Working on your website takes a lot of time and is an ongoing process. It sometimes feels like a master’s degree paper, which you just don’t want to read and correct anymore. But you should! You sometimes just feel like you want to throw it all away and restart. But you shouldn’t! If you keep on going this is what separates good websites from great websites.
Relaunching or redesigning websites should be an ongoing slow evolving and tested process not an overhaul of everything every two years. Especially not for the wrong reasons, just because you or your boss can’t stand to look at the website anymore because you have to see it every day.
So the question should be, is it really your customers who need a new website or is it just you wanting something new and shiny?
At some point though you will be relaunching your website anyway, agencies and in-house developer teams just love to do these closed projects with release dates and deadlines.
First off stop relaunching your site and test what your users really want. Think about your information architecture. Do your users find the information they need? Talk to you customers, yes that’s work but incredible helpful information. If you can’t talk to them in person use services like: olark or mini surveys.
Clean up your content especially after Panda and build a better information architecture. Use user signals (analytics) and social signals (Facebook, twitter, …) in combination to see which content is useful for your users, remove or rewrite the rest. For analytics you could use bounce rate, pages visited and time on page. Check if your content URL has been shared (www.socialsignals.de).
Get your web designer to think about website speed, your users don’t want to wait … seriously they don’t want to wait. One of google and amazons successes is that they are so fast. One small ranking factor of google is page speed, always check google webmaster tools for the speed the google bot sees and your analytics what speed your users get. This gets really interesting if divided up into different geographical regions. You might even see that you need new servers in some country where you’re getting lots of traffic but everybody is bouncing because of slow loading times. (Another great testing tool is Pingdom)
Another thing you should think of at the beginning of your relaunch is mobile. Mobile has been growing ever since the iPhone launched in 2007 but is now really exploding through smart-phones and cheaper tablets. Think about the nexus 7 a tablet for 200$ this is going to kill desktops and laptops for consumer use. So have your website adjust to different screen sizes either through different templates or responsive design. Your website will have less bounces from mobile users and as this is the future in consumer (tablets) and local (smart-phones) traffic, it is a future investment. You might even want different information on your front page when accessed by smart-phones to make it easier for the mobile users to convert, as they prefer to click then to type.
Test your Designs
While redesigning you website your designers will show you different layouts and design changes. You might not always be sure which design or layout is best. You will always have a subjective opinion, but as a web expert do you really reflect the vast mass out there surfing the Internet? No!
First step ask your friends and colleagues but they might not want to be asked everyday J.
So you can test smaller design or call to action changes on http://fivesecondtest.com/ or other UX testing services this can really help your decision. Here’s an example how we decided on our new colour scheme we asked the web.
Go as far as doing you own user test with people from you shared office, the HR or finance department (they rarely see your site) … use something like silverback and a laptop that’s all. These UX test will give you great insight of what you’re doing right and wrong.
Involve your Team, a little
Think about the backend usability. Can you make your site and processes easier to use for your team or editors, so they will have less hassle, make fewer mistakes and have more fun creating more and better content for you? Talk to your team beforehand involve them in the relaunch process, but not too much otherwise too many decision makers will slow down the process and destroy the result.
Become a Brand
Another thing you should have in mind by now, especially after Panda and Penguin update is: Become a Brand!
Marcus Tandler [in German sorry] has been saying this the last two years and he is right, brand signals will help your user signals and therefore might help with your rankings. Who knows what google will do next, at the end you might have to rely on direct and returning traffic for a while and only brands get that. So all that work will pay off.
Things to do after the redesign: Test Test Test
A / B test important parts of your website your website, set up micro goals (PDFs, newsletter sign ups, certain goal pages) if you have slow or few conversions to see results quickly. Google Analytics is really good to test that.
For online marketeers: Use your Network
If your website is important for selling your product or services especially as online marketeers you should now and then spend the same amount of time on analysing your site as you would on a clients site. Maybe get a friend online marketer to look at it and accept the criticism you get, you do the same thing for your clients all the time.
Keep on working on your website, make it better every time, it’s worth it!
I’am writing this blog post from Ibiza in the sun so one last advice: wear sunscreen and watch this great video :-).
About the Author, Timon Hartung, CTO at 121WATT (www.121watt.de)
Timon is the CTO of 121WATT consulting international clients on SEO and technical online marketing issues. He also speaks at several conferences SMX, Conversion Conference and Social Media Economy Days. As he has been a developer the last 13 years and in online marketing the last 9 years he is giving workshops on technical SEO (http://www.121watt.de/technical-seo-seminar/). 121WATT specialises in online marketing consulting and workshops.
This post is part of a special guest post series this summer in which we’ve asked (search) marketers to take a ‘different perspective’ on things.