By April Sciacchitano (@aprilcs)
Many marketing professionals have done it. They go through the process of website redesign only to start anew within 18 months. The web changes fast, which means it’s important to stay on top of trends between redesigns. And there’s good news for the web-weary: You can limit your “overhauls” by evolving your website on an ongoing basis.
With all the stakeholders who have an interest in your website, from employees to board members to customers, it’s easy to understand why making frequent, smaller updates is tough to do. But ultimately, these will help you avoid the ire of redesign resistors, like the ones Bitly encountered this week, and you will be more agile when it comes to collecting and responding to feedback. Here are a few things to consider:
- Keep a good foundation. Barring an upheaval related to what your company does, a good site map and content management system (CMS) shouldn’t change. A homepage update is the curb appeal of your house. Changing your CMS or site map is ripping out the plumbing – those changes are only appropriate when the back-end is difficult to use or problematic for good SEO. Make important upgrades, and assess the back-end of your site to ensure it’s search engine friendly.
- Make your homepage a playground. Sometimes redesigns happen because your site got boring. You can try new things without blowing up your template. But isn’t that shiny object syndrome? It can be. Be wary of apps that don’t have a use in the long-term or new content formats you can’t maintain. That doesn’t mean you should write off every suggestion that begins “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” Set up a quarterly meeting for internal and external people to bring a few ideas to the table to update the homepage. When designers, developers, social media and marketing pros collaborate, they can weed out the shiny objects from really good ideas.
- IN with new content formats. BlogTalk radio? Tumblr? Integrate your social functions to keep your homepage fresh. Keep in mind that your homepage real estate can only accommodate so much – when you cycle in something new, move something else out. Otherwise your homepage and design will be overwhelmed.
- Go through usability testing. Usability testing takes the guesswork about what you should do next with your website. Can you stakeholders find a specific product? Does it take them too long to find an email address? The answers to these questions will help you build a site that is useful and meaningful to customers, instead of a replica of your internal organizational structure.
Finally, redesigns are a normal part of every website’s lifecycle, so recognize when it is in order. If your content management system isn’t user-friendly or if your homepage is static, a fresh start is be what you need – but in the process, make sure the site is one you can grow for a few years.