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Date Your Web Design, Don't Marry It (Yet)

Posted on 7.06.2016

:: By Yael Tolub, Clicktale ::

Redesigning a legacy website is a project that is not undertaken lightly. It’s time-consuming, costly and most of all risky. While change is often hard, when approached with careful planning and forethought, the process can lead to a happy long-term relationship with fruitful results.

For digital businesses, outgrowing a website is often a sign of success, indicating that it has matured and evolved. Perhaps a site that could support thousands of transactions each day is now groaning and creaking under the weight of that many per hour. Or maybe an interface that appealed to mid-sized businesses lacks gravitas to appeal to the world-class enterprises that are now using your products.

Keep the baby, toss the bathwater

Recently, one of our clients, a prestigious financial services company with a huge site with thousands of pages, asked us to help with their website redesign. 

As a first step, we set out to understand what worked on their existing site and what needed to change. We analyzed dozens of customer journeys and tested changes that were being considering for the new site. With successive changes, our client’s conversions (on the existing site) grew so much that they decided to table the plans for the complete redesign. Simply by optimizing the customer experience on the existing site, they achieved a significant revenue lift, not to mention saving tens of thousands by not going ahead with the redesign.

Why mention this non-event? Because any redesign must be driven by concrete business goals. Wholesale site redesign may be one way to meet those goals, but optimizing an existing site may be faster, more cost-effective, and much less risky.

If you do choose to redesign, examine your old site. Cherry pick what works, and bring it along. Find what doesn’t and leave it behind.

Fail fast, improve with ease

While customers and critics focus on a new site’s aesthetics, what should really drive design is ability to convey brand values and deliver on key performance indicators (KPIs).

Our experience in pulling back the curtain on the websites of the worlds’ leading companies has taught us that no designer, customer experience or digital marketing professional can fully predict how customers will actually interact once a website is live. The most important “Aha” moments often result from the unanticipated ways that customers interact after a site has launched, making testing and optimization an integral part of the redesign process.

Date your website, but don’t marry it yet. Hard code as little as possible. View launch as the midpoint – not the end – of the design process. Set customers loose on your site. See what they do, what they fail to do, and what they don’t even try. Test and assess the results, fix issues and then test again. Fail fast and improve fast.

How warm should your welcome be?

Which types of visitors come to your site and how well do you serve them?  Recently, we redesigned our own website. We carefully considered who knocks on our door and how warm a welcome we’d like to extend. For registered customers, we heightened the prominence of the login link and made it much easier to find, so they can go straight to the dashboards on which they depend.

For prospects exploring our platform, we placed a search field front-and-center to make finding content a snap. We also ditched accelerators and jumpy animations that confused our users and caused many to abandon the site.

Do you welcome all comers or are there some you prefer to discourage? Save visitors time and your resources by making it clear who your products and services are for and what it is that you offer, so they can quickly decide if there’s a fit.

Use the best medium for your homepage messages

Videos are popular, and the videos on the homepage of our old site were no exception. But a homepage is not a beauty contest: All clicks are great, but the votes that count are the clicks that convert. After assessing the pluses and minuses of our previous home page, we made a few strategic changes on the new site that increased conversion:

· Reduced clutter around the video encourages visitors to watch it and focus

· The new, shorter video focuses on content that interests most visitors

· A larger viewing window provides a better, more detailed view

· Customers fully control the viewing experience

Let the customers lead

Before making redesign recommendations for any site, we analyze customer focus and find what the customers are really engaged in. In our case, it was learning about our solution, so on our new site, we’ve made the solution menu easy to find (it’s the first one you see!) and having it drop down and remain open on hover.

Stage your valuable real estate

If you’ve recently sold a house or apartment, you know that staging can make or break a sale. Particularly for technology companies, customers are most likely to request a demo from the product or solution pages, making them the most valuable property on our site. As such, we recommend carefully staging those pages and adding large images that are both attractive and informative, along with detailed descriptions, and a broad selection of valuable, interesting content to download or view.

Use CTAs wisely

Before redesigning a site, carefully analyzed how users interact with CTAs at different parts of their journey. On the home page, for instance, multiple CTAs might be effective (indicated by the sizable number of visitors who carry through on CTA actions). On one tech site, we saw that visitors were clicking multiple CTAs on the “Request a Demo” but then backing out, indicating that the multiple buttons were confusing and distracted them from their journey. By analyzing the paths of visitors the client valued most highly, we discovered that they tended to view a number of content pages before signing up. To provide more “breathing room” in which to review the client’s solution, we recommended placing CTAs judiciously and more sparsely on the new site, based on testing results.

Put a Ring On It

Performance – satisfying customer journeys that end with conversion  – is the ultimate test of a successful site. But like any strong marriage, it's not built in a day.  Integrate valuable lessons you’ve learned over the years: how easy is it to test and tweak? Does it speak to the interests and concerns of the customers you want to reach? Are you showcasing your best content to engages visitors?

Scrutinize the successes – and failures – of your legacy site at the start of the process, and keep learning once your new site is launched. Invest time and attention in building a solid, long-term relationship with visitors. Keep things fresh and exciting by observing what visitors like so you can delight them. And enjoy a long-term, happy and committed relationship with engaged customers on your redesigned site!

Yael Tolub is the VP of Marketing at Clicktale, leading the company’s worldwide marketing initiatives and driving awareness and adoption at global fortune 500 companies. Yael has a global perspective of marketing, having lived and worked on three different continents (and counting!). Before Clicktale, Yael held product and strategy roles in various companies, including MediaMind (today called Sizmek). Yael holds a LLB from Hebrew University and an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management.

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