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Posted by Nick Salloway on 21 May 2015

Is a website redesign right for your business growth?

Now that’s possibly not a recommendation that you would expect to hear from a digital agency; we should be all about tempting you into a shiny new all singing all dancing website shouldn’t we? 

But we’re okay with being different because we believe that a website redesign is not always the right decision. In fact, it may prove to be a real waste of your marketing budget. 

So how should you decide whether a redesign is the right thing for your business? 

Someone drawing out website wireframes

A good starting point is to check your rationale for a redesign. If your decision to redesign is driven by subjective opinions the chances are a new website will not perform any better than the one you already have. Instead, try to focus on objective justifications for a redesign. Before spending money on a new site, take some time to ask customers what they expect from your site and review your analytics data to identify how you could potentially save a significant amount of money by improving what you already have. 

Here’s our quick guide to help you decide whether you need to splash the cash on a new website or whether you should keep the one you already have and improve it. 

Start by doing some customer research...

Successful websites place a forensic focus on understanding and meeting customer needs. Research will help you to identify what people are looking for when they come to your site, whether they are prospects arriving for the first time or existing customers looking for information. 

Before deciding to redesign your website it's important to carry out qualitative research to help you understand how your site will support and create value for people as they transition from visitor-to-lead, and then lead-to-customer. 

Research doesn't have to be time-consuming and expensive. When planned well, it can be done with a relatively small sample of people - probably around 6-10 - with as little as an hour spent with each of them.

Once you’ve done some research, you’ll be in a much better position to review how well your current site is working and whether a redesign is indeed the correct way forward.

Proceeding with a redesign based on assumptions and guesses about what your prospects and customers need is likely to result in a new site that contains low-quality content and doesn’t work very well. The outcome will be low dwell times, high bounce rates and poor conversion ratios.

Then check your User Experience…

There are almost as many reasons why a website doesn’t work as there are stars in the sky! 

It may be that you aren’t getting the results you need from the site, conversion rates may be lower than you expect or the site’s look and feel no longer speaks directly to your target audience. Perhaps your business has moved in a new direction and, therefore, the purpose of your site has changed. Maybe your customers are now using mobile devices rather than desktop PCs to access your site. 

Regardless of the reason, it's important to make sure your efforts to drive traffic to your site aren’t compromised by a poor user experience that sends your site visitors clicking into the arms of your competition. 

A man using a laptop

When it comes to testing your site’s user experience, real users are your true friends. If you have time, you might consider running some guerrilla user testing to identify areas of your site which frustrate users. Guerrilla testing requires little more than a PC, some cheap software and a video recording device (your phone!). It's quick and easy to do and will help you build a picture of how real people use and feel about your site. 

And finally review the data …

In the absence of time or a ready supply of crash test dummies, your web analytics can offer some quick and helpful insights into how well your website is working, and whether users might be having a good or bad experience. 

We always advise clients who are considering a website redesign to review their web analytics data before proceeding, assuming of course that they haven't already done so!  

A card with the word 'Analytics' on it

Your web analytics will provide a wealth of data that will help you figure out whether your current site might be tweaked to make it work better or whether you need to start again. If you conclude that a redesign is necessary, analytics data can help you demonstrate a business case for investment that will persuade even the most reluctant CEO. 

Start by looking at the different sources and keywords that are sending traffic to your site. As you do so, remember that a good website should attract the right traffic, not just any traffic. 

If you're getting traffic from sources or keywords that are leading to high bounce rates, you probably have an issue with your marketing, content or SEO strategy rather than the usability of your website. In which case a redesign is unlikely to solve your problem.

On the other hand, if you're getting plenty of traffic from relevant sources and keywords which isn't converting to leads, this probably is evidence that your website isn't working. If so, you should first look at improving your landing pages. If the problem persists, a redesign may well be necessary.

When reviewing your analytics, you should consider: 

Site Speed

The jury have given their verdict. Users HATE slow websites. In fact, site response times is arguably the most significant factor for users when determining whether they stay on your site and explore further, or whether they leave. 

As a rule-of-thumb, page load speed of under 2 seconds gets a big thumbs up. 2-4 seconds is good. 4–6 seconds is average and anything over 6 seconds needs attention. If your site response times exceed 10 seconds, you should assume people are leaving your site. 

Poorly performing CTAs

A 'Call to Action' (often referred to as CTA) is a line of text or an image that "calls" on website users to take an "action". The action might be to sign up for a newsletter, attend an event, purchase a product, download an eBook, etc.   

An example of a call to action to download a free guide

Analytics data can help you to understand how successfully your website user experience leads people to pages which contain CTAs and whether that journey results in people clicking on your CTAs or exiting your site (see exit pages later in this post). 

If it's the latter, the data will help you to judge whether the content or layout of a page containing an important CTA can be tweaked to provide optimal conversion performance or redesigned. After the page layout has been tweaked or redesigned, the analytics data will provide a historical benchmark for further testing of the site. 

 

404 error pages

An example of a 404 page404 pages appear when users click a link on a website to a webpage that doesn't exist - sometimes referred to as a 'broken link'.

A link is broken if the developer mistypes the URL to the linked page when they create the link, or if they delete or rename a linked page and forget to remove or update the link.

Whatever the case, sending a visitor to a 404 page is bad user experience, so much so that some developers go to great lengths to avoid negative sentiment when it does happen. The example above is used by Hillary Clinton on her website, bringing a lighthearted approach to the error page. 

Exit Pages

When reviewing your web analytics, it’s also useful to look at the top exit pages for your site (an 'exit' page is the last page a user views before they leave your site). 

You would expect your 'contact us' page to have a high exit rate where the user's goal is to find out how to contact your business. Similarly, you would expect a 'purchase complete' page to be the last page a user sees after completing a purchase. 

On the other hand, if you run an e-commerce site and your product tour page is exhibiting excessively high exit rates, this may be a red flag that invites further investigation. Perhaps people are just not interested in the product, or the page is loading too slowly. It may be your pages are incompatible with the browser or mobile devices your customers are using to access your site. Or perhaps the layout of the product page needs improvement to convey the benefits of the product in a better way.

Moving forward

Once you have completed your research, guerrilla testing and analytics reviews you should be in a much better position to decide whether improving what you already have is the right way to go. If it's not, the process you've been through will provide you with substantial insights and data that will help you justify investment in a redesign. 

A man looking out over a city horizon

Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to align your development work and ongoing review and analysis of website performance with your business objectives. Make sure you clearly define your website strategy and objectives and put in place reporting metrics and KPIs to measure how well your website is supporting your business goals, and then review them regularly!

Adopting such a disciplined approach to reporting, analysis and site optimisation will take away the uninformed approach associated with poorly performing websites and make your business and marketing more relevant to prospects and customers. 

If you have any thoughts about the points covered we’d love to hear them in the comments below. Or drop us a line if you’d like to chat about how Status can support your business in any of these areas.

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