We recently went into detail about all the reasons you might need a website redesign. Here’s the TL;DR:
User preferences, CMS capabilities, and Google’s definition of a what makes a website good have all changed dramatically in a short period of time.
Now, staying competitive on digital channels requires a website that looks great on mobile, can be maintained by marketers, and that loads faster than you can say “core web vitals.”
For all these reasons, we saw an explosion in requests for website redesigns in 2021.
In 2022, we’re seeing an uptick in another kind of request. Stuff like: We tried updating our website, but the project is a mess. Can you take over?
What’s going on?
Why website redesign projects fail
Look, website redesigns are hard. There’s a reason most brands hire an agency to do the heavy lifting. Even using the best available CMS, it’s going to take months of work and a lot of experience to pull it off.
Unfortunately, decision-makers don’t always want to believe it. They see their year-over-year traffic dropping and say “I want a new website and I want it now!”
So they decide to take shortcuts. Maybe they decide to “update” the existing website without actually changing the structure or content. Maybe they try to redesign the site in phases, making quick changes that don’t fall into a larger strategy.
There are all kinds of reasons a website project can go sour, but the most common is trying to update a website without a strategic project plan.
At Salted Stone, we’re experts in planning and executing website projects. In this article, we’ll talk about the key questions you need to answer before you lift a finger on your redesign.
What do your customers need from your website?
This is one of the first things we talk about in every website roadmapping workshop. People are coming to your website for a reason — if you can name those reasons, then you can build a website that lets them accomplish their goals without experiencing friction.
The framework we use to answer this question is called jobs-to-be-done. Common jobs for website users include:
- Find an answer to a specific question
- Shop for a product or service
- Find pricing information
- Learn about a topic
- Get contact information
- Explore career opportunities
How do we uncover these jobs? The gold standard is to simply ask your customers, whether in interviews or through feedback surveys. But we can also infer jobs-to-be-done by analyzing traffic patterns on the existing website, and by talking with salespeople, support professionals, and other stakeholders.
Once we understand the jobs-to-be-done, we can plan the website around them.
For example, in thinking about website navigation, we’ll place the links that correspond to the most important jobs in the far left position, where they’re most likely to be clicked. And on the homepage, we’ll put answers to the most important questions above the fold.
Everybody's got a job to do.
What does your business need from your website?
Why do you have a website in the first place?
Is it to educate consumers? Expand your contacts list? Drive sales? Gather data? Support existing customers? Provide self-service options?
You could probably list a dozen things you need your website to do. The trick is putting these needs in priority order.
Sure, a carefully planned website can do everything — it just can’t do everything all the time. And since your prime real estate is limited (think: main navigation, homepage, primary CTAs), you need to be able to decide what’s most important to the business.
In our website redesign project plans, every decision from the buttons in your hero headers to the links in your footer supports these goals.
Which CMS will you use?
You might think of choosing a content management system (CMS) as a business exercise. Lots of companies pick a CMS first before they start any of the other strategic planning for their new website.
Without a strategic plan, this can get you into trouble. Often, marketers find themselves halfway through a project, trying to jury-rig a CMS into accomplishing something it wasn’t designed for.
Different CMSs are built for different things. You might choose HubSpot for its smart content functionality and easy integration with your CRM, or WordPress for its endless customizability. Maybe you need multiple CMSs to handle different functionalities, like ecommerce or customer support.
How do we make these decisions? By understanding your users’ jobs-to-be-done and the business goals of your website. In other words, by starting with a website redesign project plan.
What about SEO?
With great page rank comes great responsibility. If your website ranks for keywords and is getting traffic from organic search, you need to be extremely careful when you do a website redesign.
This is where going into a website project without a plan goes from foolish to disastrous. There are key things you need to preserve in order to maintain SEO, and once you lose it, you usually can’t go back.
Some things you’ll need to consider:
- URLs and redirects
- Page copy
- Title tags and meta descriptions
- H1s, H2s, and structured data
Without researching your SEO and factoring your findings into your strategic plan, you’re likely to end up with a website that performs worse than it did before the redesign. Yikes.
Note: It’s normal to see some ranking changes after you launch a redesigned website. But if you plan ahead and keep SEO in mind, you’re more likely to rebound quickly.
How to make a website redesign project plan
At Salted Stone, we always start our website projects with a separate planning phase. We call it website roadmapping. This process was developed by analyzing hundreds of completed web projects to uncover the most important questions we need to ask before getting started on a redesign. At the end of the process, clients receive a detailed plan that includes:
- Complete sitemap and information architecture
- Solutions architecture
- SEO strategy
- Project timeline
- Cost breakdown
Like we said: redesigning a website is hard. But if you start with a comprehensive project plan from an experienced partner, it gets a whole lot easier.