New year, new website?
It might not be such a bad idea. After all, ensuring that your website adheres to the best web design practices is essential for any tech-savvy business owner. And since the beginning of a new year is always a good moment to make plans and think big, maybe you want to follow the latest trends in web design and finally implement those features that can wow your audience.
But, before you get started, you should know that website redesign, done completely from scratch, comes with the slight risk of confusing your audience. We’ve all been there; we’ve used a website every day, got used to that familiar interface, only to discover that one day, the buttons are all over the place and we don’t even know where to start (Facebook in particular has a long history of confusing redesigns). What you want to achieve through a redesign isn’t only to make the website look newer and flashier. Aesthetics matter, but only up to a point. Instead, you want to build on your old website’s biggest strengths, eliminate the features that didn’t add value before, and make the UX smoother and more intuitive.
Website redesign can be a lengthy process that requires considerable investment on your part. Once it’s complete, it can be frustrating to see that the new website isn’t welcome and hence doesn’t offer good ROI. After all, you put so much time and energy into it, and the users don’t seem to appreciate it. In such situations, don’t blame your users. They’re simply responding to an unsatisfactory experience. Even if you spend a lot of money on your new website, users won’t empathize with you if scrolling through it gives them headaches.
Instead, try to approach website redesign from a tactical perspective and don’t make changes just for the sake of it. Here the best practices to follow if you want to redesign your website without confusing or shocking your audience.
Why do you want to redesign your website?
The first question you need to answer before starting work is: Why do we want to redesign our website?
If the latest time you changed the design was 2013, if the website is slow, ugly, and lacks the features that your competitors have been offering for a while now, then there’s no question about it, you need to redesign it otherwise your bounce rate will go through the roof, and your SEO might be affected too.
However, if your website already works well and the user experience is satisfactory, why do you want to change it? Don’t commit to a major redesign job if your reasons aren’t user-centric. Do you want to add a feature that users would love, such as a simpler booking system or a quicker way to view products? That’s a fantastic motivation, and the result will probably be great. But if you just want to add fancy animations and sliders for the sake of it, users might find it too confusing.
Have a comprehensive strategy
Another thing you should do before changing your website’s design is get in touch with a professional to draft a comprehensive strategy, which may also include rebranding objectives.
Here are a few things to include on your list:
- Why do you want to change the old website? (i.e., the interface was outdated, the design didn’t match your brand’s identity, it was too slow, it lacked essential features, it didn’t compare to your competitors’ websites, you had lots of complaints that the website isn’t good enough, etc.)
- What do you want to accomplish with the new website?
- What features are essential and which pertain to aesthetics more than usability?
- Which elements of the old website are essential to your brand’s identity and should be transferred to the new website? (i.e., logo, user experience, content, etc.).
- Which parts of your branding/marketing strategy will be affected after you redesign your website?
- How will you handle SEO during the redesign? Will you keep any of the old pages or clean them up? Talk to a professional to make sure your traffic and rankings aren’t affected. Redirects and missing pages can become problematic.
- When and how will you launch the new website? To boost traffic and awareness, you might want to consider running a special promotion at the time of the launch.
Because redesign projects tend to take a longer time, business owners are quick to launch the new website and shorten the testing time. However, that is a big mistake that can cost you many users. No matter how far behind you are on your initial schedule, always allow enough time for testing. It’s better to keep your old website up for a couple of weeks longer and release a new website that lives up to expectations than deliver a buggy, unfinished product that hinders the user experience. A proper website redesign requires time and attention, so don’t rush it.
Listen to user feedback and be willing to answer questions
More often than not, the website owner works closely with the design team to create a new website and knows every button and feature like the back of their hand. But users do not. For users, the new design can be somewhat of a shock. One day the website looks one way, the next it’s completely different. They might have trouble finding some things, they might not know right away how some of the new features work, and might even be unhappy with some of the changes you loved. After the launch of the new website, remember to keep an open mind and listen to user feedback – there will be a lot of it, good and bad. Your customer support team should also be on watch because they may receive more inquiries than usual. To make sure the redesign met its goals, keep the conversation open on social media, and ask users what they liked/didn’t like about the redesign.