The 7 Stages of a Website (re)Design Project
Websites. Most businesses have them. But is yours serving its purpose?
Websites are of major importance when it comes to engaging potential customers and driving sales. In fact, a whopping 75% of judgements about a company’s credibility are based on its website's design (Web Credibility Research from Stanford).
If that’s not enough to convince you that your website should always be kept fresh, consider that 38% of users will stop engaging if they find a website’s content unattractive. (Adobe)
There are many adjustments - some minor and some more intensive - that can help to improve your website’s performance, making it work for you rather than against you.
In this article, we’re discussing the seven steps you can take to improve your website’s design. This post was inspired by recommendations from Siteimprove.
Step one: Definition and planning
Before making any rash decisions about your website, it’s important to consider exactly what you want to achieve. Get clear on why you want to adjust or redesign your website: how would you like it to function? What would peak performance look like?
When Moment undertook a recent total website redesign, for example, we wanted our site to rank for more relevant keywords, better encapsulate our brand offering and create an enhanced integration with our CRM software.
When planning changes, HubSpot suggests considering your website from a customer’s perspective: “…see if you can navigate the site well and find everything you want to find without encountering errors or long page load times.”
Keeping things relevant to your audience means consistently reviewing your website, ideally every two years at a minimum. As Huemor explains: “changing your site’s features to appeal to your clients’ needs and tastes will contribute to more traffic and conversions.”
However, Red Fern cautions that full-blown redesigns aren’t always necessary. Major changes need only occur when you want to improve: “...the overall look and feel of multiple pages within your website, the software that runs the website [or] the user experience.”
Step two: Select a content management system
A content management system (CMS) is “software that is used for creating, managing and editing a website even if you do not have any specialized technical skills or knowledge.” (Velocity Consultancy)
Essentially, it’s a platform, usually with templates or user-friendly features, that lets you build a website to your specifications without needing to write code.
There are dozens of content management systems to choose from, including popular options like CMS Hub from Hubspot, Squarespace, Wix, Shopify and Umbraco.
When you’re choosing a CMS, there are many factors to consider. Most of us don’t have specialised coding skills, and we don’t want to spend time building the functionality of our website from the ground up. WPBeginner recommends looking for easy-to-use CMS platforms that have: “a drag and drop interface, so you can add different elements on your pages.”
Considering the type of business you operate is a good place to start. If you run a physical product-based business, a CMS with strong eCommerce capabilities will be important, while service-based businesses often tend to rely on content marketing, where portfolio and blog-oriented CMSs are best.
If you’re unsure who to choose, speak with your developer or digital marketing agency who will be able to make recommendations catered to you.
Step three: Site structure and content review
Next, it’s time to consider how you’d like your website to function. How should users navigate through the website and what changes can you make to ensure that happens?
Creating a sitemap - a visual representation of your website’s structure - can help you to plot out your user’s journey. “In a broad sense”, says sitemap software company, Flowmapp, “the website structure is a treasure map in which the treasure is a product that you want to sell to a potential customer.”
Not only is site structure important to your customers; it’s also important to search engines.
“Search engines care about user experience. Rankings in the SERPs are connected to how easy a website is to use and navigate. All transitions between pages should be natural and any page should be accessible in no more than 3 clicks,” reveals SERanking.
Once your site’s structure has been agreed, you can begin to plan your content, including copy, calls to action and visual assets to guide your customer on their journey. When planning content, ‘useful’ is the key word. According to research from Stanford: “sites win credibility points by being both easy to use and useful.”
Step four: Visual design
Once you’ve determined how people will use your website, you can begin to plan how it will look. Working with a graphic designer or a marketing agency with graphic design capabilities is highly beneficial at this stage, as they will be able to keep your website in line with your branding, using type, graphics and imagery to illustrate complex ideas in ways that connect.
If in doubt, make sure your visual design is simple and compelling.
“Visual design should never impede usability. Instead, it should assist users, making their journey straightforward and pleasant,” says Moment’s Design Manager, Steph Stark.
Not sure what your website should look like? Compile a list of competitors’ websites and try to articulate what you like and dislike about their visual design. That should help you to refine your own site’s look and feel.
Step five: Site development
Now it’s time to start building your website. While many CMS platforms make it easy for practically anyone to create simple websites independently, it is always best to work with a developer or digital marketing agency if you want your website to perform to the highest standard.
When building your web pages, site speed should be a priority. That’s because site speed impacts both your SEO rankings and the sales or leads that your website can generate. Long page load times have been shown to impact conversion rates, with visitors much more likely to abandon your website the longer it takes for a page to load. (Forbes)
Consider, too, placing important information and calls to action higher up on web pages. According to Torque: “people spend 57 percent of their time above the fold with a sharp decline afterwards. 74 percent of their time is dedicated on the first two screenfuls.”
Step six: Testing
We’re almost there, but before you hit publish, put aside some time to review your website. Make sure everything is working as it should and that your assets and copy are error-free.
It’s a good idea to ask people who weren’t involved in the web redesign project to test the website before it goes live. Themeisle has a fantastic testing checklist to follow, which recommends testing everything from mobile-friendliness to social media integrations and site accessibility.
Step seven: Launch and assess
OK, all systems go: it’s time to launch. Once live, keep in mind the original purpose for your web design or redesign project and set key metrics to test against.
After launch, keep measuring what’s working and what isn’t. You can then use regular split testing to determine how further changes to your site improve its performance.
While a website redesign can be a time-consuming project, it’s well worth the effort. Refining your website can lead to better results and an overall improved business performance.