August 19, 2010

Time for a Redesign?


Hostway Team

By Joanna Fletcher

Your website is your public face, your storefront to the world. Just like a store, you need to change the window displays regularly for new products, new seasons and promotions. But how do you decide when it's time to give the whole website a fresh new look?

Changing Copy

The value of updating the copy and pictures on your website as you go along is clear — it helps you keep customer's interest, new customers make the connection through different searches, and it makes sense for search engines to rank you higher. Anyone who is blogging or using social media tools like HootSuite will notice the uptick in their stats.

Decision Points

If you need to react to a major change in your business or the economy, you will need a redesign. But what other factors should be considered? All those regular updates and additions can make your website expand fast, making more difficult to find information. A great reason to redesign is to make navigating through all your content easier and to add a search function. Another major reason is to make that content easier for search engines to crawl, index and return to potential customers' searches.

Fixing Problems

Anything that currently annoys or loses visitors, as shown in your Web site's statistics, needs fixing and fast. Similarly, if it is simply not living up to your expectations for your business, plunge in. But if you are just bored with your site, or it is not giving you the results you want, consider small incremental changes instead of a redesign.

Making the Leap

A good redesign does proceed slowly, with small changes designed, tested, going live and optimized one at a time to protect the user experience throughout the process. Done properly, with attention to SEO and cleaning up the old site with redirects, a redesign is a huge amount of work. The budget and time required almost always exceeds projections, so time spent on planning and research upfront will definitely pay off. Spend plenty of time watching people interact with your website. What makes them sing, sigh or swear? Let the redesign improve the user experience by first finding out what the customer actually does, then asking them what else they might like to see.

Working on the Vision

What would you like your customers to be able to do on your website in 5 or 10 year's time? Dream up the ultimate whiz-bang experience for those future purchasers, and then take a look at the gap between what you have now and what you want. If that gap is large, it's time to get started. You should ensure that every action you take brings that long-distance dream a step closer. Learning how to do the work yourself, or training your staff to do so, means that you have the in-house knowledge you need to make those tiny changes that will keep your website fresh and relevant for years to come.

About the Author

Joanna Fletcher is a netizen who has lived, worked, and played online for most of her adult life. Her entrepreneurial flair is topped only by her tolerance for failure.

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