I'm sick of looking at you, website. We started off well. You were a major improvement over my last website. But the thing is, you're just not working for me anymore. It's not your fault. The truth is, things have changed -- I've changed. My businesses needs and you are just not compatible anymore. It's time I start anew. You understand ... don't you?
On average, we marketers redesign our websites every 18-24 months. Our reasons vary -- from building a better customer experience, to reflecting a new corporate brand strategy. Regardless of the reason, we're a constantly iterating breed.
The good news is there's a ton of content out there to help you make the right decisions for your website redesign. However, that's also the bad news.
With so much advice and content on redesigns, it can be hard to filter through it all to get to the best resources. Because I like you guys (and because we’ve gone through our fair share of redesigns ourselves), I’ve compiled a handful of top-notch resources for your next redesign.
Deciding on a Redesign
Make sure you're not redesigning for the wrong reasons.
I mentioned that marketers redesign their sites every two years on average -- I didn’t say that every one of those redesigns is a good idea, though. This post by my colleague Jess Meher gives some common red flags that indicate you may be redesigning when you don’t need to.
Scope out the project correctly.
Website redesigns can take several months, but you are traveling a well-trodden path. Why not borrow the road maps of those who came before you? The following two resources should give you a good head start when it comes to scoping out your redesign project:
- Working with a designer? Inbound Marketing Agency Lynton Web has mapped out the 5 Phases of an Inbound Website Redesign.
- Doing it on your own? HubSpot’s got a Website Redesign Planning and Progress Kit that includes a spreadsheet to help you map out milestones, goals, benchmarks, and more. We've used this spreadsheet in our own designs to help us stay on track.
Identifying Benchmarks and Goals
Website redesigns are filled with subjective measures. While gut reactions are worth listening to, the only way to really know if your redesign is working is to identify some benchmarks and set some goals.
The effectiveness of your website can be measured by everything from bounce rate to conversions. To decide what works for you ...
Take a primer on marketing analytics.
There’s a lot to cover in analytics. Should you track visits or unique visits? What’s the right balance of new vs. returning visitors? How do the rest of your marketing analytics fit into your website analytics? This 85-page guide covers the full gamut of marketing analytics, but pages 5-22 are all you need for your website redesign.
Set up goals in Google Analytics.
Google Analytics is the de facto free analytics program out there, but it changes quite often, so some of the content you may find out there is slightly outdated. This helpful post on Steamfeed, however, was published in September 2013 and gives step-by-step instructions on setting up your goals in Google.
Compare the two types of analytics.
Your website is not an island. As part of your redesign you should consider how website analytics fit into your larger marketing strategy. This post by fellow HubSpotter Pamela Vaughn explains the differences between website analytics and marketing analytics and guides you on what to measure for each.
Preserving Your SEO
In 2009, Toys R Us paid $5.1 million to buy the Toys.com domain name, in an effort to scoop up the SEO benefit of having such a prominent keyword in their domain. So essentially, that's $5.1 million the company spent to top the search charts.
In a great error, however -- that honestly could've happened to almost anyone -- Toys R Us forwarded the entire domain of Toys.com to ToysRUs.com without using 301 redirects, and, in turn, Google de-indexed all of the Toys.com pages. It’s a fascinating story in and of itself, and one you can read about here.
The lesson here? Be sure you preserve your SEO whenever going through a redesign. Here are a few more useful resources to help you make sure SEO is top of mind in your redesign.
Learn the different types of redirects.
There are a handful of different types of redirects you can use if you’re moving your pages from one web address to another. Search Engine People and Moz both have useful posts on the differences between these redirects. Search Engine People's post is a bit more straightforward while the one by Moz is a bit more comprehensive.
Discover other SEO strategies.
There’s more to SEO than just the redirect. A website redesign offers you an opportunity to map out your content to really rank for certain keywords. Search Engine Land has a helpful post about building a keyword strategy in the context of a larger website redesign.
Use an on-page SEO template.
When you’re ready, HubSpot has a free on-page SEO planning template you can use to track all of your work and ensure all of your loose ends are tied down for the redesign.
Planning Your Design and Content
Optimize your site for mobile.
Mobile optimization is an essential part of creating an excellent visitor experience, driving conversions, and even ranking on search engine results. Make sure that any redesign includes a plan for mobile optimization. You can see how your current site looks on mobile devices here and learn the differences between mobile approaches here.
Carefully plan your design.
There is plenty of great advice out there on website design. Probably the most comprehensive is this post by Smashing Magazine, which covers everything from about-us pages, to 404s, to breadcrumbs, to calls-to-action. Some other great resources you can check out:
- Get inspired by looking at different homepage examples.
- Get scientific (sort of) through KISSmetrics' Anatomy of an Effective Homepage Infographic.
- Understand your essential homepage elements.
- Learn why you don't have to worry about the infamous website "fold" in this KISSMetrics post.
Write your content.
Words matter. A beautiful design and compelling words work together to make your site memorable and deliver your company's unique value. I scoured the web to find some practical advice on moving your web copy from good to great.
- Get an overview of writing for web: This quick course in copywriting by Smashing Magazine is a nice primer in some of the concepts behind good copywriting.
- Don't make it all about you: This Unbounce post explains some of the common pitfalls of company-centric website copy. Make a clear case for the problem that your company will solve for customers.
- Determine your value proposition: Different than a slogan or a tagline, your value proposition explains to prospective customers how your company will advance their goals. This post will walk you through a few steps to identify and communicate your value proposition.
Choosing a Content Management System
A website redesign is probably the best timing for assessing your current content management system and trying to decide if you are happy or want to move to a different platform. You're starting over from scratch, so you have the opportunity to consider all the facets of the way you market online.
To determine the best platform for you, think about your core needs. Would it be better for all of your marketing tools to be integrated into one platform or are you ok with separate tools? Is mobile optimization important to you? Do you have a designer to work on your site or need pre-made templates?
One of the best ways to get to know the different platforms available is to take a look at review sites. There are a number of review sites around, but a few newer sites are doing a good job with crowd-sourcing reviews from actual users. Take a look at TrustRadius or G2Crowd to compare vendors. If Salesforce integration is important to you, you'll also want to check out the reviews on its app exchange.
Of course, we're happy to talk with you about HubSpot's content optimization system to help you determine if it's a fit for your redesign.
Got any tips on how to create a fully optimized website? Share your thoughts below in the comments!