Hope you guys had a smashing 2013 and ended it with some amazing Christmas festivities and a cracker jack of a New Year’s celebration. Now that all of you are back and (hopefully) out of your holiday hangover, it’s time to take a cold hard look at your website. Bring in the New Year by giving your site a redesign. We believe the design of every site needs to be overhauled every year. HubSpot , the company behind the extremely popular internet marketing software, says 68% of marketers redesigned their sites every year. This lends credence to our assertion that your website is due for a redesign this year.
Websites like Flickr, MSNBC, Harper’s Bazaar, NPR, New York Times, Audi, Diesel, and Google were redesigned in 2013 to improve user experience, responsiveness, and to satisfy the evolving needs of increasingly discerning users. With the big brands reimagining their website design every year (some of them do it through the year), you don’t want your website to be seen as a technology laggard. With everybody around you launching new websites your old website will stand out and in a bad way.
To look at website redesign purely as a means of changing the look and feel of a site won’t be doing justice to it. Contemporary web design goes beyond the look and feel to actually overhauling the functionality, presentation, speed and seamlessness of the website. The redesign mustn’t be superficial but address some of deeper malaises afflicting your site.
If you’re looking for inspiration for redesigning your website, look no farther than Apple’s website redesign history. The refinements to Apple’s website have kept pace with the release of its extraordinary range of products.
If that’s not enough, some of these reasons should help convey the importance of website redesign:
#1 – Implement Latest Technologies
You do not fight battles of the present with weapons of the past; likewise your website cannot hope to generate enough impact with your website using outdated technology, the “Obamacare” website is a case in point.
2013 was dubbed the year of Responsive Web Design (RWD). Did your website ride the crest of the responsive wave by using HTML5, CSS3 Media queries and the various tools available for responsive web design to make it more responsive?
No, then your website needs a redesign pronto!
If you’ve already got a RWD, has it been built using the latest responsive frame work? For e.g. ZURB came up with Foundation 5, the follow-up to their extremely popular and advanced responsive front-end framework. It’s a marked improvement to its earlier avatar, and your website will profit from it at multiple levels; this is yet another reason why you need to keep redesigning your site regularly.
Forget RWD for a moment, WordPress has released version 3.8 “Parker” , with a brand new admin dashboard, uncluttered design, and prime focus on clean typography. Your WordPress website is not empowered with it yet? Another reason, why it needs to be redesigned! You don’t want a brand new competitor website built on WordPress 3.8, taking your customers away from you do you, I think not.
#2 – Keeping in Step with the Latest Trends
Your website is a fashionista. If it doesn’t stay up-to-date with the latest trends, it loses relevance and the battle for mindshare.
Let’s take a look back at 2013 and the trends that it brought to the table:
- Responsive Web Design: Pete Cashmore, the CEO and Founder of Mashable wrote a very prescient article in December, 2012 about Why 2013 is the year of Responsive Web Design. A year end article on Forbes, urged businesses to get a responsive website before 2014 ended, which just about summed up the extraordinary impact this trend had on 2013.
- Flat Design: 2013 also so many designers experimenting with flatter icons, more white space, zero gradients and patterns; to put it simply they rediscovered the importance of the two dimensional screen and three dimensional physicality was thrown out of the window. The various advantages of this design made it a very popularly implemented trend.
- Minimalism: Doing more with less was in fashion in 2013, and astute designers used only the most essential design elements to make an impact on website visitors.
If your website subscribed to any one of the trends in 2013, or was a coming together of all three, congratulations, it was “trendy” and “fashionable”, but now that we’ve entered 2014, you must make sure it subscribes to the trends of 2014.
Although, we’re still in January, we can make some predictions based on design takeaways from 2013. While RWD, Flat and Minimalist web design trends will continue their glorious innings this year as well, there might be newer trends that will make you want to redesign your site. At E2M, we believe the use of ‘videos’ in place of text or images will emerge as the # 1 web design trend of 2014. We will also witness an increased use of ‘Animated and Responsive Icons’ and ‘Custom Typography’.
