Done well, a redesign can give your website a new lease of life, energize your employees and boost your revenues. Done badly, it can become a behemoth project that you wish you never started. To avoid this grisly scenario, it is crucial to have a plan detailing your site’s exact requirements, how it will work and who will make it work.
This Guide Contains:
Why redesign a website?
New ways of presenting your website and its content are constantly being developed and released, and the preferences of your potential visitors are fickle. It pays to keep up with current trends –anything that improves user experience (UX) in particular is worth investigating.
Not only that, but the rules of the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO; the general term for making your website rank well in search engine results) game are in a constant state of flux. Worth particular consideration is the mobile-friendliness of your site, and the time it takes for pages to load.
While your site's content is its most important and persuasive feature, design plays a key role in establishing your reputation – a well-designed site will immediately put your visitors at ease. Plus with ever-increasing competition, it has never been more important to convey your message in an accessible, user-friendly way.
What CMS should I use?
The CMS (Content Management System) is an integral part of any well-functioning website. It enables you to easily create and manage your content in such a way as the formatting and layout are consistent throughout your website. This gives a positive impression to visitors and makes the task of administering the website a lot simpler.
Over the past decade, the number of CMS available has fluctuated greatly, and as a result there are many websites using outdated systems. As they are not being constantly updated, these CMS are more susceptible to threats posed by malicious software, and their features included pale in comparison to those of current, established CMS – which often come with social media integration, SEO tools and useful plugins as standard.
Native mobile functionality should be a top priority when considering the various CMS options available to you, to make it simple for you to meet the demands of the mobile device audience. More detail on this topic can be found in the section below.
Choosing the right CMS is a decision worth taking time over, as it can potentially save you huge amounts of time and money in the long run. Take a look at our Guide to Content Management Systems (CMS) to get an idea of which CMS is best for your website.
Is it a Mobile Friendly Website?
If your website was designed prior to 2011, there is a good chance that it is unable to adapt to or even notice the various different screen sizes of mobile devices used by its visitors.
This presents a real problem, since websites designed specifically for desktop computers typically employ smaller fonts, buttons and links which often aren’t easy to notice or use on a small touchscreen.
Thanks to mobile Internet, what was once a luxury is now nothing less than essential – your site’s UX must be universal and easily navigable on any and all devices. Websites which take no consideration of mobile users risk scaring off visitors who would otherwise engage with the site's content.
Mobile-friendliness is important for a variety of reasons, but most importantly it gives your site:
Your site will rank better in search results. In May 2016, Google Search again increased the effect of mobile-friendliness on site ranking; a further development on an update rolled out in 2015 with similar intentions.
This latest update has significantly affected search results on mobile and desktop in all languages worldwide. Read the Official Google Webmaster Blog Update to find out more.
Your visitors will be able to find your content more easily once they arrive on your website while using a mobile device.
A good example of mobile-friendly UX improvement is the 'hamburger icon' which replaces the standard navigation menu on many sites - the picture to the right shows how Web Hosting Search uses this technique to improve user experience on our website.
Mobile Responsive Web Design
The most popular method that web designers and developers use to meet this demand is web responsive design. This technique gives you the best of both worlds by enabling the website to sense the type of desktop or mobile device, size of screen and even the device orientation (portrait or landscape) that the visitor is using to view the page.
These three metrics are used to adjust the design dynamically in real time. For example, columns containing content are automatically resized or even hidden, sometime leaving only a single column of content visible. This focus on the most important content enables it to be easily read by visitors using a mobile device with a small screen.
The nature of responsive designs means that some key elements of older designs will need to change. Which is why the necessary implementation of mobile-friendliness is one of the most common reasons for a website to be modified or even completely redesigned.
Although a redesign may seem like overkill, particularly if your website doesn’t seem like it would attract the mobile market, making your site responsive is a forward-thinking measure. Aside from the benefits already outlined, your site will able to sense and adapt to devices which haven’t even been invented yet thanks to the its responsive design and coding.
Modern Website Design Ideas
It is important for your website to keep up with current trends and user interface expectations. In the context of a redesign this is often considered as part of a new responsive design, ensuring that the website is attractive and adaptable.
A website can inadvertently show its age with outdated color palettes, textures, and fonts. If you’re noticing large differences in these respects between your site and others (particularly your competitors), it may be time to make a few changes so you can continue to attract and retain visitors.
These are some of the features currently favoured in web design, due to their main benefits of cross-platform compatibility and generally faster page loading speeds. If your site has none of these, then it may be worth considering a redesign.
Echewing textures and embracing solid colors and digital elements created with CSS. This creates a clean, minimalistic appearance which looks equally good on mobile devices, tablets and desktops. Take a look at our article containing some excellent CSS ideas.
Emphasis on images
Large images that scale depending on the screen size complement and enhance content as well as improving visitor engagement. We have listed several free high quality photo search engines - you will be amazed at what you can get for nothing nowadays!
Large, rounded sans-serif typography (such as Arial, Calibri Segoe and Verdana) looks welcoming but professional. Additionally, these types of fonts scale well with the design for a consistent appearance across all devices. See our guide to choosing the right website font for more information.
Whitespace in Web Design
This literally means leaving white space on the screen, and not feeling the need to cram content into every single pixel of space available. More important than ever is the concept of not overcrowding your page, drawing attention to the most important content by spotlighting images and distilling the site down to its essentials.
