21 Factors to Consider Before a Redesign
Redesigning a website can be a very involved process, and it is important to properly plan and consider the necessary factors that will make or break the redesign. Here is a quick look at 21 factors that you should be contemplated.
1. What is the goal of the redesign?
What do you hope to accomplish? It’s always important to have a clear understanding of your reasons and motivations as they should impact the decisions that you make along the way. Without knowing these goals the project will lack direction and you will likely wind up with a website that still doesn’t meet your needs.
2. Is this going to be just a minor upgrade or a complete overhaul?
A redesign could be anything from a minor facelift to an entirely new site. Obviously the time, effort, and cost involved will vary, but first you should determine what types of changes are required for you to meet your goals with the design. If a complete redesign is done you will also want to consider to what extent the new design should resemble the old design. If visitors are coming back to the site, chances are you will want them to notice the new design without feeling like they’ve never been to your site before.
3. What aspects of the current design are most effective?
Most likely there are some things about the current design that work very well, and these may be aspects that you would like to keep or incorporate into the new design. It’s a good idea to make a simple list of your likes and dislikes to help with decisions on the new design.
4. What aspects of the current design are not effective?
Building on point #3, if you are redesigning the site you are bound to want to get rid of some specific aspects of the website or the design. Are there some characteristics of the design that do not accurately portray your business to new visitors?
5. Who are your target users?
During any design process you never want to lose focus on the visitors. By knowing who you are targeting and how you can meet their needs, you will be on your way to building an effective website. What style of design are your users going to like?
6. How can the website be more user-friendly?
Improving the functionality and usability of a website is always a good thing. It’s pointless to spend time and money on a redesign that looks great but simply isn’t user-friendly.
7. Does the logo/branding need to be changed or updated?
Most likely the website will include some form of a logo or branding. Are these items still up-to-date and will they function effectively with a new design? If your logo is out-of-date and not attractive, a new design may not do much good if it is still using the same old logo.
8. Should the color scheme change or remain the same?
In point #2 I mentioned that most of the time you will want to keep the website at least looking familiar to repeat visitors. Using a similar color scheme is one of the best ways to accomplish this. A lot of times it can be a good idea to make some minor changes to the color scheme, such as changing shades of colors or adding a few new colors, just to give the site a fresh look.
9. What screen resolutions are visitors using?
It’s important to know how your visitors are going to be viewing the site. A program such as Google Analytics can easily give you this information. Obviously, a fixed-width design should take into consideration the typical screen resolutions of visitors.
10. What connection speed are visitors using?
Knowing the connection speed will help you to know what types of elements you can include in the design without causing hardships for the average visitor.
11. What should be the focal points of the design?
Every design is going to draw attention to certain parts of the page in one way or another. By knowing what you want to emphasize you will have more control over what gets attention from visitors. In a comment on a recent article, Caroline Middlebrook mentioned that in her redesign she used the area above blog posts to feature some select content, such as a free e-book that she has written. Obviously, in her case this is a focal point that she wants visitors to notice.
12. How can the navigation be made more effective?
Navigation is one of the most critical elements of a site’s usability. If a significant amount of content and/or pages have been added to the site since the last design, it is possible that navigation is no longer optimal. Before designing think about how visitors will want to move through the site, and make it as easy as possible for them.
13. What will visitors want from the website?
Meeting the needs of visitors is important to the success of any website. Will visitors be coming to the site looking for information? If so, make it easy to find the information and make it a prominent part of the design. Will they be coming to the site to find products? Will they be coming for some other reason? Anticipate what your visitors will want and do your best to give it to them.
14. How can increased user interaction be incorporated?
The most successful websites are able to get visitors involved in one way or another. Blogs are great for this purpose because they allow for comments and discussion. Other possibilities are forums, games, user-generated content, polls, quizzes, etc. By making the website more engaging to visitors you are more likely to get a high number of repeat visitors.
15. Who will be doing the maintenance/updates?
Will you be the one doing routine maintenance and updates? Will someone else be doing them? If multiple people will be using the website commenting the code becomes even more important. Code should always be kept as clean as possible, but when others will be doing work on the site has a bigger impact.
16. Is a content management system (CMS) needed?
Many website owners now prefer to use a CMS, such as WordPress, so that the site can easily be updated without requiring a designer. Depending on the amount and type of updates that are anticipated, a CMS may be a good, time-saving decision.
17. How can SEO be improved?
Any time a website is being designed, search engines should be considered. The current design may or may not be search engine-friendly, but the new one certainly should be. Should the current page titles be kept, or could they be done more effectively? How can internal linking be improved? Where can headers be used? This list could obviously go on for a while.
18. What keywords and phrases are being targeted?
Of course, keywords should be used in titles, headers, anchor text, alt tags, etc. Designing a website without knowing what words and phrases you are targeting means that you are most likely targeting none, at least not effectively. Don’t simply consider the search terms that are being targeted with the current site, make sure that these are the most effective terms to go after.
19. What pages and search terms are currently drawing traffic?
If there are pages on the site that are currently doing very well with search engines, you’ll probably not want to make major changes to the content of those pages. This can easily be overlooked during a redesign, but making excessive changes to pages that are ranking well can kill the rankings. Likewise, what search terms are currently producing traffic? Be sure that they are used in the new design.
20. What pages currently have inbound links?
Whatever pages on the site have a significant number of inbound links or are drawing traffic through those links, you’ll want to make sure that any changes do not negatively affect these links. If possible, use the same URL structure. If not, be sure to re-direct visitors to the appropriate page.
21. What will make visitors want to come back?
Most likely you’ve considered how the new design can make a solid first impression, but what is it about the website that will keep visitors coming back for more?
What other factors would you add to the list?
Published January 22nd, 2008 by Steven Snell