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Marketing Guide

The Definitive Website Redesign Guide: Everything You Need to Know

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Website redesign involves far more than style and appearance.

If you want your website redesign to impact the bottom line positively, you also need to take into account things such as the user experience (UX), search engine optimization (SEO) and your key business objectives.

Because if you don't, you'll likely fall victim to common pitfalls, such as:

  • A delayed launch
  • Going over budget
  • Rushing critical aspects of the website redesign
  • Not achieving any meaningful improvement

To avoid these disasters, you need to know what an effective website redesign strategy looks like.

We'll run through the entire process to help you understand how all the pieces fit together, including:

  • Reasons to redesign websites
  • How to create a website redesign strategy
  • How to redesign a website
  • Website redesign mistakes to avoid

But before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let's get on the same page.

What Is Website Redesign?

A website redesign is a process of making significant changes to the code, structure and content of a site. Organizations often redesign websites to meet specific objectives, such as increasing conversion rates, ranking higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs) or improving the UX.

Website Redesign vs. Website Refresh

To make sure you're in the right place, let's quickly explore the difference between a website redesign and a website refresh.

Whether you're planning a website redesign or a website refresh depends on the number and type of changes you plan to make.

  • A website redesign typically involves a significant update to the backend and frontend of a website — in other words, the site's core code, the UX and the appearance.
  • A website refresh usually doesn't involve changes to the site's foundational code and is more concerned with improving its appearance.

Both website redesigns and refreshes can help you achieve key business objectives. However, website redesigns require far more resources and time but are typically more impactful.

5 Important Reasons to Redesign Websites

Before you start redesigning your website, it's important to clarify the fundamental reasons why you plan to make changes.

Keeping these key objectives in mind throughout the website redesign process can help you achieve your goals.

Here are 5 compelling reasons to redesign websites:

1. Make a Website Responsive

Mobile UX matters — a lot.

According to freelancing platform Toptal, when people have a poor website experience on a mobile device, they're 62% less likely to purchase in the future. Plus, according to Google, 59% of shoppers think that the option to shop on mobile devices is an important factor when deciding which brand to purchase from.

If that isn’t enough, Google switched to mobile-first indexing in September 2020. This means that the tech giant now prioritizes mobile-optimized websites in search results.

In short, your website must be mobile responsive, which means that it will adapt to the user's screen size.

For example, here's an image of our website on a desktop computer:

Image of a responsive website homepage, desktop view

In the image below, you can see how our website adapts seamlessly to the viewing device.

Website Redesign: Create a Responsive Site Like Kantaloupe No. 2

If your site isn't yet mobile responsive, you'll need to perform a comprehensive website redesign to keep up with the times.

2. Improve Conversion Rates

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) measures the percentage of visitors that convert into leads or sales.

Website pages with high conversion rates become money-making machines. However, websites with low conversion rates become hungry money pits.

According to Paras Chopra, an industry leader in usability, design testing and conversion rate analysis, you can use website redesign to improve your conversion rates in many ways, such as:

  • Improving the navigation
  • Including more product and service images
  • Removing clutter and streamlining the user experience

In short, sometimes you'll need to perform a complete website redesign to improve your conversion rates.

3. Add More Functionality

As technology develops, new tools allow us to use websites in exciting and useful ways, from advanced tracking and data analysis to sales funnel optimization and chatbots.

To meet the increasing needs of consumers and maintain your position in the marketplace, it's likely you'll need to add new features and functionality to your website regularly.

And whether you want to add a shopping cart, live chat or interactive media, updating your website's functionality can often require you to overhaul the design or code.

4. Rebrand or Reposition the Business

Rebranding involves much more than an update to your logo: It involves changing how you communicate and interact with users.

Similarly, repositioning entails changing the way customers perceive your brand in the marketplace.

Both rebranding and repositioning require a website redesign.

Take the software-as-a-service (SaaS) dropshipping tool from Oberlo. This company recently performed a complete website redesign to rebrand the business.

Website Redesign: Oberlo Rebranding Example No. 1

The changes were designed to help the brand resonate more with its target market of young, first-time entrepreneurs interested in starting a dropshipping business.

Website Redesign: Oberlo Rebranding Example No. 2

5. Improve SEO and Site Performance

SEO is the process used to intentionally rank websites higher in the SERPs.

And according to digital marketing software company SEMrush, organic search is the highest source of web traffic across all industries.

There are numerous tactics and strategies used to improve SEO. However, many impactful, foundational strategies require a website redesign to work effectively.

Additionally, if your website loads slowly or has other performance issues, you may need to rework the site's foundation.

How to Create a Website Redesign Project Plan

Before you start designing, you need to create a website redesign project plan.

