Part 1: Planning Your Website
Planning is the most important phase of any project. You, or the company that’s paying you, are about to invest serious time and money towards building a new website. Take a few days to make sure you’re spending that time and money wisely by building a solid website redesign plan.
Ask yourself serious questions about the organization’s website. We’re proposing a few in this chapter. If you don’t know the answers, find out. Or get someone involved who will work with you to uncover the answers.
What does your website do well?
Understand the strengths of the current site before you touch anything. Too often, people throw out the whole website and start from scratch. That’s a terrible idea if you’re redesigning an established website that gets a lot of visits from different places on the Internet.
The website you’re working with likely has things you should keep. While planning your redesign you need to figure what those things are. You need to separate how the site looks from how the site functions as a marketing tool.
How can your website be improved?
Maybe it takes forever to load on your phone (if you don’t know your site speed, check it for free using Google’s Pagespeed tool). Or it’s text heavy and there aren’t enough images. Start making a list of reasons you want to redesign your website and then separate them into categories.
Most of these problems will fall into the following four categories:
You can get a lot of problems out in the open by brainstorming or surveying people who are familiar with the website and the business. Start with understanding the strategy and let this influence design, content and technical decisions.
Who are your customers?
Site visitors have different intentions. Some may be potential customers. Others will want a job. And many will have fleeting interest, spending a few seconds on a page before leaving to watch cat videos.
Visualize your ideal visitors. The ones who will accomplish strategic business goals. Let these individuals be the decision makers for your redesign process.
What’s important to them? What does the website need to do to move them along in the conversion path?
Design for visitors, not your boss
The website should be about visitors. It’s not about what the company likes. Who cares if the CEO’s mom likes the color yellow. If you have proof that potential customers will be turned off by yellow, then don’t make your new site yellow. The website is a marketing tool. Build it for the customer. Not the boss. Or their mom.
How will the website redesign achieve business goals?
The new website should help the business complete strategic objectives.
Have a brainstorming session with people who have different ideas of what success looks like. Maybe the HR manager wants more talented people to join the company. A website redesign could include a careers section.
Or the accounting people want clients to pay their invoices online. The website redesign may include a “Login” portal with online payment options. Come up with a clear idea of how the new site will benefit the company so you can prioritize the features.
Which features are realistic at this time?
Brainstorming features can be fun. But what is the company willing to pay for?
In most cases, these new features will require extra costs. For example, a client payment portal could cost thousands of dollars. An eCommerce system could be tens of thousands.
But a “new feature” could also be as simple as adding more video content to your website. If done in-house this may cost very little.
Break features down with estimated costs and rough time lines for delivery. Don’t exclude features that seem too expensive or time consuming.
Research options to deliver costly features for less. Instead of custom building an eCommerce system you may be able to use existing platforms like Shopify or WooCommerce.
Or you can roll a website out in a phased approach, spreading costs out and delivering new features over time.
Pick your Content Management System (CMS)
Choosing a content management system (CMS), or deciding against using one, is a big deal. The CMS selection will determine who’s able to update the site, what features will be included and how cost-effective it is to add new features in the future.
The choice will affect the designer(s) or developer(s) working on the project as not all are skilled in every platform.
The CMS decision may align with accomplishing business goals. If a company has a raw HTML website, they may rely on web developers to make small changes to their site. This company may want to reduce their development costs and time required to update their website by moving to a user friendly CMS.
Use a high quality web hosting company
The quality of the web hosting environment matters. It does no good launching a feature heavy website on an insecure, slow web server.
When choosing a hosting company you will need to answer these questions:
- Is this hosting going to be faster?
- Is technical support easily reachable, knowledgeable and responsive?
- Do they meet the technical specs you need such as dedicated IPs, private servers, PCI compliance, HIPAA compliance or other technical requirements?
- Are the recurring costs within budget?
- Does the hosting improve the visitor’s experience by providing less downtime or faster load times?
- Is the hosting company “on brand” for the company? This may matter to the business as there are green hosting companies that use natural energy or employ 100% USA workers.
Start planning the redesign budget
An overview of website cost estimation
Once you know the website’s features you can forecast costs. All costs boil down to:
The three major factors that influence website costs are the:
Of the website’s features.
The number of features. Affects the amount of labor. More tasks means more time needed to complete them.
How difficult it is to deliver the features. Affects the amount and skill-level of labor as well as technology. More complex tasks means more skill needed which means more expensive labor and often more expensive technology.
