There are tons of companies redesigning their websites these days. The world of web has changed greatly in the past few years and if you have not updated since the 90’s you are in for some major shocks. The landscape is completely different and new sites need to be well thought out and enticing.
Firstly, design is not about just how it looks. Design is how it works. What problems are you currently facing with your website? What new challenges do you want to conquer? What is the purpose of your website? What feedback have you received from your users? Have you installed Google Analytics to monitor your websites traffic and use-patterns? Have you heard of Google Analytics? Lastly, what content do you want featured? All design requires content. Veteran web designer Jeffrey Zeldman, famously said “content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration”. The beauty of Google Analytics is that it will help you determine which content is useful, which content is needlessly taking up space, and which content may be important to you but is not being accessed. Once you have decided what content stays and what goes, the design process can start.
Is your current site a responsive design?
This is one of the more important aspects of your redesign. You will want to invest in at least 3 versions of your site design. Desktop, tablet, and mobile. The world is viewing the web on their phones more than ever. With over 1,000,000,000 (yes that is billion) smartphone users in the world you better be prepared with a mobile friendly version. There is nothing more frustrating to a mobile web surfer than having to zoom in and try to hit extremely small links and buttons. Please allow your chosen design team to properly think this through. The mobile world is not simply a smaller version of your site. It will have less content and should be catered to the mobile user who is likely out and about in the world. Why are they visiting your site on the go? For example, are you a store with a brick and mortar location? They are probably looking for contact info to find you, so it might be a good idea to have that be front and center of your mobile site. The mobile version should be easily navigated with one hand. Think about your user riding the bus and having to hold onto the rail with one hand and navigating your site with the other. Are buttons large enough? Are they properly placed? You want to have a very enjoyable user experience, because internet users are very fickle and if they run into any problems they will bail from your site and use someone elses.
What in the world is a CMS?
Is your website just a collection of files on server written in some cryptic code that you have no clue how to read? Do you rely on a web developer to do all the updates? Are you at the mercy of code nerds and just wish you could do some things yourself? Well, you are in luck. The world has become a better place with the advent of the Content Management System (CMS). Open source options like Drupal and Wordpress have changed the game. You can now have a website built to your exact specifications and then update content yourself with a few clicks of a mouse. Drupal and Wordpress offer a user interface much like Facebook and other social media sites. You can add/change pictures in galleries, you can update your homepage photo carousel with new content, you can blog, and you can even get into the main content of any page and edit it just as simply as you can write an email. If designed properly, updating content in one spot will update that content everywhere it lies on your website. It is so simple it does not seem real! However, it is. These CMS’s offer premade plugins and modules that are extremely powerful and speed up development time greatly. The CMS is not only great for editing content, it is great for the whole development process as it can save a lot of time and time is money.
Where in the world did my users go?
Remember when I said content is very important? Well, I am going to say it again. Content is king. Without it you have no purpose. Why would a user come to your site more than once if your content is old and never updated? It is very important to have new content on your site regularly. This is why blogs are very good. Blogs play a couple roles. First, they engage the users with new content. It is important to have someone with interesting taste who can find and create new content for your feed. Secondly, blogs are great for SEO or Search Engine Optimization. Do you want to be #1 on Google? Well, new content is a huge factor in that. Google does scans of the web regularly. New content with a 2-3% keyword density will get the highest rating. When writing content make sure you do not overload it with keywords. Google recognizes this and punishes those who try to trick it. Remember when I said CMS’s have cool plugins and modules? Well, there are SEO plugins/modules that will help you get that blog post just right. It will analyze your language and keywords and then give you a rating. These can be extremely helpful when starting out. After a few uses you will get the hang of it and become an expert blog writer. If you have not updated your site in the last few years it is time. Trends have changed and the web becomes a more beautiful place with every passing year. Stay up to date with what is happening, but don’t jump on every trend. Let new technology be vetted by the world wide web and then determine if its a good fit for you. You want to be current, but you do not want to chase every new flashy toy that comes along. Speak with your chosen design team and determine your goals. Your goals will determine your final product and give you a benchmark to aim for and hopefully hit. Good luck and keep an open mind, things have changed.