Every few years, companies decide to redesign their sites. Sometimes they're driven by a change in messaging, a new strategy, or product release. Sometimes they don't like the old site anymore. Maybe the company's leaders have changed, received negative feedback about the site, or seen new ways of doing things. In many cases, there are good reasons to redesign and update the site.
Often, there's a small problem. We all know the famous saying: "I know half my advertising is wasted. I just don't know which half." Meaning, some of it works, some doesn't. Still, we can often decipher what works and what doesn't. Online, this is much less of a problem when tracked and measured successfully against your goals. But there's still an area where this creeps in and causes problems: site redesigns.
Step back and think about a site redesign. You scrap what you have and start over in a number of areas. Some things may stay the same, but a lot changes. When you finally launch the site, you'll have fixed a few things that weren't working well. The chance of creating the best possible page, story, call to action, and so on are incredibly slim, but you've improved some things.
Often, there were many things working well on the old site that don't work as well on the new site. Many times, they aren't obvious things and won't jump out at you from your behavioral Web analytics measurements. Rather, they'll be apparent in attitudinal measurements (surveys, satisfaction, usability studies, etc.) combined with your behavioral data. They might not impact conversion, but they could affect offline behaviors and long-term perceptions about your company and brand. Remember: negative changes aren't always easy to identify, but they can have a big impact on the customers and prospects who visit your site.
Recently, I was talking about site redesign issues with a senior member of our optimization team. He shared a few interesting analogies.
Redesigning a site, he said, is similar to buying a new set of expensive kitchen knives. The person researches and shops around, then drops $500 on a set of knives. After doing this, most people expect the knives won't require sharpening the day after such a costly purchase. He also likened redesigning a site to buying a new car. You expect everything will work fine when the vehicle's new and don't think about problems you might have down the road.
Companies spend many months and many dollars redesigning sites so they'll launch on time and on budget, thinking everything will be better and nothing broken on day one. But often, this isn't the case.
How can you keep this from happening? There are a few key things that can help reduce the chance that your site redesign is actually a step back:
Don't fall into the same traps that many companies do when redesigning their sites. Taking a little extra time to plan out your strategy can almost guarantee an improved outcome upon launch. Remember: listen to your customers, understand your audience, create the appropriate strategy, and tell the story experientially and visually in the best possible way if you want to be successful.
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As president of the Americas regions for the digital agency POSSIBLE, Jason is responsible for leading the long-term stability and growth of the region. Jason has 20-plus years experience in digital strategy. He is a long-time advocate of using data to inform digital strategies to help clients attract, convert, and retain customers. Jason supports our clients and employees in driving new engagements and delivering great work that works.
Jason speaks frequently about helping marketers take advantage of data to make smarter business decisions and improve the success of their organizations. He is the co-author of Actionable Web Analytics: Using Data to Make Smart Business Decisions.
Follow him on Twitter @JasonBurby.
March 19, 2014