When to Redesign Your Website

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The first impression that you leave on your audience today is based almost entirely on your website. Because your website plays an oversized role in the success of your business, it’s vital that you to take it seriously.

Just like any real “brick and mortar” business, your website requires regular maintenance (like sweeping the floor and taking out the trash). If you neglect the upkeep for too long, your site will grow digital cobwebs, it will look antiquated, and your business will suffer.

Hopefully, that’s not you. If it is, there is one simple trick that can help set you back on the right track: A website redesign.

When To Redesign Your Website

Redesign Website

If you’re like many of the websites owners who I work with, you might not really know when you need a website redesign. While there is no silver bullet here, I tend to recommend these same simple tips every time I’m asked this question:

1. Your Business Is Stagnant

open sign

If you aren’t achieving the goals you’ve set out for your business, the easiest way to make an positive impact is through a website redesign. Now, you might already have a website that you love and that you think is beautiful. That’s great!

Unfortunately, many website owners conflate beauty with effectiveness. That’s a big mistake.

Effective websites solves business problems. They are designed to have efficient sales funnels and get you customers. Effective websites feel simple and are easy to use.

Without compelling content, a design is just decoration.

To craft an effective website and start achieving real results online, you need to start from zero. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the most valuable action that you want visitors to do on your website? For example, if you’re a photographer who wants to attract new commissioned photography, then make it dead simple for your visitors to contact you on every page or your website.
  • Is this call to action prominent and accessible from every page? Your website should funnel visitors to the right pages quickly and intuitively.

2. Your Website Is Cluttered

A cluttered website leads to high bounce rates (visitors leave without taking any action on your website). It communicates that you’re messy and have difficulty distinguishing between signal and noise.

Between all the new plugins, widgets, social media links, sidebar links, newsletter subscribe boxes, and popovers, there always seems to be a new “must have” gizmo waiting to be added. Without paring down the plugins, widgets, and other visually distracting elements, you’ll likely end up with a website that’s cluttered and difficult to navigate.

Cluttered websites cause decision fatigue and make browsing the website painful. Sigmund Freud’s Pleasure Principle suggests that all human behavior is driven by two primitive desires, avoiding pain and gaining pleasure. Removing all unnecessary bits from your website helps your visitors avoid pain and focuses their attention on what’s most important.

Before choosing a new design, edit down your plugins, widgets, gizmos and whirly birds down to those that are 100% critical for operating the website. Ask yourself these questions to remove clutter from your website:

  • Have you removed all non-essential elements (menu links, plugins, links, widgets,) from your website?
  • Is there one clear call to action on every page?

3. Your Website is Broken

Websites are complicated beasts. There are literally millions of lines of code all working together to make your website work. When things go wrong, it can seem overwhelming.

So while it might seem obvious, a broken website is good indication that a website change should probably be in order. But here’s the thing: Many website owners don’t know their websites are broken; their visitors do.

If you’re running a WordPress website, I use this method for troubleshooting:

  1. Check for plugin issues. Deactivate plugins one-by-one and see if the problem subsides. Caching plugins seem to cause the most issues, especially when running alongside with e-commerce websites. If you find a problematic plugin, report the issue to the plugin author and explain how to replicate the issue.
  2. Check for theme issues. Switch to the default Twentyseventeen theme. If the problem subsides, report it to the theme author.
  3. Check for PHP errors. Add the following code to your wp-config.php file:
    define( ‘WP_DEBUG’, true );
    This code tells WordPress to turn on debug mode, which will load PHP warnings and errors in the browser. The error messages will help you pinpoint the issue, if it’s a PHP issue.
  4. Check for Javascript errors. Open up your browser window’s debug console (on Chrome it’s located under View -> Developer -> View Source). If there is a Javascript error, you’ll see a little red X in the console tab. Click on the red X to help track down the source of the issue.
  5. Check server logs. If you still cannot pinpoint the issue, locate the Apache or NGINX logs on your server. If you don’t know where your server log files are located, ask your web host for assistance.

4. Your Direction Has Changed

Most businesses evolve over time. If and when that happens, it’s important to update your website so that it accurately reflects your present day mission, products and services.

This is the perfect opportunity to redesign the branding and public face for your business. Because design is fundamentally about solving problems, it’s important to clearly define the exact problem that your business is attempting to solve.

  1. Has your direction changed? If so, write down the new mission for your business. Make it short and sweet (one sentence long) and revisit it everyday for a week to massage and refine it.
  2. Have your products or services changed significantly? If so, you should probably consider a redesign to highlight your new offerings.

5. Your Website Isn’t Mobile-Friendly

Now, you’re probably thinking “that’s obvious,” but you’d be surprised just how many people still don’t have mobile-friendly websites.

According to research conducted by Google, 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40% visit a competitor’s site instead.

That’s a stunning statistic.

Your websites need to be mobile-friendly in order to succeed online today. Otherwise, the majority of your visitors bounce to your competitors. Now remember, having a “mobile-friendly” website really involves two critical components:

  1. Does your website load fast? Since many people access the internet over a wireless connection and not wifi, optimizing your site load times is critical.
  2. Does your website leverage responsive design?

Thankfully, Google has a couple useful tools to test to see how your website stacks up:

6. Your Website Abuses Yesterday’s Design Trends

Like fashion, design trends change quickly. When the parallax effect popped up on the scene six years ago, it quickly became the go-to design trend that everyone wanted. Parallax soon became one of he most overused design gimmicks.

Truthfully, design cruft litters the web. If you design just for design’s sake, your message will get muddied and achieving your real business objectives becomes harder.

“Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration,” said Jeffery Zeldman.

If you avoid trendy design gimmicks and instead focus on delivering compelling and succinct content, your design will start to reveal itself.

How To Redesign Your Website

Now, if you’re like many of the websites owners who I work with, you might be worried that doing a complete website redesign will take a lot of effort. Depending on which platform you’re using to power your website, this very well could be the case. If you’re using a hosted platform, you’ll likely run into design limitations.

However, if you’re using WordPress, it’s just a simple click of the button. All you have to do is find a WordPress theme that fits your style, and upload and activate it. It’s really as simple as that.

Have you redesigned your website recently? Let us know if you have any additional tips in the comments below!

 

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Posted by , at Graph Paper Press

Thad is the founder of Theme.Works and Graph Paper Press. Previously, he produced online multimedia and documentary projects for USA Today including the inauguration of President Barack Obama and many others. He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife Abby.

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