Before you jump into designing a new site, you’ve got to understand how the current website functions and how you can improve it with a new design. What content is driving leads? What pages aren’t? The answers to these questions will be found in the discovery phase.
What are the best parts of your website?
First, you need to understand the strengths of your current site. Too often, people throw out their whole website and start from scratch. But that’s a terrible idea if you’re redesigning an established website that gets a lot of visits from different places on the Internet.
Most of the time, websites aren’t all bad – there are plenty of web pages that should be reused on the new site. It’s really important that you separate the look and feel of the site from the structure and content of the site while you make decisions about what to keep.
Ever seen one of those home remodeling shows on TV where they tear homes down to the studs? Take a similar approach with your redesign. Peel off the old paint, knock down some walls. But don’t bulldoze it and start from scratch.
After you’ve been staring at the same website for years, it’s really easy to focus on everything that’s wrong with it. The hard part is taking a step back and analyzing the good and the bad before making big changes that can affect your business.
How can your website be improved?
Usually, you choose to redesign your website because you’re looking at all the glaring flaws of the existing site. Maybe it takes forever to load on your phone. Or it’s text heavy and there aren’t enough images. The colors hurt your eyes. Start making a list of reasons you want to redesign your website and then separate them into different categories.
Most website problems fall into the following four buckets:
- Design issues
- Ex: the colors are weird
- Content issues
- Ex: we don’t talk about dogs enough
- Technical issues
- Ex: the site doesn’t work on my phone
- Strategic business objective issues
- Ex: we don’t mention a new, profitable service
Typically, the design issues are the main reason for a website redesign. But the content, technical and strategic reasons for doing a website redesign can’t be overlooked. The next sections will help you think beyond design and address other issues with your existing site.
Who are your customers?
If your website has been up for awhile, you’re likely getting a diverse group of people to the site. Some of these people are going to be potential customers. Others might be interested in something you wrote but will never do business with you. As you think about your redesign, you want to visualize these potential buyers. Let these individuals be the decision makers for your redesign process.
Ask yourself, “What’s important to them?” “What would they expect to see from a business like mine that would encourage them to work with us?”
It can help to create detailed profiles (also called buyer personas) of ideal individuals who use the website. If you have great customers, use their characteristics as a starting point. Cut out photos, give them names – go crazy. The more detailed the persona, the easier it will be to create a profitable site.
And remember – it’s not about what you like. If the CEO likes the color green, but you have proof that potential customers hate green – don’t make your new site green. The website is a marketing tool. Build it for the customer.
How will the website redesign achieve business goals?
You shouldn’t be redesigning your website just because you’re tired of how your old site looks. The redesign of your website should be more strategic than that. A new website should help your business complete objectives.
For example: If most of your customers visit your website on their phones, and your website is super clunky and takes forever to load, then a redesign objective could be to get more customers from the website by making the site faster and easier to use on phones.
Have a brainstorming session with people who have different ideas of what success looks like. Maybe you have an HR manager who wants more talented people to join your company. A website redesign could include a careers section. Or your accounting people want clients to pay their invoices online. The website redesign may include a “Login” portal. Come up with a clear idea of how the new site will benefit the company so you can prioritize the features.
Which features do you want to pay for?
In most cases, these new features will require extra costs. For example, a web portal to allow client payment on your site could cost thousands of dollars. An eCommerce system could costs tens of thousands or more. There’s additional design, development, content management and sometimes hosting costs with all of these options.
But a “new feature” could also be as simple as adding more video content to your website. Adding video may increase the level of user engagement, or allow you to connect better with your ideal audience. In most cases, this wouldn’t add too much to the costs.
If you don’t have experience with web development, you’ll need to lean on your development partner to quote out these costs for you.
Pick your Content Management System (CMS)
Choosing a content management system (CMS) is one of the most important components of redesigning a website. It will drive the direction of the entire project. Your CMS selection will determine who’s going to develop the site, who’s going to end up managing it and how cost effectively you can add features onto the site. Not every web designer or developer is comfortable with every CMS and in most cases they specialize on a specific platform.
A lot of businesses will migrate their existing website to a new CMS in order to achieve specific business goals. For example, some companies want to move from Drupal to WordPress because they can’t find enough Drupal developers or they can’t find people to manage their Drupal site at the rate that they want to pay. This is simple supply and demand. Less people are familiar with Drupal than WordPress, so you will likely pay more to work with talented Drupal specialists.
But moving to a CMS that is more widely used — like WordPress — allows you to hire people to manage the website at an affordable rate. It also gives you access to more affordable developers.
Your reason for migrating to a new CMS could also be that your team — or whoever manages your site — is more comfortable with a different CMS than the one you’re currently using.
Ideally, that’s not the only reason you want to migrate to a new CMS, but regardless of why you want to migrate, WordPress is a good option because:
- It has a large user base
- It’s well documented
- It’s been around for awhile (released in 2003)
- If you need a feature, most likely it has already been developed and is available to you for little to no extra cost.
Use a high quality web hosting company
Your web hosting is truly the foundation of your website. If you don’t have a strong foundation with your web hosting, you are going to have a very weak user experience. And if your website is not performing well, your entire web presence suffers.
A lot of the time, websites will be on the same hosting platform for years. But once they’re redesigned with a lot of new, resource-heavy features, they get extremely slow. You’ll then find that not as many people are using the site because it takes forever to load pages.
A good option for hosting is SiteGround because they offer excellent hosting options for businesses of all sizes, especially for websites built on WordPress.
Siteground hosting is fast; their support is knowledgeable, fast and friendly, and they have 24/7 support. When you select a new hosting provider, ask yourself:
- Is my web hosting going to be faster?
- Is my web hosting support going to be better?
- Do I need dedicated IPs, a private server or other technical requirements?
- Am I paying the right amount for my web hosting?
- Does the hosting help me deliver these features and this experience that I want to deliver to my audience?
Start budgeting for your website
Your budget is going to be a huge factor when it comes to redesigning your website because it’s going to restrict your features and the people that can work on the site.
When you plan a website design budget, you need to include the following main areas:
- Web Server
If you have a very limited budget, you are going to be doing a lot of this work internally or doing it yourself. If you have a more flexible budget, you can bring people onboard and you increase your chance of executing a successful website redesign.
Regardless of what your situation is, you really want to have someone on board who knows what they’re doing when it comes to redesigns.
Redesigning on a budget
If you don’t have a huge budget for a redesign, you might be able to skimp on the actual design phase. There are websites like Themeforest that have pre-made designs you can buy and tweak. This is a cost-effective approach to design that cuts out expenses and reduces time-to-launch.
For the development of the website, you’ll probably have to limit the site’s features in order to bring your development costs down. You don’t want to go cheap on a poor quality web developer.
Utilize internal subject matter experts to write content vs. using copywriters. You own team will often know your customers and services better than any outsider.
Average website redesign costs
It’s hard to ballpark the cost of a website redesign but expect it to cost $10,000+. $60,000 – $100,000 is not unusual for a larger redesign project.
Example website design quote breakdown:
- Design: 50 hours at $100 / hr = $5,000
- Development: 100 hours at $125 / hr = $12,500
- Basic site: 60 hours
- Client portal area: 40 hours
- Content Creation and SEO: 50 pages = $25,000
- Hosting: $360 / year
- Total: $42,860
The importance of minding your Search Engine Optimization during a redesign.
It really helps to have someone involved who knows about SEO in this process; it’s a very specialized field of online marketing.
When it comes to the search engine optimization (SEO) for your new website, you want to think about how it ties into the strengths of your site. Ask yourself, “What are the things we’re doing right with the SEO?” “What do we need to maintain?”
If you’ve received a lot of press, for example, 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.