There are a lot of possible reasons why your business may be doing a redesign. Additionally, with all of the tools available today to help you, it’s almost easier than ever to get the website your business needs to enhance its digital presence.

However, the keyword here is almost. It’s still easy to get business websites wrong, but that’s what this article is for. Follow these steps, tips, tricks, and possibly funny jokes, and you will be able to come out of the process (mostly) unscathed and with a brand-spanking-new website to boot.

STEP 1: Review your Business Needs

Remember the reasons for why your business needs a website redesign? Well, start drilling those reasons down. Are those reasons attached to business needs or goals? Do you know where and how you’re falling short? How will you know the redesign is a success? By answering these questions, you can begin to visualize some of the requirements and objectives you will set for this redesign.

However, great work doesn’t emerge from a vacuum. Talk with your colleagues, superiors, underlings, or even that friendly janitor to get a feel for the requirements and accomplishments that should come out of this redesign. These people may also have ideas for how they think the redesign should be done (which you may or may not take into account). Nonetheless, now’s the time to do some brainstorming and/or interviewing to get a better feel for the current business needs.

Lastly, start reviewing the overall status of the business by asking key questions and looking at all applicable performance indicators. Here’s a sample list of questions or indicators that you should look into as outlined by Tuts+:

  • Branding/Marketing: How would you define the company’s brand? Are there predefined branding guidelines that your marketing department has already laid out? What type of culture or mission would you like to convey to your audience? What types of marketing are already in place, and how effective are these current marketing strategies?
  • Sales: Is your business consistently meeting its sales goals? If not, what needs to be done so that the company can reach these goals?
  • Profits: Which products are the most profitable for your company? Which marketing channels are the most profitable/effective for your company?
  • Competition: How is your business doing in comparison to your competitors?
  • Other: Depending on your business/industry, you may have other performance indicators like number of daily users, number of leads gained, etc.

Tuts+ has created a great accompanying worksheet that may help you in organizing your thoughts around the above questions.

Do you feel like you know the business like the back of your proverbial hand? Great, now you’re ready to create goals.

** SPECIAL NOTE: At this point, you should also be open to considering whether a redesign is the best way to fulfill the business needs you’ve discovered. For instance, if a Facebook page would fulfill all of your requirements, then there’s no need to put all of the time and effort needed to make a new site. **

Outline concrete, measurable goals for your redesign. Establishing these goals from the very beginning of the process is key to ensuring you’re making the right design decisions along the way. One way you can ensure you’re creating strong goals is by following the SMART framework. It’s pretty smart to use SMART (sorry, I had to).

Also, don’t forget to establish a budget now. You’ll have to reference this throughout the rest of the redesign process.

STEP 2: Review ALL (yes, I mean all) content on your current website

I know this is definitely the part you have been looking forward to most.

… But it’s gotta get done. This is the point when you’ll be combing through everything from the text to the images, videos, infographics, memes, and more to break what needs work. Some key things to look for:

  • Make sure all of your information (e.g. contact info, addresses, instructions, etc.) is up to date.
  • Use Google Analytics, HubSpot, or other tools to evaluate your current SEO status. Do you know which images, keywords, and content are the most effective in directing traffic to your site?
  • Analyze the following metrics:
    • Top Visitor Devices – Which types of devices do users use most to see your site?
    • Bounce Rate – What portion of site visits consist of only viewing one page on the site then leaving?
    • Top Referral Traffic Sources – How do users get to your site?
    • Average Number of Visitors over Time – How many visitors do you get in a period of time?
    • Top Visitor Locations – Where are your site visitors from?
    • Website Conversion Rates – How many of your site visitors end up “converting” (subscribing, buying, registering, etc.)?

Once you take these aspects into account, you should have a better idea of what’s working, what doesn’t, and areas where your site can improve. However, one redesign can only do so much, so try to keep in mind these ideas in the context of the business goals created in step 1.

Now would also be a good time to create buyer personas so that you can better identify your target audiences and understand how your current and future websites will perform with them. Once you can put yourself in their shoes, you can create a site the resonates and attracts them even more.

STEP 3: Create, Redo, and Boost SEO

Okay, so now you have your business needs and you’ve conducted an in-depth analysis of the current state of your website. Now’s the time when you can replace any content that is underperforming and create any content that may boost your website’s SEO or will bring you closer to accomplishing the goals you set forth for your website.

Here’s a quick rundown on tips to bump up your SEO:

  • Create a list of specific keywords that are relevant to your industry, location, and business goals. Then, make sure to utilize these keywords as much as possible throughout your site to boost your search engine rankings.
  • Feel free to get inspiration from your competition. What types of content do they have? What’s their search ranking? What types of assets do they have? Where are their strengths and weaknesses? Obviously don’t copy competitors explicitly, but just see what other businesses may be doing in the same space.

If you want more info on SEO, here’s an extensive guide that may help you better understand how it works and how you can use it to your business’s advantage.

STEP 4: Choose your website’s new look and platform.

This is the point in the makeover when you can finally take the glasses off of your newly minted website to reveal the beautiful site you saw all along. However, you’ll have to make some tough decisions along the way.

Which platform will you use?

Nowadays, there are so many platforms from WordPress to Drupal or Wix to Squarespace and even Shopify can be thrown in the mix. Ultimately, your choice will depend on these main factors:

  • Maintenance: How much time and effort can you put into maintaining and updating this website? Do you have a specific person or team dedicated to website maintenance, and if so, what skills do these people have (i.e. HTML/CSS, JavaScript, PHP, etc.)?
  • Initial Creation Time: How much time do you have to initially create and deploy this new website? You don’t have to consider how long it’ll take to create the perfect, fully-complete website, but rather, how long it will take to create an MVP that you can update later as necessary.
  • Audience: Does the current website’s format meet your users’ needs? Is the current website accessible to all of your users?
  • Cost: What initial and recurring costs are associated with the theme or platform you’re working with? This should align with the budget you set in Step 1.
  • Analytics Tools: Does this platform come with tools that can help you read and analyze your site analytics more easily?
  • Future Evolution: How easy will it be to add features/content in the future?
  • Your Site’s Call to Action: Are you just trying to drive web traffic to your site or are you trying to get customers to buy products off of your site? What are you trying to get your site visitors to do?
  • Speed: Studies (and common sense) have shown that people are impatient. 40% of people will leave a page if it takes any more than 3 seconds to load. Thus, make sure you choose a theme or platform that can support the speed you need.
  • Responsiveness: Earlier this year, Android overtook Windows as the “internet’s most-used operating system.” As such, you have to consider how well your new website platform/theme will perform on a tablet, phone, and desktop.

WordPress is well-known for being easy-to-use and since it has been around for so long, there are virtually limitless numbers of themes available on the platform for your business to use (although you may have to pay for some “premium” themes).  It has also been said that WordPress is one of the best platforms out there to improve your site’s SEO. There are also a lot of add-ons to help enhance the platform to your needs.

For those trying to break into e-commerce, Shopify is a great new option out there that’s specifically built to help businesses build up their own e-commerce platforms. Shopify does have recurring costs, but it shouldn’t be too hard to get set up quickly and easily.

If you want a better breakdown and comparison for the most popular Content Management Systems (CMS) out there, here’s a nice guide I found and another one (+ one more) comparing WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal.

Which theme will you choose?

Whether you decide to go with a popular CMS or you go with a completely custom platform, it’s still important for your business to seriously consider the style of your site – whether you go with a template, layout, or custome theme.

If you want to quickly and easily test out how you want your site to look, mockups might be your best bet. Here’s just a few good choices out there that can get you started with no coding necessary:

** SPECIAL NOTE: Especially as your business expands, it’s important to consider the accessibility (a11y) of your site whenever possible. Once you have a prototype, this would be a great time to conduct some user tests to ensure that as many people as possible can readily use your website.

As aforementioned, responsiveness and speed are becoming increasingly important for modern website-makers to consider. If you need help making sure your site (especially a custom site) is mobile-friendly, you can use this tool by Google to double check. This website will also help you test the speed of your site.

Anything else to consider?

Try mapping out your navigation/site map so that you can double check that your site has a logical breakdown. This might be a good time to do some user testing to also be sure your users know how to find things on your website.

Lastly, take into consideration that there are many millions of sites that have been indexed by Google alone, and so it’s virtually impossible to make a completely unique website. Don’t focus on making the design unique, but instead, work towards making sure the content and the way it’s presented is superior.

STEP 5: Implementation

This step is just doing the dirty work to transfer your old content and apply your new content. Not much to say here except GET TO WORK!

STEP 6: Review your work

Now that you have all of your new and old stuff together with your new theme, it’s time to double check to make sure everything aligns with the goals and objectives you outlined in Step 1. Keep in mind that fresh eyes can help a lot in finding those little mistakes and typos too!

STEP 7: Site Launch! (Finally)

Woo! After all of that solid hard work, you have a working site and deserve a good pat on the back. Feel free to grab a drink and finally get a good night’s sleep knowing you’ve successfully launched a new and improved website.

STEP 8: Reiterate

What?! There’s still more to this? She must be crazy!

I know. I know. You’ve already launched, so there’s not anything left for you to do for this redesign, but that’s unfortunately where many get it wrong. I think that Alan Smith on Usability Geek put it best…

Consider your launch as the starting point for a long-term ROI strategy…

Ultimately, your redesign is just one step towards achieving your overarching business goals. Just because you meet one objective doesn’t mean you never have to look at that part of the company again. You have to constantly examine your website’s performance if you truly want to get the most out of it. Keep considering:

  • What’s working?
  • What’s not?
  • Did we expect something to work one way but it’s not?
  • Has our SEO improved?
  • Where can we do better?

While you may not be jumping at the chance to start another redesign, it’s important to record these reflections and analysis for future redesigns, maintenance, and/or evolutions of your business’s website.

This site is the digital window to your company’s brand, and you’ll have to spend your business’s lifetime polishing and refining it. However, if you do it right, your brand will be stronger and more attractive than ever before… It just might take 8 steps to get there, but nothing is simple in 2017.