The thing about trends is that you need to be first off the blocks with it; if your website sports a trend after its competitors have implemented it, it won’t generate the impact you’re looking for. The one thing that will give you first mover advantage is website redesign carried out right at the beginning of the year, and which implements the trends that will impact 2014 at multiple levels.
#3 – Because Google wants you to
Like it or not, Google’s watching your online presence with the eyes of a hawk. Yes, apart from the defining role it plays in internet marketing, it also has its own views about the UI and UX of design – It loves rich UI and UX. Here is what Google’s Matt Cutts has to say on a website’s UI/UX:
“A lot of people think about “How do I build more links?” and they don’t think about the grander, global picture of “How do I make something compelling, and then how do I make sure that I market it well?” You know, you get too focused on search engines, and then you, for example, would entirely miss social media and social media marketing. And that’s a great way to get out in front of people.
So specifically I would think, just like Google does, about the user experience of your site. What makes it compelling? What makes it interesting? What makes it fun? Because if you look at the history of sites that have done relatively well or businesses that are doing well now, you can take anywhere from Instagram to Path, even Twitter, there’s a cool app called YardSale, and what those guys try to do is they make design a fundamental piece of why their site is advantageous to go to. It’s a great experience. People enjoy that.
So you could not just pay attention to design you could pay attention to speed or other parts of the user experience. But if you really get that sweet spot of something compelling where the design is really good or the user experience just flows, you’d be amazed how much growth and traffic and traction you can get as a result”
The new Google algorithmic update recommends websites have an extremely engaging feature rich UI and UX, which people will love going through and which encourages them to read and share. If your website has been primarily built for the search engines, you’ve got it wrong, Google wants website pages made for the users and not search engines. One quality signal that Google takes into consideration is the time people spend on your site. What Google wants you to do is satisfy users by giving them useful actionable information. Satisfaction is a ranking factor, and if your website is not delivering value on Google’s terms and this is reflected in your analytics, it needs to be redesigned; it’s UI and UX needs an overhaul.
#4 – Freshening it Up for your Customers
Was there something wrong with Google’s Home Page UI and UX that it was redesigned in 2013? While they’ve not come up with an official reason yet, it will be fair to say that they wanted to give a fresh look to their users. Why is this necessary? To put it simply, your website is targeting an audience that has lots of choices. They can pick from your “boring old site that they’ve visited to death” or “A new site that offers them a web experience they haven’t encountered before”.
Think about it, if you’ve been visiting a particular site regularly and it keeps delivering the same visual and functional experience, you will get bored. If you don’t want that happening to visitors on your site, you need to keep delivering new web experiences regularly. This needs redesign.
Off the top the head, here are a few common reasons why people get bored of a site, although it is still offering useful content:
- They get bored with the same information being presented to them.
- They get tired of seeing the same visuals time and again.
- They know just what to expect from your site, there are no surprises.
- They aren’t able to engage with it anymore at any level.
- It lacks excitement and a power to hold their attention.
People are always looking for something new from a site, even if they’re loyal visitors of the site. A website must make users want to explore a site because it tickles their interest.
#5 – A Reason to Initiate Communication
Have you ever felt odd calling up a person, you’ve not talked to for quite some time and are racking your brains to search for a topic to break the ice? Well, now think about how you will initiate communication with customers who have done business with you in the past, and who you want to reconnect with again? You need a solid reason to get in touch with them and what better than announcing the launch of a redesigned site?
So how do you go about announcing the launch of your redesigned? Take a look:
- Email: Emails are still the most effective ways of communicating with your customers and email marketing is still one of the more important pillars of a marketing campaign. In this particular case, your mail is part promotional and part useful information. Focus on the subject line and make sure it will get you a click. Make sure you get to the point quickly and tell them why they’re receiving this message and how valuable they are to your business.
- PR: Write a great PR. “_____ (company) Launches Its Redesigned Site”. A simple enough Title but enough to reengage the attention of your target customers.
