A website doesn’t stay relevant forever. Design trends change along with functionality requirements. Therefore, redesign is a healthy part of a site’s lifecycle.
The opportunity is more than a fresh coat of paint to an old website, however. It is also an opportunity to evaluate success and strategy. Stakeholders can take a deep look at what worked and what didn’t with the previous version.
And if big decisions need to be made, now is the ideal time to do so. After all, you’re probably knee-deep in code and graphics. You could also discuss the most important issues with your clients.
A website redesign can be just the thing to create organizational momentum – the kind that extends beyond an online presence. But it requires some critical thinking skills and well-defined goals.
Here are some tips to find out where you (or your client) stand and create a plan for where you want to go.
See the Good and the Bad of Your Current Website
The odds are that the current version of your website does some good things. Maybe the typography is easy to read, or you’ve added unique custom features.
Whatever the case, list those positives as things you want to carry over (if not further improved). This will help ensure they don’t get lost in the shuffle while you work on a redesign.
Just as likely, there will be some negatives. For example, an older website may look outdated. There may also be a lack of modern accessibility and responsiveness best practices.
Additionally, depending on your site’s niche, there may be some other features to review. User data, e-commerce sales, and content are possibilities.
Analytics can be a great tool to determine your site’s success and areas of need. It can also fill you in on how users are finding and viewing your site. This can be a big help when considering a redesign.
Have Your Needs Changed?
The new look is only part of the potential impact of the redesign. In this way, you may see the need for new functionality (or a refactoring of old).
The challenge here is twofold. First, you’ll want to map out the process for adding this functionality. That could be as simple as buying a piece of software or subscribing to a SaaS (software-as-a-service) provider.
But it may also involve writing a lot of code yourself or hiring a developer to help you. All of this must be factored into the project’s timeline and budget.
Second, any new features or apps can affect your web hosting situation. You may need more processing power or storage to keep things running smoothly. And it’s much more convenient to tackle this during a redesign than after launch.
If a change is required, ideally this will allow you to collect everything you need in a development environment. You will be free to work in the background without disturbing the live site. Plus, there’s peace of mind knowing your new setup will have enough horsepower to handle whatever you throw at it.
Prioritize User Experience, Performance and Accessibility
Even if your current website is only a few years old, user expectations have probably changed. Not to mention that best practices have also evolved.
Each iteration of your website should incorporate the latest standards and expectations. That means refocusing on user experience (UX), performance and accessibility.
It sounds simple. But it’s also more challenging than you might think.
That’s because a redesigned website often carries the technical debt of its predecessors. Certain parts of the buildings usually come before that for the tour. And they could pull down these key areas of your new site.
Consider a feature that requires user input – like a search UI. It may have worked quite well in its lifetime, but it is very difficult when compared to the latest techniques. And it may not be easily launched with a keyboard, making the process more difficult for disabled users.
Existing content and features should be revisited and judged against current best practice. This will ensure they keep up with the rest of your shiny new website.
Putting It Together
Now that you’ve reviewed your current website and understand your needs, it’s time to create a list of goals!
Thankfully, there’s a lot of flexibility here. Your goals can be as broad or as narrow as you like. And a lot of it will depend on your organization and the type of website.
An e-commerce site may try to increase sales by a certain percentage. Or a content-oriented site might hope to increase clicks on featured articles. Meanwhile, a free portfolio may want to optimize load times.
Each goal can be customized to meet your needs. But it is still important to list them. This will provide a basis for comparing them and measuring results later.
Additionally, taking the time to list goals keeps them at the forefront of your mind. It’s something you can refer to during the redesign process. Therefore, you are more likely to implement them in the finished product.
Redesign is an Opportunity for Change
All told, a website redesign is an opportunity to create positive change. It’s an opportunity to build something that looks and performs better. And it can also help you keep up with the latest trends and best practices.
That’s why it’s crucial to look beyond the cosmetic aspects of the project. Take the time to study how things work and their impact on the user experience. From there, determine the best ways to improve and compose. And when it comes to goals, be accountable.
You will probably have to live with the results for several years. So, it pays to take full advantage of the opportunity while you have it.