For small business owners and freelancers, redesigning your website can be both an overwhelming and exciting project. The workload might be heavy but, with a strategic plan, your new website can get a more updated look, as well as grow your business.
In the previous article in this series, we covered the following:
- Reviewing your current website design’s performance,
- defining your website’s role in your business,
- setting your business goals in the near future, and
- outlining your expectations of the design process and the designer you’ll be working with (if any).
For the next stage of your redesign project, it’s time to focus on creating the new design itself. Let’s get started.
10 Easy Steps to Redesign Your Website Right (Project Plan Checklist)
The checklist below can serve as a walk-through of your website redesign process, from setting your target audience to testing and launching your new website. By following this checklist and filling up the accompanying Website Redesign Project - Checklist (Free PDF Download), your website redesign project will be easier to manage and accomplish.
1. Save Important Assets
For websites with important media such as whitepapers, videos, and other files essential to your business, make sure you back these up so that they can remain accessible after the redesign. Of course, backing up your entire site is crucial even if you’re not going to reuse all of these items.
If you reviewed your current design’s metrics benchmarks from the previous exercise, it’s time to take it a step further. Use these metrics to find the essential assets of your site. These could be the product pages with the most sales, lead gathering pages with the highest conversions, or content pages with the most visitors and social shares. List these top performing resources so that you can find ways to maximize them for your redesign.
2. Set Your Target Audience
Next, define your target audience. This is especially important if you didn’t do this for your original design. If your small business caters to multiple audiences, plan a separate "customer’s journey" for each segment, if necessary. Here are some tutorials to guide you through this process:
- Content MarketingThe Definitive Guide to Buyer Personas for BeginnersLauren Holliday
- FreelanceHow to Identify Profitable Clients: A Step-by-Step GuideCeline Roque
- MarketingHow to Make Your First Customer Journey Map (Quick Guide)Lauren Holliday
3. Competitive Analysis
Don’t forget to do a quick competitive analysis of the websites of your direct competitors and similar businesses. Make note of the following:
- Overall look. What colors do your competitors tend to choose? What type of fonts do they use (casual, formal, handwritten)? What images are predominantly displayed
- Problem Areas. Go through the different menu items on their website and make note of the things that frustrate you. Do their pages take too long to load? Is it difficult to find product and pricing information? These are the things you’ll avoid in your own site.
Good Ideas. Are there things that their website does well? Which elements do you wish you could implement on your own site? Be careful about directly lifting the text, images, and code—you don’t want to plagiarize the competition.
If you want to do a deeper analysis, consider the tips in the following guides:
- MarketingHow to Make Your Website Convert Better Than CompetitorsBrad Smith
- Small BusinessHow to Write a Competitive Analysis for Your Small Business (With Template)Celine Roque
4. Set Your KPI Goals
From the previous tutorial, you listed your business goals for the near future. Then, you determined how your new website design could contribute to these goals.
For this goal setting session, you’ll need to get more specific. Set goals for all the key performance indicators for your website. How many visitors do you need? What’s the ideal conversion rate? For sites with eCommerce features, what’s the shopping cart abandonment rate?
If these are goals that you need to work up to, set reasonable short-term goals for within a month of launching your new design. Then, set extended goals you need to reach within the first three months of your launch, the first six months, and the first year. This way, you’ll have reasonable goal posts and a long term plan for how to accomplish each of them.
For a primer on KPIs, jump into this helpful tutorial:
5. Plan for Key Features
After taking a look at your competitors’ sites and setting goals for your own site, consider the types of features you’ll need to achieve these goals. If you’re not very technical, you don’t need to know the specifics, but here are some common features of most small business sites:
- An online shopping cart,
- a blog,
- landing pages,
- an integrated sales funnel,
- multimedia elements (videos, animation, etc.,)
- online forms,
- social media integration,
- email newsletter sign-up forms, and
- website security features.
While you can add some specifics per feature — such as giving customers the ability to use discount codes on your shopping cart or having a pricing calculator that allows clients to compute potential project fees—at least know whether your site needs any of the above items.
6. Set Your Budget
Now that you’re clear about your goals and the features you need, it’s time to set a budget. The following decisions will have an effect on how much you can expect to spend on your redesign:
- Approach. Will you hire a designer or do it yourself? If you’ll take the D.I.Y. approach, will you code the website from scratch, use a drag and drop website creator, or use professional website themes? You might also decide to do a bit of both—get a pre-existing site template and get a designer or developer to make the changes you need.
