Investing in a new website can be costly, so it’s important to consider whether giving your site a facelift will be beneficial for your business and your users. Before you decide, it’s crucial that you dig into your visitor data to make informed decisions rather than relying on guesswork and just choosing the colours you like best.
So, should you?
It’s 2016, so if you don’t have a mobile-friendly site yet, it may be time for a refresh. That being said, if you get low levels of traffic from mobile devices, shelling out for your whole site to be redesigned may not be worthwhile. Still, mobile search has grown exponentially over the last few years and the vast majority of users do expect a mobile experience nowadays – no matter what your company does.
A myriad of cheesy stock images is generally not a good thing either. I have seen nearly every variation of ‘call now woman’ and it hurts my cringe pipe every time I come across one.
Roll up those sleeves and get elbow deep in data
There are a number of things to look for in Google Analytics that will determine whether or not your site could benefit from a makeover. Look for pages with high bounce rates and low time on site – as well as your overall engagement metrics. Look at the paths users pass through before making a conversion – where are they dropping out of the funnel?
Bear in mind that it could be the content that is turning users off rather than the way your site looks – so consider analysing the pages that perform poorly with a view to improving content to see if this makes an impact on conversions before making any rash decisions.
Even better, if you are getting significant traffic to some of your worst performing pages, why not try tweaking the design and content using A/B testing? A/B testing sends 50% of your users to the original page (control) and 50% of them to the test page. Once the test reaches statistical significance, you’ll know what users respond to best. You can then repeat this experiment across other pages of the site without having to create an entirely different website.
Is it just you that hates the way your site looks?
It’s good to look at what your competitors are doing design-wise, but don’t be too swayed by how aesthetically pleasing you think their sites are. You may think they look good – users may not.
A good way of benchmarking how your visitors perceive your site is with user testing videos. After asking a predetermined number of participants to perform a few simple tasks on your site, and the same on your competitors’ sites, you may be surprised by the unbiased feedback you receive.
Beyond the look of the site, functionality is a major factor for users. If a user comments that your site looks a bit outdated, but they complete tasks quickly, whereas on the ‘fresher looking’ competitor’s site they flounder about clicking all over the place for 5 minutes, there is a good chance that your site is more likely to convert – and ultimately – this is way more important than them saying they like the colour scheme.
If in doubt, use conversion rate optimisation and UX testing to make informed decisions – never assume, and never ‘go with your gut’.
Consider the tech and not just aesthetics
If you have decide to take the plunge and are confident that the site could benefit from being redesigned, you need to consider whether a complete overhaul is required due to limitations with your existing site. If this is the case, you will need to review some technical factors that may influence the framework/programming language that you choose for your site to be built in, and find the right developer for the job (if you want a Magento site for your e-commerce site then there is not much point in choosing a developer that an expert in building websites in ASP.NET for example). If you want to be able to make changes to the site yourself after the redesign is complete, you’ll also need to consider which content management system (CMS) will work best for you.
You don’t need to be an expert in this, but it is important to understand what your business requires before assuming that you can take an exhaustive list of wants and needs to your developer expecting them to build it, and design it the way you want. Research the pros and cons of different frameworks and CMS before entering into a contract with a developer.
Think beyond the website
If your brand colours have always been black and red, why the hell do you want to design a site using every colour of the rainbow all of a sudden? You risk confusing users – not to mention the nightmare of updating all your other marketing collateral! Think about what changing your website will mean more broadly.
Understanding and trust is a huge part of the process
Finding the right developer and designer to work with can be challenging. Expect to look at a lot of portfolios before choosing who to work with – after all if you had a bricks and mortar business you wouldn’t let any chump claiming to be a builder loose in your premises with a sledgehammer on the assumption he is a good builder, right?
A good design/development team should take visitor data analysis into consideration when designing the site – otherwise there was no point in doing it. They should also have an understanding of search engine optimisation (SEO) to ensure that when the site migrates to the updated, new and shiny version that your visibility doesn’t fall off the face of the earth.
While they should act as an extension of your business and understand your objectives, your developer/designer should be willing to challenge you on certain aspects too – they are the experts, after all.
Once you have chosen a developer and designer, promise us you won’t be this guy. Good luck!
Image credit – The Oatmeal