- Social Media: Tap into the engagement power and extensive reach of the various social media platforms to take your re-designed site directly to its target audience. Social networks facilitate personal interactions between you and your target customers, and with people spending more time on their social networks as compared to any other online platform, you have a better chance of letting your target customers know of your website’s redesign.
The purpose behind communication is to touch base with a group of customers who might have shopped on your site, but have forgotten all about it. Think of redesign as a conduit for letting them know your website (business) still exists.
#6 – Redesign Increases Conversions
Redesign could be an integral part of your conversion rate optimization strategy. Getting visitors to your site is just the first step in making your website work; the second step is improving your conversions. How many of those visitors coming to your site, convert? While we don’t have a lot of data on the ideal conversion ratio, a 2012 Marketing Sherpa report places the figure at 3% for ecommerce sites and 10% for professional services sites. But, zeroing in on an ideal conversion ratio is dicey business, because there are multiple factors that determine a website’s conversion ratio. But, there is no doubt that quite a number of businesses choose to redesign their sites, citing lack of conversions as a reason.
So, does redesign really improve conversions? Yes it does. This case study on Crazy Egg tells readers how conversions were improved with redesign. So, redesign, provided you get it right, does play a huge role in improving conversions. Identify your website’s conversion leaks and sort them out through its redesign.
#7 – Attract new Links
Redesign can also present an opportunity for link building. Let’s face it; one reason why websites fail to generate traction amongst users is because they fail to compete on the link building front. Their website just doesn’t pack the punch that makes people want to link to the site.
One of the ways you can use redesign to generate new links is by submitting your site to CSS galleries. Submissions earn you one way thematic links to your website; the more sites you submit your site to, the more links you can build. But there is a dark cloud to every silver lining and in this case overdoing it might result in a Google penalty. So, the trick is to submit your site to only highly rated CSS galleries. Target the galleries that are really difficult to get into, and not the ones that accept every design submitted. In a world where you can’t afford to get into Google’s bad books, submitting your redesigned site to numerous CSS galleries irrespective of their quality can get you into trouble.
#8 – For a Stronger Presence on Mobile Devices
According to StatCounter, the web tracking specialist, 20% of the global internet traffic is driven by mobile devices. ITU, in a June 2013 survey, reported 2.1 billion active mobile brand subscriptions, which is huge. Your online presence needs to tap into this extraordinary growth in mobile internet usage; another reason why you must redesign your site. Mobile friendly redesigns help websites capture the mindshare of audiences that use their mobile devices to access the internet.
But a word of caution to the wise – Addressing the needs of the mobile users shouldn’t compromise the experience of desktop user. To put it simply, mobile friendly shouldn’t mean desktop unfriendly. Distilled has a great article on building a mobile friendly site, definitely a must read. What’s more, a mobile friendly web design also comes in handy for your mobile SEO strategy.
I know what you’re thinking – A mobile friendly site equals increasing your website redesign budget. The truth is, it doesn’t; you can make your website mobile friendly on a budget.
#9 – Attract New Customers
One reason why websites do not succeed is they can’t get their mix of actionable information and marketing appeal right. The website copy is ordinary, the imagery has very little emotion, and the call-to-action buttons are devoid of any persuasive quality whatsoever and do not showcase urgency. Also, it doesn’t have shareable content. And to top it all the marketing messages and sales copy strewn through the site attract scant attention. Such websites lack imagination and the power of engagement. As can be imagined a website with these flaws will fail to attract the attention of new customers.
If there are design mistakes that are killing your sales by affecting your website’s ability to attract new customers, you must redesign. The addition of high impact design elements features like blogs, emotive appeal, and conversion worthy web copy will attract new customers. By offering a more intuitive UX, you can make your web experience even more enjoyable. Integration of social media channels in your website will help improve user engagement, social proof and brand credibility. Successful redesign involves exploring a variety of design avenues to recreate a web presence by adding some ‘zing’ to it.
