DIGITAL CHANGES: Practical Solutions for Overcoming the Inherent Challenges in Website Redesign Projects
By Peter Prestipino, Editor-In-Chief
In the course of an enterprise’s digital lifespan, the time will inevitably come when the redesign of a website becomes necessary.
Whether it is to take advantage of the latest trends, freshen what has become a stale brand or to simply keep pace with the competition, there are plenty of reasons to engage in a redesign project and it can be both exciting and terrifying for those responsible for the project’s success.
Website Magazine regularly addresses the reasons that Web design (and specifically a redesign) should top the list of an enterprise’s priorities and the content readers find each month in the print edition and daily on the ’Net within our Design & Development channel (wsm.co/desdevdigest) provides an excellent starting point for those in the process of determining if the redevelopment of a digital property makes sense.
While there will undoubtedly be companies satisfied with the current look and function of their website, redesigns often end up being necessary. For example, savvy Web workers know that faster load times means lower bounce rates, but the only way to achieve better performance is to start with the right architecture in the first place. So too can the “right” color palette lead to significant increases in conversion, and the placement of calls-to-action (CTAs) literally make or break an enterprise, but changing even a few elements of a website likely won’t be significant enough on their own. As a result, a redesign from the virtual ground up is almost always a better course of action. That, of course, requires a great deal of investment and effort.
Know Thy Users
A poor understanding of a website’s intended audience will quickly turn a website into a depreciating asset. Develop data-driven personas and create experiences that satisfy the needs of users.
Establish a Plan & Process
Perhaps the best advice that Web professionals responsible for a redesign project will receive (important if they are a designer or an enterprise employing one) is to learn from the successes and failures of others and the aims and objectives of the finished product.
Even if the processes seem to be somewhat over-the-top, it is important for those ultimately responsible for a redesign project to do what they can to understand the scope of the project and the expectations for it.
Conducting interviews with key stakeholders (discover several possible questions for a design-related interview at wsm.co/redesqs), developing detailed project briefs, performing competitive analysis, keeping the lines of inspiration open and establishing feedback loops, is simply the optimal way to approach a website redesign project.
Employing these approaches at each and every state of the process will improve the chances for its success. There are, of course, numerous other considerations that enterprises engaging in a redesign project today and in the coming year should address. Let’s take a look at what should be top of mind before, during and after a redesign and explore what makes such a project successful.
There once was a time when Web professionals had to choose between a dedicated mobile website or a responsive one, but once Google indicated its preference, it was responsive all the way.
Website designs that are responsive adjust to the screen size of the different devices they are being viewed upon – increasingly important as mobile devices are overtaking the desktop (and in some industries, like visits to retail sites, surpassed it). Hundreds of rules can be at play depending on the complexity of a website however, so consider regularly monitoring how each and every change impacts the design/aesthetic experience. Check out three ways to check the responsiveness of websites at wsm.co/3check.
Agreeing upon the color palette, fonts/typography and other design elements will ensure that a digital experience is consistent and will create trust among visitors and strengthen a brand’s credibility.
Consumers are often willing to pay more for a product if the brand delivers a positive branding experience, making the consistency of key elements an absolute imperative in a website redesign. There are challenges to achieving this consistency, but solutions do exist (digital asset management, or DAM, solutions for example) that aim to help brands prevent problems from arising. Learn more about why DAM is essential to marketing, design and the user experience at wsm.co/damrole.
One Thousand Words
Discover the top three image sources for today’s professional Web designers at wsm.co/sourcepic.
Access to Image Assets
Pictures are worth a thousand words and the images (and the quality of those assets) that brands use on their websites have been shown time and again to influence the digital experience.
The impact on conversion rates are significant and while investing in custom photography can be outside of the allotted budget for a redesign project, investing in image assets that help convey the quality and essence of a brand is critical. Designers not only need access, but they also need guidance as to the appropriate use. Providing designers pre-approved image assets will go a long way toward ensuring a redesigned website meets expectations.
One of the cardinal sins of redesigning a website is failing to provide a vision for the structure. Formalizing the essential navigation options in primary locations in the user’s field of vision will help accomplish the goals and objectives of the enterprise.
Invest in a proper wireframe solution or sit down with a pencil and paper and formally sketch out exactly what needs to be the key pages of a website experience. Take every page into consideration – from the homepage to a blog post, a product page to the privacy page – and determine what users need at each point in the digital experience.
It is not always the obvious elements that impact conversion rates and degrees of engagement; it’s often the subtle things that make the greatest difference. Agreeing upon the visual and contextual style of elements including headlines, sub-headlines, calls-to-action, interactions, etc., can make the difference between design success and failure, between a user-friendly digital experience and one that is so overly complex that it negatively impacts the enterprise.
The famous David Ogilvy said that five times as many people read the headline as the body content so placing key conversion elements above the fold (the visual area that can be seen without scrolling) is essential.
Take advantage of the “Serial Position Effect,” which suggests that people tend to pay more attention to and retain information better, to those things that appear at the beginning and end.
Undertaking a website redesign project can be rewarding, but there’s a lot of work to be done to get it right. Visit Website Magazine on the ’Net to discover brands that have recently redesigned their digital properties and see what they’ve done right, or wrong along the way.
SEO from the Get Go
SEO must be addressed in the early stages of a website redesign. Understand the trends that are influencing the market today and will likely do the same in the future, concentrating on ways to add greater value for consumers.