When launching a new website, especially during a website redesign, there are various factors and parties at play. Some of the most important steps when relaunching a website can be easily overlooked, which can cost you in search results ranking, organic website traffic, and 404 errors. Here are our tips to ensure you are looking after the most critical factors when launching your new website.
It’s easy to identify the pain points an organization might have with its current website, for example:
- it takes too long to load,
- it’s hard to find specific company information,
- customers can’t find our website on search engines.
These are substantial reasons to make a change, and the good news is, they may be easily overcome. However, solving these problems shouldn’t be the first place you begin your redevelopment journey. In fact, it is likely many of these pain points may be easily solved with the implementation of a few best practices, functional considerations, and by answering two very important questions:
- What are you trying to achieve with your website?
- Does it align with your business objectives?
A good place to start is by identifying your target audience (eg. public consumers, investors, consultants), and from there your business objectives. Are you trying to increase sales for your e-commerce business? Expand brand awareness for a new product or service? Improve website conversions and grow lead generation? Or is it recruiting new talent?
Whatever your answer is to these questions will become the foundation of the redesign decision-making process. The implementation of functionality, performance tools, and refreshing design will be the building blocks to make it a towering success.
The 5 Basics: What Most People Consider With Website Redesign
- New navigation: Always refer back to the perspective of your target audience and ask, “what content is my visitor most interested in?” Consider the keywords and categories that would most resonate with them, and don’t be afraid to do a little research to see what terminology your competitors are using. The long-revered 3-click rule for navigation has been replaced with the popularity of drop-downs, mega menus, and sidebars offering flexible options for comprehensive content to be organized in a simplified manner. Don’t discount the valuable space of the footer either. Aim for a balance of organized content and relatable terminology.
- Updated design: A new color scheme to a website is like a refreshing new coat of paint. It should reflect the persona of your brand and aim to invite your visitors to dive deeper within your site. Remember your business objectives? Organize your page content by the level of priority: descriptive information, appealing visual features and highlights, and calls to action.
- Content Management Systems: Non-web developers have the ability to create, design and implement impactful websites more than ever before with the recent expansion of WYSIWYG products. But those products come with limitations on both front and back ends. You’ll need to identify levels of investment in areas such as technical maintenance (servers and security), specialty resources allocated to management (out-of-the-box functionality or complex customizations), and compliance for retention (hosting development and production sites). The complexity of your requirements will help determine the amount of resources you’ll need to manage your website moving forward.
- New content: Static content is that which rarely changes and can be categorized as information first-time visitors will most likely review (e.g. about your services, company history). Though this might be the first set of content you think about updating, consider investing more thought into the dynamic content that will make your website compelling and encourage returning visitors. So what is dynamic content? It could be:
- news updates and regular blog posts,
- seasonally featured products,
- customer stories or monthly industry insights and reports.
Dynamic content will also help drive your social media marketing strategy. If you’re not thinking about social media yet, you should, because shared content (in its many forms) when executed with purpose will ultimately lead to increased visibility of your website.
- Responsive design: The most carefully constructed content and creative visual appeal won’t engage your audience if it isn’t responsive to mobile-friendly devices. Over 50 percent of website traffic is generated through mobile phones (source). Make testing the accessibility of your website part of the development process with the help of paid or free development tools such as Screenfly.
What Most People Overlook During Website Redesign: Powerful Performance Variables
- Webpage speed: Hi-res images that are not optimized for web viewing, complex scripts, plugins and animations, and webpage redirects are common factors that can negatively affect your webpage loading time, or worse, user experience and session time. Optimize your front-end content and back-end functionality as concisely as possible. In many cases, it’s not one, but a combination of multiple elements that slow down your loading time. Don’t forget testing mobile speeds either. In the development process and in the ongoing maintenance of your website, insightful tools like GTMetrix can identify trouble areas to tackle.
- Meta Data: SEO ranking factors are constantly evolving and complex. Your best chance of higher rankings is implementing not just a few but collectively as many meta descriptions and keywords as you can across all elements of the website. The Yoast SEO plugin is a user-friendly tool to implement data within page titles and descriptions. But don’t stop there. Image descriptions, blog categories and tags, URLs, and page content are all opportunities to incorporate keywords that are most relevant to your audience, business, and industry. Do your keyword research with a bit of help from sources like Keyword Tools.
- Internal Linking: Find opportunities to link to child pages, blog articles, resources and relevant content from within your pages. Not only does this encourage visitors to further navigate through your site (increasing session duration), it helps establish an architecture search engines can crawl and directly affect your SEO.
- Broken links: Search engines don’t just stop at crawling your internal links, they’re crawling your external links too. If those links are broken, search engines can stop crawling your site, thus negatively affecting your SEO rankings and indexing. Establish a habit of checking both internal and external links regularly.
- Accessibility: Reduce technical barriers with potential for negative user experience, or preventing access to your website. If you are making changes to a domain name, network or IP address, configure your DNS settings appropriately. Often overlooked is enabling access with or without a user typing the “www” prefix. If you intend to collect private or sensitive data from website visitors (such as credit card payments) then securing your website with SSL (enabling HTTPS) encrypts the information, thus protecting your site visitors. If you’re eager for customers to find you in search engine results, then help those bots out by building and submitting an XML Sitemap to multiple search engines (a critical component of SEO).
- Tracking and Analyzing: Your new website has launched, but the work doesn’t stop there. The success of your website can be measured with top-rated monitoring tools such as GoogleAnalytics, Bing Webmaster Tools or StatCounter, and heat mapping services such as Crazy Egg or HotJar. Refer again to your business objectives – are you seeing an increase in e-commerce sales? Increased viewership in your videos or downloads? More newsletter sign-ups? Utilize one or two of these tools to track your customer journey and make content and design adjustments where needed.
- Testing and Quality Assurance: None of these best practices will be of benefit if your website is not functioning optimally. Be proactive and create a regular schedule of testing and updating your website’s applications, browser compatibility, security, mobile responsiveness, performance, and speed.
Combine Performance Variables & Design During Your Website Launch
The combination of a refreshing design and detailed execution of performance variables can make a substantial change for your customers and for your business. Customer expectations, industry trends, technical requirements, and business objectives are ever-evolving, and so should be your ability to adapt to those changes. With these functional elements, performance tools, and thoughtful design implementation, your website will be positioned to succeed now, and be prepared for what may come in the future.
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