Social media icons
Buttons that whisk visitors away to your various social media channels such as Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter can be programmed to open the page in a web browser on desktops and within a specific application on mobiles or tablets. See our article on promoting your business through social media for tips on how to make the most of this medium.
Website Redesign Process: What to consider
What is the best CMS for my site?
If you are redesigning your site, a very sensible first step would be to consider whether your current CMS solution (if you have one) is meeting your requirements. The CMS integrates into every aspect of your site, so by choosing this first, you can ensure that the following decisions you make are as informed as possible.
Our aforementioned Guide to Content Management Systems (CMS) will help you to choose the CMS most suited to your website’s needs.
User Experience (UX) is a huge issue to consider with any website, and the subject of constant discussion between web professionals. There is no single, perfect way to design your website to suit every possible visitor (user) you get; the scope of preference between the billions of people in the world who could potentially access your site is far too wide. Instead, we focus on best practices which have been generally found, through testing, to improve the UX of websites generally.
Website Navigation and Visitor journey
Without simple navigation structures, visitors are likely to become frustrated with your website and leave. It must be made crystal clear where they need to look to find what they are looking for.
This can be achieved through the use of a Navigation Bar, which are often placed at the top of a site so that they are immediately and clearly visible. They can also be placed in a sidebar, but due to the meteoric increase in mobile traffic and the lack of compatibility between sidebars and small screen displays, this is much less common than it once was.
Visitor journey is ensuring that users know exactly where they are and where they are going within seconds of arriving on your website. This is most crucial on the Home page, where the majority of visitors will be seeing your site for the first time. Ask yourself:
Is it clear what this site contains or does?
A brief introduction above the fold (the term used to refer to the area of the page which visitors need not scroll down to see) helps here.
Is it clear what options are available?
Call-to-actions are your friend here. Take your visitors by the hand and lead them through your site the way you want them to go.
Is it clear where I am in the context of the whole website?
Breadcrumbs and navigation bar highlights are invaluable here.
Where can I go if I’m stuck?
Display a clear link to the Home page and prominently display a Search bar.
One of the things most likely to send a visitor running back to the Google search results is a slow-loading page. This is the age of immediacy; it is best to assume that the vast majority of your users have very little patience, and design your site to adapt to this.
Optimizing images, streamlining code and disabling unnecessary scripts are three ways to reduce your page loading times - more can be found in our article; How to Make Your Website Faster.
Google PageSpeed is a very popular and useful website speed test, and even offers suggestions if the score is lower than you would want it to be.
No matter how user-friendly you think your website is, nothing is certain until you have tested it out. One basic method which frequently produces clear results works like this:
- Recruit participant - Sit with a person matching your demographic
- Record – Use screen recording software and take notes
- Give tasks – Ask the person to attempt various tasks on your site
- Do not help - Do not direct your participant in how to complete tasks
- Get feedback during the test - Ensure your participant feels able to give feedback out loud without restraint
- Repeat – Test with as many different participants as you are able for more conclusive results
There are many methods available to anybody wishing to test the UX of their website - see our article on the Importance of A/B Testing.
Just like the first time meeting a potential partner, the first thing that a visitor notices is your website’s appearance. Most decide within the first few seconds whether to leave the site, or to stay and see what it has to offer. Make sure to send your site out into the world looking its best.
Should you use a template or your own unique design? A custom design made specifically for your site may sound appealing and seem like the best option; after all, you want your website to stand out. If you aren’t comfortable with doing it yourself, you can seek out a freelancer or an agency to handle it for you.
For those with little to no knowledge about creating a website, a template design should be a serious consideration. It would certainly be the easiest option, and much cheaper than hiring a web designer/developer to do it for you.
Less is more. Give your site focus by highlighting the essentials, and ensuring that the elements you have on display aren’t competing for attention. The aforementioned whitespace is your friend here, or you can use a non-distracting background image as in the example below:
The Importance of a Good Logo
A well-crafted logo that effectively communicates your site’s purpose will give your brand more credibility. Moreover, you can use the logo as a favicon (the small icon that appears next to your page title in a web browser), so the visitor will remember your site.
Display a Catchy Slogan
Having a reassuring and confident slogan on the strapline gives you an immediate edge. It projects a sense of professionalism and stays in the mind of your visitors, making them more likely to return. The best ones are less than 5 words long – such as this example from the Sony PlayStation 4 marketing campaign:
A good strapline can have a big influence on your visitors - take your time to decide on one which you are completely happy with.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Take a look at our page on implementing SEO to your website for general pointers on how to get more traffic from search engine results. You should consider these points to ensure that your search engine rankings don’t plummet as a result of a website redesign:
- Will your URLs change? If so, you will need a 301 redirect strategy to avoid losing traffic.
- Will the site architecture change? Key pages can lose link juice if the main navigation / footers / home page change drastically.
- Keeping existing content the same, except for adding and removing pages, reduces the risk of your rankings decreasing.
- Is your site correctly set up to record Analytics data?
Web Hosting Solution
If you are going through the process of redesigning your site, then it is probably as good a moment as any to assess the web hosting solution you have been using up until this point. If you feel like you could be getting a better service for your money, Web Hosting Search can help you find the ideal plan.
- Not sure what you need? Take a look at our Buying Guide
- Want to explore your options? Browse the various Hosting Types
- Know what you want? Use our Advanced Search
- Compare Hosting Providers side by side
Hopefully, this article has helped you to decide whether or not your website is currently in need of a redesign. For more information, get your teeth into some of these: