Planning a Redesign & Going Forward
So you've decided you want a redesign, and you've agreed prices etc with a designer... thats it you can sit back, relax ...go and sit on a beach somewhere?wrong Through my years of experience I have become aware more and more of the stages involved in a redesign of any given website, various types of website require various different aspects of a design process. For example some things may only happen in the development of an e-commerce site and other things may only appear on a blog. So not all of the below are applicable to all sites, but most should be.
Do parts of your existing site work well?
If your answer is yes, then keep them and improve them.
The same goes for if something doesn't work ditch it and find a new way of doing things, you will find inspiration in the most unlikely of places. For example you need a new colours scheme, look around you... the books, the plants, your living room paint scheme ... they all work ... go next door look around ... more colours... go to the park even more... one of these schemes will suit your needs I bet!
If you want to know if something works take a look at your analytics. What do you mean you don't have them! ... go and install some a few months before you even consider a redesign.
Combination & Mutation
All websites have aspects that belong in a single place, so why do they get splashed all over? Well ok sometimes its just a feed and links back "home" ... we love this kind of thing. But with older sites you need to consider if two pages belong as one and need to be more concise you need to make sure they are. Do you have tools such as calculators or postal tracking ... keep them simple and remove any obstacles such as them being over 7 or 8 pages... no body wants to site waiting for each page to load.
Think of it as though you are back on a dial-up connection (hard I know)... you have managed to get to your checkout ... congrats! ... next you want to checkout but it wants you to register (damn!) ... so you register thats another 3 pages! ... you go back to your cart, theres the address to confirm, payment to process, confirmation and a newsletter sign up... 4 or 5 pages plus your sign up... maybe 3 pages max with a combined sign up for guest users maybe better? - a nice example of this is if you purchase through Kaloss Trimmers ... 2 page checkout with auto registration (ok there is a further page for newsletter stuffs but thats life).
What attracts Visitors
Did you install analytics? Good you need them. Check your landing pages, these are hotspots for search engines and visitors, check you exit pages these are freezing and there maybe something wrong with them.
Now check competitor websites what do you like about them, does your site and the competitor site have anything in common? if so this is a good sign and you should consider this a focus point for your visitors.
Graphics are Important
When you get to a site (even this one) the first thing you search for is graphics, a logo ... a central feature to draw your attention. Now if your like me and are not afraid of being different then you too could remove all graphics from your main design, but my guess is this wouldn't be too good for most company websites.
As I have said graphics draw your attention and should be made to stand out from your content, this not only means they look nice but that a user (in their mind) can distinguish between content and graphic making content easier to use.
Graphics include photos, if you have a site from 2006 look at the photography and decide which look dated and are irrelevant, then take a look and see which you can still use (if any). The chances are you need some new ones taking or finding, a good place to start is iStock.
More stuff to Consider
Along with the above you will probably want to consider Screen Resolution, Target Audience (obviously) and Internet Speed of users.
If you have installed analytics then you will probably be able to gain the resolution, browser and internet speed (as well as location and more) quite easily... which make life much easier for both you and your designer.
Its all very well having the best design in the world but whats the point if your users can't use it or even access it?
Total Redesign or Partial?
This is always a hard question to answer and it depends on a few factors including (but not limited too); budget, success of current site, technologies available & coding of the old site.
There have been great successes with both minor and major redesigns, some are forced through hacking of sites (such as AK Designs) or those who opted for a complete redesign such as Bing.
Of course most of the time the current situation will dictate whether you have a partial or complete redesign of your site. If you can afford to and have time then I advise a full redesign to bring everything up to standard and future proof to some extent, this way you will not be fighting fire with fire as the months roll on and your old site continues to fall apart around you. If you must go for a partial redesign then do so with caution, do not change something that works or waste money on a lot of new graphics you may only use for a few months, a partial redesign is a stop-gap and nothing more.
Before agreeing to a redesign of your site, make note of the following specifics and advice these are probably the most important part of this article.
Redirect Old Pages
This is where most websites fall down, they do not redirect old urls to new ones, it's an easy mistake to make not least as it can be time consuming writing the code to redirect.
The best and most common method of redirection is using a 301 - redirect of pages in a .htaccess file. These are relatively easy to understand and use and perform best with search engines.
301 redirects are "permenant" so when a SE sees it it will remember it.
302 redirects are "temp" so search engines will check back at the url periodically.
Whichever you use it will not only help a search engine find your content again but will also re-point your users browser to the new location of the wanted content... win-win
Upsetting Loyal Users
This is where more sites fail than any other area. Well the bigger site redesigns anyway.
We all know the story of how every few months Facebook will make changes to their social network ... some users have an uproar but eventually settle down... it's almost comical as they create groups on facebook to say they hate it... they have nowhere else to go! Facebook is a one off and has a captive audience.
Other sites like bing are a turn on or off for users, most people don't care though.
However take ebay and amazon and google for that matter, they don't change what works, they don't tweak through fear of loss of traffic and loss of revenue... google hasn't changed much since year 1.
Work with Experience
Experience in redesign is something not many have, mainly because people tend to scrap older websites and start a fresh. But companies these days want to save money, it is a recession after all, so it's time to look for experience re-designers.
In many ways redesign is harder than a new design! You have to take the existing and melt it in a volcanic brainstorm with new raging ideas, it is a complex event but at the end of the storm you are left with a redesign with everything you want and more (usually).
Also it is good to note that if your site is complex, during the volcanic eruption it will get even more complex, the it will cool down and ideas solidify and become more simple and easy to understand... an experience re-designer will simplify the most complex of websites.
If you are interested in redesigning your website visit my freelance website @ http://andykinsey.co.uk