The rate at which the features need to be delivered. Affects the amount of labor. Shorter deadlines means more people required to deliver the features on time.
Imagine these as points on a triangle. The area inside the triangle illustrates your costs. The bigger the triangle, the higher the costs.
Smaller budgets mean compromises must be made on number of features, complexity and deadlines. Larger budgets can accomplish more, faster.
Common website elements
- Page Templates
- eCommerce functionality
- Forms and complexity of lead generation
- Calendar booking and followup for team members
- Social media feeds
- Site search
- Member login areas
- Live chat
Average website redesign costs
These are the “all in” estimated costs for redesigns. This information is going to vary widely based on your features, expectations and who you work with. But it may be helpful to get an understanding of expected minimums.
Basic brochure website
A basic website with a few pages. Likely has a homepage, about page, service pages and contact page.
|Freelancer: $1,500+||90+ days|
|Agency: $10,000+||45+ days|
Small business site
Brochure website with additional features like a team / employee page, biography pages for individuals, multiple contact forms and a blog.
|Freelancer: $10,000+||120+ days|
|Agency: $25,000+||90+ days|
Cost will vary greatly depending on the platform the website is built on and the number of products and product categories.
|**Freelancer: **$5,000+||120+ days|
|**Agency: **$35,000+||90+ days|
May be a micro-site for a brand or flashy looking custom site with animations and all sorts of interactive effects. Usually involves working with a sophisticated development team.
|**Freelancer: **$25,000+||120+ days (may not be possible, must find a rare multi-talented person)**|
|Agency**: $50,000+||90+ days|
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) during a redesign
There’s an entire chapter dedicated to this later in this book. But we’ll briefly touch on this subject here during the planning phase.
Some websites rely on search engines for visits, leads and sales. This complicates the redesign process because many technical factors play into a website’s “SEO,” or ability to rank well on search engines for valuable searches. These factors can be upset by design, development, content and technical decisions during a
If you’ve received a lot of press, you may have received a lot of links pointing to a specific page on your site. Don’t get rid of that page without getting someone involved that knows about SEO.
Your SEO can influence the design of your website as well. A common reason for doing a website redesign is to make a website more visual. But, oftentimes, the execution of creating a more visual website is where things go wrong. For example, an architecture firm may want to highlight a portfolio of their work using big images. They may remove all their text explaining the project and just use a gallery of photos to show the work or process. Are photos nice? Sure. But removing the text hurts the search optimization of the page because Google’s robot crawler can’t understand the context of the page as well. And big photos can slow down a website, too.
Getting somebody who understands SEO before the design process even begins and getting them involved in the process early on, especially if they’re experienced enough that you can utilize their skills at every stage of the redesign process, is highly recommended.
For a lot of designers and developers, even if they say they know SEO, it’s not their primary focus. They may dabble in it, but they’re not pros. Get someone reliable involved ASAP.
What to avoid during the Discovery phase
Starting from Scratch
Overlooking the strengths of your current website and throwing everything out in favor of a brand new design is a death wish.
Redesigning Your Site Without a Purpose
Not tying your redesign into concrete goals and only doing it for a new “look and feel” is great for your ego but bad for business.
Overlooking Your Target Audience
It would be a huge mistake to not consider your website’s speed and usability on a phone if 80 percent of your users are going to your website on their phones. You should really be designing for mobile first to please that audience if this is the case.
Choosing a Complicated CMS Based on a Recommendation
Sometimes, you see this internally from individuals who want job security and attempt to leverage their familiarity with an obscure CMS. In those cases, using an uncommon platform might be the best thing for that person, but it’s definitely not the best thing for the business.
Think about how the CMS would best serve the business. It should be something that a lot of people already know how to use or something that allows people to easily access it to edit and add content. You also want a CMS that’s well supported, updated and secure. Otherwise, you’re going to be doing this redesign process again sooner than you hope.
Staying with your current hosting company
This is a good time to move hosting companies if your current web hosting is not delivering a great experience.
Not having a realistic budget
You need a budget and it should be based in reality. Do some research before reaching out to people. If you have a serious business, expect to invest in a serious website.
Waiting until after the site launches to bring in an SEO
If you get business from search engines, you owe it to your company to invest in a quality SEO to work with you through the entire process, not just after things go wrong. An SEO can help prevent your business from crumbling due to a poorly planned website redesign.
Once you’ve completed the discovery phase, you’re ready to move onto structuring your content. Our content structure guide breaks down which content to keep, which content to get rid of, how to organize content on the new site, and more. Give it a read.