Without a solid website redesign strategy, you'll likely build a flashy new website that replicates the same problems as your previous site — or worse, creates new problems.

Here's a 9-step website redesign planning guide that you can use to lay the foundations for success.

1. Review Your Website

Your existing website contains a wealth of information that you can use to inform your website redesign strategy.

So, before you start discussing color palettes, take stock.

Start by conducting thorough content and UX audits. Go through every page on the website, from your home page and landing pages to blog posts and lead magnets. Then, identify what's working, what isn’t — what needs revision and what needs to be left alone.

Consider links, SEO, navigation and UX.

Use an Excel sheet to help organize and track your decisions. HubSpot has a fantastic template. You can also use online tools to help evaluate your website, such as:

  • Google Search Console
  • Linkody
  • SEOptimer
  • Website Grader
Website Redesign Tools: Google Search Console

2. Determine the Value of Your Existing Pages

Before you knock down a wall to remodel your house, you need to check if it's load-bearing.

In other words, some web pages aren't that important to your sales funnels and can be overhauled completely. Others are essential and must be left alone as much as possible.

You know what they say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Here's what to do: Use conversion rate optimization tools to evaluate the relationship between traffic and conversions on each page. Then score each page to mark which pages can be redesigned freely and which should be redesigned with extreme care.

Loosely speaking, each of your pages will fall into 1 of 4 categories.

Loosely speaking, each of your pages will fall into 1 of 4 categories, as this graph indicates.
  • High conversions, high traffic: These pages are the most valuable on the website, so redesign with extreme care.
  • High conversions, low traffic: A high conversion rate makes these pages important, so although they receive little traffic, redesign them with care.
  • Low conversions, low traffic: These pages aren't important to your sales funnel, so you can redesign them as much as you like.
  • Low conversions, high traffic: These pages have enormous potential but aren't working for some reason. Pay close attention to these pages and run tests to increase conversion rates.

3. Discover Your Visitors' Motives

If you don't understand your visitors' motives, it's impossible to cater to their needs.

In 2015, research from Google revealed 4 primary website visitor intents: "I want to know," "I want to go," "I want to do" and "I want to buy."

Website Redesign: Visitor Motives

Each of these motives requires different content, features and design.

So, dig into the data to determine why users are visiting specific pages. During this process, it can help to explore and refine your buyer personas in more detail.

For example, when transcription service provider Rev redesigned its website, it's clear the company discovered visitors were most interested in pricing information. Here's the site in 2018:

Website Redesign Example: Rev No. 1

In the web redesign, Rev removed the benefits slideshow and presented visitors with what they wanted most.

Website Redesign Example: Rev No. 2

4. Identify What Influences User Behavior

Optimizing your website's UX is crucial to success.

As founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said, "If there's 1 reason we have done better than our peers in the internet space over the last 6 years, it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience, and that really does matter, I think, in any business. It certainly matters online, where word of mouth is so very, very powerful."

So, once you understand visitors' core motivations, you need to dive deeper into your analytics to make concrete connections between website elements and user behavior.

In other words, what convinces users to convert into leads or customers and what prevents them from doing so? For example:

  • On which pages — and how far down the page — do visitors typically bounce?
  • What do visitors typically like and dislike about your website experience?
  • Which elements help convince people to convert?
  • What stops visitors from converting?

Detailed answers to questions like these will allow you to optimize every aspect of UX.

On the other hand, if you don't understand these things, you won't know which elements to keep, which to cut and which to improve. As a result, you could end up replicating many of the existing problems.

Dig into the granular details using analytics tools like Google Analytics, Hotjar and Crazy Egg.

Website Redesign Tools: Google Analytics

5. Set SMART Goals

Now that you've learned all you can about your website, customers and user experience, it's time to set goals. Your goals should directly address the issues you discovered in your research.

Make sure to set SMART goals — ones that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-sensitive

You should have SMART goals for every important page and feature.

For example, in 2017, Upwork's website relied on the search bar heavily.

Website Redesign Example: Upwork No. 1

However, Upwork's website redesign included a new navigation bar.

During the website redesign, the brand could have used a smart goal like:

Increase the navigation options to make it quicker for visitors to find what they want. Aim to reduce the average amount of clicks visitors use to reach their desired category by 3. Measure the improvement after collecting one week's data post-launch.

 Website Redesign Example: Upwork No. 2

6. Determine Your Key Performance Indicators

Once you've gathered research and set goals, you need to clarify how you plan to measure your website redesign's success by choosing key performance indicators (KPIs). Cut and dry KPIs allow you to determine how successful your website design is and why it was successful.

As the famous management consultant Peter Drucker once said, "What gets measured gets improved."