#10 – Getting Rid of Junk
Over the years, your website might have kept adding to its collection of unnecessary/junk pages that are no longer used. Redesign allows you to 404 such pages so they are gone forever and do not affect the UX of the site, or you could use page redirect to guide users to the relevant pages.
A mature and growing website contains parts that become outdated after a point of time. You need to snip these parts off and add new ones that are more in sync with the times. For e.g. social share buttons were the rage a few years ago, but if you think there are worthier social media features that you want implemented on your site, you can remove the buttons while redesigning a site.
At times, these unwanted features/functionalities/elements interfere with the web experience and therefore their removal is an absolute must.
#11 – Search Optimization
Over optimized website content, bad information architecture, and a design that is not very SEO friendly is just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to the bad SEO that a site’s redesign seeks to improve. One of the reasons why an existing site fails to deliver the SEO results on expected lines is because of its load time. Loading time affects a site’s Google rankings and it needs to be minimized as much as possible.
Here are a few things that will speed up the load time of your site:
- Optimizing the images (decreasing their size).
- Cacheable landing page redirects.
- HTTP compression for optimizing content.
- Minimizing HTTP Requests.
- Reducing 301 Redirects.
This is just a small sampling of what designers can do to improve the loading speed of your site.
Something else that a site’s redesign allows you to do is clean its code. The code must be such that it allows search engine spiders to crawl your site easily. Everything right from the text to images, videos and other web elements must be coded to perfection to ensure your web pages receive higher visibility. However, there is a thin line between good SEO and disastrous SEO post redesign, so it’s imperative your redesign is handled by people or companies that understand SEO and the role deesign plays in improving the SEO of a site.
#12 – Rebranding
If your brand’s been on the market for many years and you’re thinking of rebranding your business, you’ll need to give your online identity a makeover. The transformation of your website must be a visual representation of the transformation of your brand. One reason why brands reinvent themselves is to target a new audience and seize newer opportunities to enhance strategic business growth. Your website is one of the first and the more common ways that a target audience encounters your brand, and redesigning is one you can convey the new and improved brand identity to them. The 19 questions that this article says you must ask yourself before rebranding should also be kept in mind while redesigning a site to rebrand it.
#13 – Better UX
We’ve talked about UX and UI earlier in the article, but UX deserves a few more words. Improving the UX of the site involves fine tuning the site and bettering its user flow. There are three principal requirements of an effective UX, namely
- Navigation: Great website navigation is all about consistency. The navigation must be consistent across pages, which helps users find all relevant information quickly and easily. Redesign ensures website users can find their bearings on the site effortlessly. The navigation must showcase clear categorization, clickable links, accurate navigation titles and advanced search.
- Pagination: Pagination in web parlance is the method of data organization and numbering that makes data more manageable and its access more user-friendly. If your website has lots of information and you need to display all of it in a manner that is easy-to-follow, effective pagination is a must. Getting it right helps you improve UX, getting it wrong is a UX disaster. The best eCommerce sites in the world give significant importance to pagination and many of them decrease their page load time with the use of lazy loading.
- Call-to-Action: People underestimate the significance of call-to-action buttons in a website’s user experience. Good call-to-action buttons are easy to find and help prioritize the tasks on your site. Some tasks on your website are more important than others, and the use of a well-crafted button signifies the importance of a specific task. The use of the right words, placement and highlighting are just some of the many ways call-to-action buttons must be used on a site to improve UX.
#14 – And finally, Competitive Edge
At the end of the day, redesign helps you gain an edge over your competitors. You have an opportunity to analyze the strengths and weakness of your site and that of your competitors. Take steps to highlight your strengths and not make the mistakes your competitors are making. The idea behind redesigning your site every year is to keep improving its competitiveness vis-à-vis the market and ensuring it doesn’t lag behind in the profitability sweepstakes.
If you aren’t redesigning your website in the New Year, you’re missing a trick. And in the cut throat world of business powered by the Word Wide Web, this can set you back in a big way.