It is obvious that websites need continuous improvement. Just browse around for a few minutes and you will discover sites that look old and obsolete. The reasons to redesign your site may not always be evident.
For example, the core idea of the site itself may need to be revamped. It is no longer good enough to have a static website. It must capture attention, have new information, and engage the visitor or else they are off, to your competitor's site.
Websites need to be in a process of constant redesign and renovation. Here's our checklist:
Evaluate Existing Site
What are the success and failures of your existing site? Gather a few people to get an honest evaluation of your existing site. Write three successes and three failures. Then write down your dreams and goals for the new site.
Are new and fresh ideas missing? Brainstorm with a team of people to get fresh ideas. Write down ideas that emerge from the brainstorming.
Reason why people visit
Why people visit your site? They are coming for information or are in need of your company's product or service. But there can be many other reasons that you may not have exploited. List those reasons.
Does ot gran attention?
Do you think visitors remember your site? Does it have something that gets attention and is memorable? If he/she does not bookmark your site what will get them back? You should give your visitor something to remember so that he can find his way back to your site. Write down the one thing that will be remembered about your site.
What can I learn from my competitors? Get ideas about the latest web design, technology and communication concepts by looking analytically at competitor sites. While you are there notice some of the keywords they are using to get the attention of people coming to search engines.
Who is the target audience? Decide whom you want to target with the site. Who is your customer or audience? Try and get into their shoes and think, like they think. What are their needs or points of interest? How can they be served? List the top three categories of people. Write three or one sentence descriptions of different people in your target audience. Then write a few words that might interest these people and cause them to respond to your site.
Theme and Look & Feel
What is the mood or emotion that you want to communicate? Decide on the overall theme and "look and feel" of the site. For example: humor, professional, academic, family, technical, etc. Write three adjectives to describe the way you want your site to be felt.
This is probably why most people come to your site. They come to read your clear, well written and fresh content. Your team should have good writers. Redesigning requires having several outsiders read your content to see if it is clear, up-to-date, accurate and communicates what it is supposed to. Then rewrite the content. Another tip is to provide more than just your company information, but provide articles that attract people to the site.
Trust and credibility
What will make your visitor believe you? Imagine going into an automobile repair shop or a physician's clinic. What is it that give you a sense of trust that your car or body will be repaired correctly? A quality site that does what it says, is going to convey trust. Also well-written content adds credibility. Testimonies by reputed people or companies are perhaps the best way to establish creditability. A list of previous customers is helpful. List a person, company or product that can be associated with your site to add trust and credibility.
Keep search engines on mind
How do I redesign my site and write my text with the search engines in mind? Decide on the keywords and the meta content. This is a new concept that really applies only to redesigning or developing websites. It may not even apply to all websites, but it is important for those websites that depend on search engines . The idea is to get good rankings on search engines with different keywords. Since many pages on your site can be indexed with a search engine this becomes an important strategy in attracting visitors.
Analyze visitor's keywords
Look at your site statistics and see if the keywords entered by your visitors match with the three target audiences you just listed. If not, then the redesigning needs to help move the site content, design, and promotion towards the target audience. You may be fooled to think that you are getting a high number of visitors but many of them may not be the kind of visitors that are important to your company or organization.
Analyze popularity of pages
Look at your site statistics and carefully examine the popularity of the pages. You may need to redesign the site so that the pages that you want to be visited are the most popular. There will always be pages at the bottom of the list but your goal should be to make sure that the important pages are not at the bottom. Changing keywords etc. can boost some of these pages.
Analyze visitors actions
Are your visitors coming back and are they spending enough time on your site? If your visitors are not returning or they are spending only a few seconds at your site, something's wrong. A good site statistics program or service will help you know what your visitors are doing.
Can the visitor find what is needed quickly and easily? As a first generation site grows, it often outgrows its navigation plan. A good redesign will help. The new design needs careful thought so that the visitor will not get lost or be more than two clicks away from what he/she needs. There are many factors to consider. Here are a few examples. Is it obvious that buttons are clickable? What links should always be available to the user? Is the information divided into logical categories and prioritized? Is old content archived and easy to find?
Do you have a place where visitors can find out what is going on behind the scenes on your website? Your customers may want to know more about your company and its workings. Revealing this can help build trust and credibility. A company newsletter or short biographies about employees could help.
Do your visitors feel they are visiting an active site? Sitting in a doctor's waiting room with old newspapers might make you doubt the competence of the doctor. In the same way, visiting a site that was last updated in 1996 is a sure way to lose visitor trust. When redesigning the website, build it in ways to keep it fresh, but keep in mind that publishing dates can work against you. Don't create too much extra work for yourself unless you are a workaholic.
Product and service Information
Are you making it easy for your customers to do business with you? Can they find what they need quickly? Can they respond easily? Your job in redesigning a website is to make things easy for visitors and customers. Carefully think through what a customer needs to do to get what he needs. Is it clear and simple? Eliminate unnecessary steps.
Are you adding value to your visitor? To keep your visitors returning it is important to think of how you can serve him rather than what your company can get from him. This is one of the major shifts in thinking on the Internet. A printed brochure transferred to the Internet might be OK but serving your customer/visitor is better.
Can your visitors exchange information with you? If you sell a product can the customer find out how the order is progressing? Can he/she easily get a question answered? This type of interaction makes life easier for everyone.
Can your visitors learn from each other? Collaboration is one of the most important advantages of being discovered on the Internet. It is very common for visitors to a site to have as much of more knowledge on the subject than the experts behind the site. Collaboration between visitors can add a lot of value to your visitor's experience. Discussion forums allow this exchange of information. If this information is archived it can be a good pool of information for future visitors.
If all or part of your audience is global then you need to consider a few things. First, many places don't have fast Internet access so the site may need to have fewer Graphic and other slow loading items. Second, monitor sizes in some countries average 14"-15". The design and layouts need to take this into consideration. Finally, many phrases and other cultural references may not make sense, for example the phrase "ball park" / estimate only, makes sense to an American.
What needs to be compromised for the sake of speed? Site speed and server speed is a major bottleneck on the Internet. Only so much information can travel through a small phone line. This is what limits the size of pictures, amount of sound, and other aspects of the Internet. In redesigning a site this is an all-pervading thought. It is the rare exception when the visitor will wait for a site to load. Consider the size of every piece of the site and determine if it can be made smaller or eliminated.
Graphic and animation
Are the Graphic able to load fast? Do the Graphic communicate a concept? A website redesign should involve an evaluation and possible redevelopment of Graphic and photos. The present Graphic may be unnecessary, unfocused or too large. In any case each one should be reconsidered. The use of newer software like streaming content makes it possible to include Graphic that are smaller and loads faster.
Is the website taking advantage of components like discussion forums, polls, surveys, guestbooks, chat and more? The reasons for using these concepts are well covered in other points in this website redesign guide, but it is helpful to think about how they can be used to improve your website.
Make it easy for customers to do business with you
Do know what your customer is thinking? When redesigning a website it would be helpful to know as much as possible about how your customer is responding to your site. Is he/she able to get all the information needed to make an informed decision? Are there too many steps involved in ordering or getting information? What obstacles are in the way?
Hire the right people to redesign your website
Will you select a team with the right mix of experience and talent? Most companies that offer design and development services are one-person operations. They are either tech-gurus and lack aesthetic sensibilities or they are artistic but lack technical knowledge ; then how to build a complex site? Building or redesigning a website is best done with a team. A team can synchronize their abilities and create a much better site. Your website is your signature. It is often the only way for people to evaluate who you are. Your profits depend on the quality of your site. Don't regret a poor decision in choosing who redesigns your website.