If you're selling online through your website, it's best to measure metrics that directly relate to your bottom line. These metrics will ensure your improvements make a difference to your end goal. Consider KPIs such as:

  • Conversion rate
  • Number of conversions
  • Average order value (AOV)
  • Cost per acquisition (CPA)
  • Customer lifetime value (CLV)
  • Website revenue

7. Consider How Website Redesign Will Impact Your Team

Your website redesign will affect every employee who uses it. As a result, everyone who works with the website should be prepared to adapt to changes. For example:

  • Content marketers will need to understand how content will be displayed
  • SEO specialists will need to oversee the technical aspects of the development phase
  • Sales representatives will need to know how the funnel will change
  • Customer support will need to be prepared to answer questions about the new site and how to refer customers to information resources
  • Etc.

What's more, by creating cross-functional teams for the website redesign process, you're able to gather valuable insights and perspectives that can help you improve the final result.

As the author Kenneth Hartley Blanchard put it, "None of us is as smart as all of us."

8. Plan How to Implement and Test Changes

If you're tempted to overhaul your website in one go, you should probably reconsider.

It's safer and more effective to redesign websites in stages – especially when it comes to valuable pages such as the homepage and high-converting landing pages.

Instead of starting from scratch, focus on changing one element on each page at a time and monitor the impact with split-testing.

Split testing is a powerful way to ensure your changes are improvements and not mistakes.

To help you plan your website redesign testing, consider using a tool such as CXL's Prioritization Framework. This spreadsheet will help you to identify and prioritize the most impactful changes to make first.

Website Redesign Tool: CXL Prioritization Framework

9. Develop a Launch Plan

To finalize your website redesign project plan, you need to create a launch plan. This plan should include both technical and marketing preparations. For example:

  • Do you plan to run a beta test?
  • Will you use a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to upload the finished files to your server?
  • When will you launch the website redesign?
  • How will you promote the launch?
  • Does your PPC advertising strategy need to be paused or updated when you launch?
  • Etc.

How to Redesign a Website: 5 Steps for Website Redesign

Now that you've put together a comprehensive website redesign project plan, it's time to start the website redesign process. Here are the 5 main steps for website redesign.

1. Content and SEO

Let's cut to the chase: It doesn't matter how quickly your website loads or how stunning the graphics are if the content sucks.

The content is what creates the connection and convinces visitors to convert. So, don't write content to fit the design – design to present the content.

It can be tempting to start designing from the get-go, but create the content first and lay your SEO foundation.

This website redesign example from Mailchimp features engaging images.

Website Redesign Example: Mailchimp No. 1

However, the new Mailchimp site features a relatively simple homepage. Why? Because it's been designed to present Mailchimp's core value proposition in a short paragraph.

Website Redesign Example: Mailchimp No. 2

2. Design

Once you've created your content, it's time to get to work on the new design. But before you start choosing colors, fonts and photos, you need to focus on the user experience.

This is vital.

According to UX company UserZoom, 70% of enterprise chief executives consider user experience to be a competitive differentiator.

To hone the user experience, you need to create wireframes. This essential step of website redesign is used to map the architecture of the site. It should show a rough layout of how the pages interlink and relate to each other.

Create an App Wireframe by hand

Once you've created your wireframes, you can start to develop the appearance and branding by creating mockups.

Finished mockups should be a pixel-perfect representation of your new website — which means they should include real content.

Creating wireframes and mock-ups will save you countless hours in the development phase. Plus, there are plenty of tools out there to help you create wireframes and mock-ups, such as:

Website Redesign Process: Mockups with Adobe XD

3. Development and Testing

Finally, now's the time to start building, so set your developers loose and bring your website redesign project plan to life.

Remember, the development phase should begin building and testing the most important aspects of your web redesign — these aspects were clarified in your prioritization framework.

If you took the time to create a rock-solid website redesign project plan, the development phase should go off without a hitch. However, if something doesn't quite work, consult your research KPIs and test iterations with your wireframes.

4. Quality Assurance and Launch

Once you've finished developing the website redesign, you need to test every element on the site to ensure it works as planned.

For example, you need to look for design inconsistencies, content errors and inefficiencies in the code. You also will need to use tools like BrowserStack, Source Labs or Cypress to ensure the site works efficiently across all browsers and devices.

Website Redesign Testing: BrowserStack

Once you've tested the website redesign to ensure everything works correctly, it's time to refer to your launch plan and make the site live!

5. Ongoing Improvement

Although you've launched your website redesign, the work continues.

You need to track your KPIs against your SMART goals to measure the performance of your website redesign. What's working? What isn't performing as you hoped?

You also will need to keep a close eye on your search engine rankings. You can use Google Webmaster Tools to discover broken links and crawl errors so that you can fix them fast.

