey immediately following your redesign launch to get feedback. You can use this feedback to make quick changes, without having to wait years down the line for your next major design overhaul.
Before you start planning your design, you should also add a heat map to your webpages. Heat maps show you what areas of your website are actually capturing users. This can reveal plenty about how valuable certain areas of your site are. For example, if you have critical information on a lower paragraph that most people aren’t reading, you’ll understand that this is something that needs to be moved. Similarly, if you notice that a sidebar is getting a lot of attention, you know this is a section that’s working, and you can leverage it to your benefit by adding important marketing features, like an email opt-in form.
Lastly, use your Google Analytics or (or whatever analytics tool you prefer) to learn more about your page performance. Keep an eye out for which pages get the most traffic, which are converting, which have the highest and lowest engagement, etc. Go through every piece of your sitemap, and use it as a guide to determine what’s going, what’s staying, and what’s merging.
Another way to gather important data is by using a deep crawling tool like Screaming Frog. Conducting a crawl will reveal pivotal information, such as which pages are getting the most valuable inbound links.
Evaluate Which Pages Should Be Migrated
Before you start your redesign, it’s time to evaluate which pages will be migrated. With every redesign, there’s a lot going on: you’re trying to decide which pages you want to keep, which you’re combining, and which you’re migrating. These decisions should be based on all the data you found as you evaluated your analytics, heat maps, and other metrics, as previously mentioned.
One thing to keep in mind during the migration process is your SEO.You don’t want to lose your ranking or your traffic, which is why careful movements are necessary. Ideally, you’d keep all URLs in order, but with so many moving parts, certain addresses are bound to take a hit. Inbound links are very valuable in SEO, and when you get rid of a link, the Web has a hard time accounting for a piece that a web presence that disappeared.
For all pages that are being deleted, a 301 redirect is critical. Although they don’t carry the same weight as a direct inbound link in SEO terms, it’s still the best way to go, and certainly much more important than a 404 error page.
Based on your data, you can see which pages are most important and carry the most SEO value. These are the pages you want to keep when it comes to copy and back-end structure, even if the front-end design is completely revamped.