- Size. How many pages does your site have? The number of different types of pages could also alter your budget. For example, you could have product pages, landing pages, and content pages. All these different types might need their own template or design.
- Back End. Will you need an application to run your website? This could be a blogging app, content management system or an eCommerce platform. Will you use a pre-existing one or have one tailor-made for your business? If you’ll use pre-existing software, how much customization do you need?
- Additional Features. You might decide that you want some animation on your site, or you might want users to rate your products, or set up an online referral program. These and other add-ons can help grow your business or make your users’ experience better.
Since your budget is dependent on several decisions, request that your designer give you different quotes if you're worried that the website you need is bigger than what you can afford. You can ask for a simple quote for getting the basics running, a mid-range quote to include some additional features, and a full-featured quote.
A great WordPress template, can help keep your costs down, while delivering a highly-customizable, professional site design.
7. Schedule Your Milestones
The types of features you want on your site and how much customization you need don’t just affect your budget, they affect your schedule too. Based on all of the above features, budget, and tasks, what’s the timeline for your project?
Don’t forget to also schedule in time for testing, revisions, and trouble shooting. If you’ll be making a big launch out of your redesign, schedule your marketing tasks as well.
If you need help creating a project schedule for your redesign, check out this tutorial for creating actionable project plans using spreadsheets:
- PlanningHow to Create an Actionable Project Plan Using a Google SpreadsheetJennifer Stakes Roberts
8. Create Your First Viable Design
It’s finally time for some hands-on work. Whether you’ll be designing the site yourself, selecting a ready-made template, or working with a designer, these are the elements you need to pay attention to:
- Branding. The branding of your design is the general look and feel of your site, and the impression that users get as a result. Your branding also helps differentiate you from your competitors, no matter how similar your businesses and products may be. You can find a primer on branding and how it relates to visuals in this guide.
- Marketing. This is the promotional aspect of your website. How does your design help promote your brand, products, and services to others? How does the design communicate to your target market that they are on the right website? Consider also how you can use your new design to attract potential customers.
- Sales. The sales aspect of your design is especially important if your target customers can pay for your products and services directly on your site. You’ll need to use your design to get high conversion rates, maximize order value, and retain customers.
- Technical. Usually, the technical aspect of your site is behind the scenes and is up to a developer more than a designer. This refers to how well your site is running, the applications and specifications required to run it, and your website’s security.
How much attention you'll devote to each of the above elements will depend entirely on your goals.
9. Optimize Your Site
Once the overall look of your site is complete, do some fine-tuning that will make it easier for potential customers to find your website. Usually, you’ll be optimizing your site for social media and search engines.
When optimizing your site for social sharing, check the source code of your website and page templates. Find out if your site carries the right meta tags for seamless sharing.
If you’ll be relying on Facebook referrals, check if you’re using the right Open Graph tags. This will ensure that your page thumbnails, titles, and descriptions will appear properly when someone shares a link from your site on Facebook.
Also, if your business’ branding and image is going to change somewhat, you might need to do some additional work creating new images for your social media profiles. This tutorial can help you tweak your existing social media accounts to match your new site design.
10. Test and Revise
It’s time to take your new design out of the box and test it on real users. Most small businesses skip this, but it’s crucial to have a glitch-free site during your launch. You’ll be able to focus on marketing during launch day, rather than fixing the many small problems that are bound to come up.
For initial tests, ask employees, friends, or family to help to point out the most obvious bugs. The closer they are to your target market, the better. They might give you a lot of unsolicited feedback on the aesthetics, so focus on their comments on usability instead.
You can also conduct more thorough tests using real customers. Reach out to your best customers who are willing to test the site for you. You can offer a discount or other perks in exchange for their feedback.
During all these tests, don’t just rely on their comments. Watch the analytics and how they use the site. If you use Google Analytics, pay special attention to the part of your dashboard labeled “Behavior Flow.” You can also use heat map tools like Crazy Egg and Sumo Heat Maps to see how users click and scroll through your site.
Based on these tests, you can make the necessary revisions to clear out glitches and optimize your site's usability.
Launch Your Website Redesign
When you’re done with the above items of your checklist, you’re ready to launch!
Remember: It doesn’t have to be perfect. The website redesign process isn’t necessarily complete during launch day. In many cases, you’ll be making a few changes after based on customer feedback and behavior.
Over the course of the next year or two, don’t let your redesign stay stagnant. Regularly review your site to see how it’s performing and what improvements you can make. This way, your redesign will become a marketing asset that evolves and grows with your business.