Website Redesign Process: Ongoing Improvement

Although you did your due diligence, created a rock-solid strategy and executed it with precision, website redesigns still involve a lot of guesswork. So, monitor everything and look for additional ways to tweak and improve your design with split testing.

8 Disastrous Website Redesign Mistakes to Avoid

There's a lot to take into account when redesigning a website. So, let's explore 8 common pitfalls to avoid and what to do instead. Following these website redesign best practices can help you save countless hours and dollars.

1. Starting From Scratch

Probably the most disastrous website redesign mistake is starting from scratch.

An outdated design, messy backend and unorganized content can feel irredeemable. So, many businesses are tempted to wipe the slate clean and start fresh.

However, no matter how bad your website is, there are always insights to be found.

If you don't take advantage of this information, you're throwing away a substantial competitive advantage. Plus, although your new website might look prettier, it could replicate all the inefficiencies of your current website.

The bottom line? Learn from your successes and mistakes.

2. Using a Design-First Approach

Let's face it: For most people, wireframing, design and branding are a lot more exciting than content audits and data analysis.

However, if you jump in without creating an effective website redesign project plan, you'll end up with stunning visuals and a terrible UX.

So, focus on what's most important.

Don't use a design-first approach. The UX and content should come first — the design is only there to deliver these things.

3. Not Preparing for Technical Challenges

There are so many technical challenges to consider when launching a website redesign.

For example, it isn’t uncommon for businesses to launch a new website on a different domain only to discover that customers' browser-saved passwords won't carry over. The result? Thousands of customers who don't know their passwords and need to reset them.

So, here's a top website redesign tip: plan for every conceivable technological challenge in your launch plan. Make the transition from the old site to the new as seamless as possible.

4. Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

It can be tempting to think, "In for a penny, in for a pound."

In other words, it can be tempting to extend your website redesign and incorporate other projects, such as overhauling the website's sales funnel or email sequences.

But it's a mistake to try to change too much at once.

You risk burning out your team, making too many changes to track and monitor effectively and making it impossible to distinguish which changes are responsible for results. The project could also take far longer than expected and go over budget.

So, define your web project's scope at the start of the process and then stick to it.

5. Using Vanity Metrics (or No Metrics)

Jason Amunwa, Director of Products at Filament, said, "Vanity metrics do nothing for your actual website objectives, but make your marketing efforts look good."

For example, 1,000 new Facebook likes might sound great, but how does this number relate to the bottom line exactly, if at all?

When it comes to the website redesign process, many designers focus on lowering bounce rates — the rate at which people leave the website after viewing the page they're on.

However, a high bounce rate isn't always a bad thing.

If you improve your SEO and navigation so visitors can find what they're looking for quickly, your bounce rate could go up — but in this case, it's a good thing.

To avoid vanity metrics, always use KPIs that relate directly to the bottom line.

6. No Clear Leadership

Website redesigns can become passionate affairs.

Suddenly, it seems everyone has a strong opinion on whether the background should be blue or green.

However, when everybody feels entitled to weigh in about every little detail, the project can be derailed or go on for months longer than planned.

So, although it's vital to get feedback from cross-functional teams, it's also essential that there's a clear leader — someone who makes the final decision.

7. Underestimating the Time It Takes to Create Content

Too many website redesigns include a mad dash to create reams of new content. But rushing this crucial aspect of your website redesign can be a costly mistake.

It takes time to write, review and edit great content, so plan ahead. Remember, your content is what customers engage with — it's what turns them from visitors into customers.

When planning your website redesign timeline, make sure to factor in the time you'll need to create content.

8. Underestimating Costs

Similarly, many businesses underestimate how much a website redesign will cost. Often, this is because companies think of website redesigns as purely a matter of programming and design.

However, there also is data, strategy, SEO, content, UX and more.

When planning your website redesign budget, make sure to take into account the range of disciplines and teams that need to be involved for it to succeed.

Harness the Power of a Website Redesign

A website redesign is the process of making substantial changes to a website's code, structure and content to achieve planned objectives.

There are countless things to consider when redesigning websites. In summary, here is a 9-step website redesign planning guide:

  1. Review your current website to extract actionable insights
  2. Determine the value of existing pages
  3. Understand your visitors' motives
  4. Work out how website elements affect user behavior
  5. Set SMART goals
  6. Choose key performance indicators
  7. Consider how the website redesign will impact each team
  8. Plan how to implement and test changes
  9. Develop a website redesign launch plan

Once you've created a rock-solid website redesign project plan, here's how to redesign a website:

  • Create the content and optimize it for SEO
  • Design and test the new site using wireframes and mockups
  • Develop the website and test everything
  • Run quality assurance tests and launch the site
  • Monitor your KPIs and make any necessary changes

Although there's a lot to consider, creating a solid website redesign strategy and executing it methodically is the best way to achieve your key objectives.

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