Have you ever done a Google search, clicked on a relevant result, taken one look at a website and clicked the ‘back’ button on your browser? Most of us have. Just as it matters in person, first impressions matter online. In fact, a study done by Stanford found that 75% of consumers judge an organization’s credibility by their website.
If someone stays on a website and starts to browse around, they need it to be easy to navigate and provide them value. It needs to evoke trust and positively reflect your brand.
A website is more than a parking spot for your company’s name on the web. It is a marketing tool, a 24/7 advertisement, a sales funnel, a glimpse into your organization’s services, image and abilities.
When you’re redesigning your website, you need to do it the right way in order to maximize your time and your budget. A full site redesign is an investment that should last you years, making your website an asset that benefits your organization in the long-run.
Putting the time and energy into assessing and planning before jumping into actively designing is key to getting your redesign right. In this guide, you’ll learn the elements to consider and the steps to take to get your website redesign off on the right foot.
Four Key Design Elements to Review
When you begin looking at your current website or are outlining the redesign, there are four distinct areas you need to assess: functionality, brand strategy, user experience, and the overall visual design.
Functionality is about more than your website simply working correctly. It is a critical element of your website design that impacts your organization’s efficiency. As you begin assessing the design of your current site and planning for the elements of your updated site, consider how your employees and clients could benefit from having more or improved interactive functions on your website.
Here are some examples of questions to ask about functionality on your website:
- Are there searchable databases that could be added to provide clients with information and keep them on the site, both providing value to the client and freeing up your staff from phone calls?
- Do you have a specialized blog to provide information and resources to visitors/clients?
- Are you selling your products on your website?
- Do you have an appointment scheduler set up on your website?
- Is there a membership/employee/client area of your website where people can access documents and resources?
- Can people submit a job application directly through your website?
These are only some of the many ways you can improve the functionality of your website. It’s worth it to take the time to comb through the tasks that take up staff time and resources and see if it makes sense to integrate them into your website. Not sure if it’s possible? Just ask your web design partner! There are many plug-ins and options for websites today that can help increase your organization’s efficiency and your clients’ online experience.
Your website is a critical part of your brand strategy – perhaps even its keystone. Use your website to tell your brand story! Do you have your leadership’s bios on the site and are they tied in to the brand message? Do you effectively tell your founding story and share your why?
These are key elements of your brand that need to be included on your website, helping visitors feel a connection to your brand and your services and understand what differentiates you from competitors.
Every element of the website should tie into your larger brand strategy and message. This goes beyond having the colors, fonts and graphics match your brand guidelines.
When redesigning your website, ensure that the voice and tone of every section of written copy lines up with your brand. Brands with a serious image should not have a lighthearted web tone; conversely, fun or quirky brands should not have clinical, formal language on their website.
Before beginning a web redesign, sketch out how your website can better convey your overall brand message and better align with it.
User experience is the quality of interaction a visitor has with your website. Information architecture is a key element of user experience – is it easy to figure out how to navigate your website? It needs to be easy for people to get from more generalized information to specific details – and to have a way to contact you.
Adding functionalities as we discussed earlier can also improve the user experience of your website. Allowing someone to submit an application right through your site rather than having to print it out and then scan it and email it back would be a big improvement in their experience with your site and your organization.
You want your brand to stand out from the crowd and immediately impact website visitors. If you’re using an outdated, overused cookie-cutter template for your design that simply won’t happen.
Think about what it says about your organization if you’re using an old template that hundreds of thousands of other sites across the web are also using. When you freshen up your design, you’ll not only stand out, you’ll also be showing that your organization is on top of things and up-to-date.
When you’re redesigning your website, you need to take advantage of the opportunity to not only improve the look, but make sure it’s brand-aligned and up-to-date.
Four Ways to Gain Clarity Before the Redesign
Before you jump into the actual planning process of your new website, or even putting out an RFP for potential web design partners, you need to gain clarity on what you need from your new website. Assessing the issues addressed in the prior section will help you do that, but we recommend taking a broader look at first. Here are four ways to gain clarity about your website redesign project:
Take A Step Back
Forget about the nuts and bolts for a while. You don’t have to propose all the solutions or have all the ideas about your new website. You can point out issues, or things you’d like to have improved, but don’t get lost in finding specific plug-ins or applications or features. Let your website redesign partner use their expertise, or develop ideas as you work further through the redesign process. If you’re putting together an RFP, it doesn’t need to have specific details – instead, focus on the end goals of your website and allow the work to be done so you end up with the right solutions for your organization’s needs.
Determine How The Website Fits Into Your Organization’s Overall Strategy
Your website is not a standalone entity. It needs to align with your business goals and marketing goals and support those efforts. