The web changes; what was once best practice becomes outdated and what was in fashion becomes old hat. And because of this, websites change too. You’ll have no doubt noticed your favourite websites have been updated in recent years and 123 Reg launched a redesigned and rebranded website just last week.
Business spend a lot of time and effort launching new sites because it’s important – an outdated website can have a negative impact on sales, especially if your competitors are keeping up to date with the latest online developments. (If you’re not sure whether you need a new site, then check out this guide.)
But redesigning and rebranding isn’t straightforward. So what should you look out for when launching a new site? Here we’ll look at eight potential pitfalls and how you can avoid them.
Failing to embrace the latest must-haves
If you haven’t redesigned your website in a while, you’re likely to be missing some of the elements that need to be included. An obvious example of a must-have feature that has emerged in recent years is mobile-friendly design – launching a new site that isn’t mobile friendly would be a huge mistake, as you’ll alienate a huge number of internet users.
But this is still a trap many people fall into – either through not knowing about current best practice, or in an attempt to cut corners and save money.
To avoid it, make sure you do your research before you even attempt to redesign your website. This applies even if you’re planning on contracting things out to a web designer – the more you know about what you want, the easier it’ll be to tell if someone can provide it for you.
As for cost, it’s a misconception that building a good-looking website with packed features has to be expensive. Unless you’re planning a huge project (like launching the new Facebook) then you should be able to get everything you need from a website builder or a platform like WordPress. You can learn more about deciding on the right web design option in this guide.
It’s understandable that you’d be keen to get your redesigned website up and running, but if you rush to launch before you’ve done any testing then you could be making a huge mistake. Why? Well, it’s impossible to predict how people will interact with your new site. You may be convinced that it looks great and works the way it should, but you won’t know for sure how customers will use your site until it has actually launched.
If things go badly, your new site could lead to a huge drop off in sales. And obviously that’s the opposite of what you should be aiming for.
Clearly, the solution here is to test. Now, you shouldn’t test the new website vs the old website all at once. For starters, it’s very hard to implement effective and even if you do get your test working, you won’t get any useful information from it. This is because testing is at its best when you test just one change at a time. So you might want to test the headline from a page on your existing site vs the new headline the same page on your redesigned site (this is known as A/B testing). If the new headline wins, then that’s a sign the changes you’re planning to make will work.
Ideally, you’d test every change in this way, but often this isn’t practical. If you’re short on resources, then focus your testing on your most important pages – that’s the ones that make you the most money.
Of course, don’t forget it’s possible to test your new website without making any changes to your online presence. You can use heuristic testing with an offline version of your new site. Heuristic testing basically involves asking a small group of people to use your site while you watch. The idea is that you get to see how people actually interact with your website, so you can see if things work the way they should.
You can learn about the principles of A/B testing here, while there’s more information on other forms of testing in this article about understanding your website visitors.
Forgetting your customers
Your business isn’t about you, it’s about your customers. And if you don’t bear them in mind when redesigning and rebranding your site, then you could be headed for disaster. Now in this case, we don’t mean forgetting about how customers will interact with your site, but how they will view the changes you’ve made to your brand.
A dramatic redesign and rebrand can alienate and existing and potential customers, especially if you drift away from the tone of voice which they expect from you. For example, if you run an accountancy firm and your website copy uses a formal tone of voice and then you redesign and rebrand to use a less formal tone of voice, you shouldn’t be surprised if your customers have a negative reaction to this.
Do research into what existing and potential customers expect from a business like yours and use that as the basis of your redesign and rebrand.
Not having an SEO plan
Ranking well in search engines is hugely important for an online business. If you approach your redesign without a search engine optimisation (SEO) plan, then you could make mistakes that will make it harder to rank well. To make matters worse, if your site is already ranking highly a redesign without an SEO plan can damage your rankings, something that can lead to a drop in sales.
Developing an SEO plan for a website redesign is a huge issue, and also a vital one. We’ll be publishing a guide on this topic shortly, so keep your eyes peeled.
Prioritising looks over function
You no doubt have an idea about what your perfect website would look like. But what would you sacrifice to make it happen? Sometimes people get so attached to a certain design, they forget the most important feature of a website is that it’s easy to use and navigate. If your perfect web design doesn’t turn visitors into customers, then it’s not perfect – no matter how you feel about the way it looks.
It’s true that sometimes you do have to sacrifice looks at the altar of functionality, but the most important thing to do is to test your new site to work out what works and what doesn’t. If it doesn’t work, then don’t do it.
Not benchmarking stats and monitoring changes
You launch your new site and decide you want to see how it measures up to your old site. But then you discover you don’t have any stats from before the change to compare your new stats to. Ideally, you should have statistics dating back at least a year. That way, you’ll be able to make sure that any change, good or bad, isn’t just down to seasonal differences.
Check out this article to find out what stats you should be monitoring after you launch a redesigned website.
You should also be able to see quickly if something isn’t working on the site. You may have thoroughly tested your site, but if an error has somehow crept in and that error stops people from completing a purchase you need to know about it as soon as possible.
Setting up conversion funnels on Google Analytics will let you identify any problems quickly and easily.
If you’re planning a redesign, but haven’t yet got Google Analytics installed on your site, then check out this guide to installing Google Analytics and get it on there as soon as possible. You won’t be able to draw on a huge amount of data, but anything is better than nothing.
Changing or removing your Google Analytics code
It might happen accidentally, or you might not realise how important it is to keep the same Google Analytics code. But if you do make changes to it, you’ll lose the ability to monitor the impact your changes have had on your site. And if you can’t monitor the impact, you won’t know if the switch over has been successful. Make sure your Google Analytics code stays on your site, and that it stays the same.
Redesigning/rebranding a website is a huge job, but it shouldn’t be a leap into the unknown. Make sure you’re fully prepared. By understanding the problems you might face when re-launching your site, you’re more likely to make a success of things.