Don’t head into a web redesign without reading this first

Don’t head into a web redesign without reading this first

“Today would be a great day to redesign our website! It’s fun to do. And we don’t have anything else going on.”

Said no one, ever.

Companies don’t embark on website redesigns for kicks. They do it to solve a problem. Maybe users can’t find information. Or they aren’t converting the way we want them to. Or it’s been 10 years since the last redesign and you look outdated. Whatever the reason, your website redesign should have a purpose.

Therefore, it also needs goals. And you need to know them before you put marker to whiteboard, finger to keyboard, or stylus to Photoshop layer. Every brush stroke should contribute to these goals.

You’ve got goals. Now what?

How will you know if you’re succeeding? You need to measure. Think of the ways you want your users to be on your site. Figure out how that happens. And then pick the metrics to see if, indeed, it is happening.

So you’ve got goals and metrics. You’ve got wireframes. You’re starting a design. You know exactly how you’re going to measure success once the site re-launches. Fabulous.

But you’re not done. How will you know your new website is doing better than your old one, if you have nothing to compare it to?

Before you look forward, you need to look back

To measure the success of your redesign, you need a baseline. You need to compare apples to apples. You need to consistently measure the same thing before your redesign as after.

This means:

  1. You need to know the metrics you want to measure;
  2. You need to know the measurement tool you will use to measure it (Google Analytics, your eCRM, your online store, etc.);
  3. You need to confirm that your measurement tool is accurately measuring your metrics;
  4. And if it is not, you need to fix that.

A lot of folks have a problem with #4. No one wants to fix something on a site they are about to get rid of. But if you don’t, you will never know if your redesign is effective. You’ll be guessing in the dark.

Common questions you’ll want to ask

Are your users really engaging with your content? You must set up Google Analytics properly to find out.

1. Are users scrolling?

Let’s say you run a news and media website. You goal is to have articles so engaging your users read them from beginning to end. You can measure this by implementing scroll tracking in Google Analytics. If you don’t implement this before your new site launches, you won’t know if the redesign had any impact. You need to implement scroll tracking on your current site and on your redesigned site.

2. Is anybody out there clicking?

Out-of-the-box, Google Analytics measures pageviews. A user visits a page, it records a pageview. But it doesn’t measure every click. If you have PDFs to download, third-party eCommerce or donation portals, or active social media properties, there’s a good chance none of that is being tracked. You will want to set up different kinds of event tracking to make sure these things are being captured.

3. Are visitors finding what they need?

When undergoing a redesign, you can look to the data to unearth user frustration. You can implement additional event tracking on navigation. But one of my favorite ways to unearth frustration is activating the Internal Site Search feature in Google Analytics. By implementing this feature, you can see what terms users are searching for, when they find the content they are looking for, and when they don’t.

No rest for the (data) weary

Congratulations! After all that hard work, you re-launched your redesigned website.

Keep measuring. Consistently. Don’t wait for a board meeting or a quarterly report. Look to see if you are doing better, the same, or worse as before. And depending on the result, make adjustments. Conduct A/B tests if you can. The end of the redesign may mean the end of the large project. But your website should be ever-evolving and improving.

Marissa Goldsmith is the founder of Goldsmith Interactive and a frequent partner of Centerboard Marketing.