‘Just Be Creative’.
Marketers, web developers, and graphic designers shudder at this commonly-delivered phrase in meetings with clients. There’s nothing wrong with creativity in design of course, and you want your website to stand out from the sea of other similar companies and organizations. The problem is not with the idea of being creative, it’s in the focus on uniqueness and creativity over strategy and user experience. ‘Just be creative’ leads the web development team and the client down a path that has no strategic goal, and is one of the biggest website redesign mistakes you can make.
Before undertaking a website redesign, there are many factors that your organization should consider. Notice that the actual design is at the end of this list for a reason: the design should work toward achieving the strategic plan that you’ve laid out and should support your goals. If you focus first on the ‘pretty pictures’, you’ll end up trying to fit your strategy into a specific design, and you’ll lose sight of the path to reach your goals.
Before you start considering new designs, take some time to answer these questions:
Why do you need a new website?
Before you start thinking about what should be included in your new site and how you want to build it, consider the reasons you decided that it was time for a redesign. Has your company changed significantly since you initially designed the site, so you want to be sure that new prospective customers are seeing all that you have to offer? Is the design itself old and stale, making you look out of date with the market or current trends? Are you implementing a new feature or product or service that would not flow well within the current site? Understanding what motivated you to build a new website is the first step toward determining what’s important to you and what you want to portray to prospective customers when they arrive.
What do you want prospective clients to do when they get there?
Speaking of those prospective clients, what actions do you want them to take when they land on your website? They’re most likely not going to immediately decide to do business with you, so you need to consider the buyer’s journey (see the 5th item on this list) and provide a clear path for them to move toward working with you.
What information do you want to deliver to clients?
Most of the organizations we work with have a very different goal in mind for what they want visitors to see on their websites vs. what those visitors actually see. It’s not easy to think like a new customer, and for this reason, it’s important to ask for feedback from several others outside of your organization. When considering the information you want to provide to clients, consider everything that goes into their decision-making process when choosing whether to buy from a company or work with an organization. Do they need to see plenty of photos and videos? How about case studies from current clients? Do they need to review spec sheets to determine whether your solution will work for them? And how are you going to convince them to keep coming back – with a blog or video series, full of resources to help them along the way? It’s important to have a good understanding of exactly which content you want to provide to visitors and how you want to provide it (ebooks, downloadable pdf’s, videos, short blog posts, photo galleries, etc.) before you even consider how to lay it all out on the site.
How will you know whether you’re successful or not?
Here’s another place where businesses and organizations commonly fall flat when designing their websites – they don’t consider what factors will determine whether the site is working or not. Once you’ve defined your goals and what content you want to present to visitors, think about what you want those visitors to do with that information. You’re putting a lot of work into your new website, so you want to be sure you know whether it’s effective at helping you reach your goals. The great thing about website designs nowadays is that they are extremely flexible – if you find out that something isn’t working, you can usually change it without undergoing a complete redesign. So consider your success factors – for instance, a visitor that clicks on a page and watches the video related to that product or service, and then requests a demo or subscribes to your email newsletter because they’re not ready to buy but they want to have your info at their fingertips later when they are ready. If you’re not monitoring things like the conversion path to your demo or newsletter subscription, you won’t realize that you have a group of ready-to-buy customers just waiting for you to reach out to them with more information to help move them toward a final purchase.
What is the most likely path a visitor would take to become a customer?
As mentioned in the second statement above, It’s crucial to map out the buyer’s journey not only through your website but in their process of moving from acknowledging that they need or want something to looking for it, to choosing between a couple options, to finally making the decision to purchase it. If you’re selling an inexpensive and common item, this is a much quicker and easier process than if you’re selling something like a car or vacation package or accounting service, which require much more time and research on the part of the buyer. So think about the most likely steps a person would take once they get to a website that offers a solution to what they’re searching for and help them along the path to buying from you.
How do you want to portray your company or organization to the person on the other side of the screen?
Finally, we get to the design. Again, don’t worry about the actual images at this point, that’s really what your graphic designer and web development team are here for. Your role here is to communicate to that team the experience you want people to have when they see your website for the first time. Do you want them to feel confident in choosing to work with you? Do you want them to laugh? Do you want them to see you as an expert? Or a partner? Or do you want them to feel a personal connection to your staff? Should they see that you’re doing cutting edge work, or that you have great relationships with your current clients? Think about the reasons that your best customers work with you or buy from you, and use that to direct the vision for your new website design.