The Steps to a Successful Website Redesign
We all love to refresh our websites with awesome redesigns, something we just cannot resist as design professionals. Unfortunately, many awesome redesigns turn out to be disastrous because the redesign was not executed properly or correctly, but we just put the blame on our users or viewers who we think just disregard change altogether. Therefore, we discuss the five steps to a successful website redesign that will help you succeed in your next redesign.
Website redesigns are often hated from users and viewers alike for many valuable and credible reasons as we discuss below. I mean, if I grab you from your current location you lived all your life in and throw you in a foreign location you are extremely unfamiliar with, you would no doubt hate it and search for a quick way out, and in a website’s case, a whole new alternate site.
Aesthetical Changes Only
When redesigning your website, a major mistake that is always made is designers tend to not only make aesthetical changes, but additionally changes to how the site functions within the design, also known as the user interface. Now some slight improvements to the functionality or user interface are always good when introducing a new design, but a complete overhaul is fatal.
Apple’s iPhone is a perfect example of aesthetical changes. Hundreds of thousands of people wait in line every year for the new iPhone release for its aesthetical changes as well as a few functionality additions. If Apple changes the design of the device, everyone accepts it, but if Apple did a complete overhaul to the software’s user interface, only disaster would be the end result of that. The reason for this is, the iPhone users love the current user interface that they are used to, and changing it only creates problems rather than benefits. Therefore, when redesigning, most of the redesign should be aesthetical rather than functional.
When redesigning we can never resist ourselves from additionally restructuring the elements of our websites, it seems like if we want to feel that we really changed things, elements of the site need to be moved around. There is nothing wrong with a good friendly restructuring, but do not restructure everything, as that has proven to be a fatal option. Users like to be surprised with improvements the next time they visit your website, however, many designers fail at performing a friendly restructure, and end up getting their users or viewers lost in a completely new ball game. Therefore, when restructuring, keep the elements you moved or restructured within the same vicinity they resided in, so your viewers and users can quickly adapt to the changes and accept them.
Don’t Say Goodbye to Your Hard SEO Work
For some reason many design professionals take redesigning to a whole new level, and include URL name changing patterns as well, as a part of their redesign movement. So a page URL of contact becomes contact-us, despite the subtle differences. If you insist on performing such changes to the page URLs, do not forget to setup redirects such as 301 redirects from the old URL to the new as not doing so can affect your website’s search engine position drastically let alone all the pages your visitors have bookmarked or linked to via social networks.
An established website is different from a new website, so design errors in an established site can be costly versus launching a new website with errors. Therefore, perform heavy testing on your new design and possibly set it up for a few dozen volunteers to test it out for you for a month to assure that when you bring your redesign to the mainstream it is mostly if not completely patched up.
Designers always tend to get quite excited to introduce their awesome new design to their users that they forget this testing period, and I have seen multiple sites suffer greatly for making such mistakes, so always stay on track and schedule, as excellence takes time to reach.
Open Ears, and the Ability to Walk on Water
When introducing new website redesigns, we know that we can reduce user or viewer hate against the changes, but we can never actually eliminate such completely. Therefore, always have your ears open for the type of feedback or reaction your users provide or feel when they see your redesign. If most of your users are complaining about not being able to cope with the changes after a period of time, a good method is to revert back to the previous design, and introduce the new design in small subtle portions where users will slowly transition to the new design happily and generally unnoticed.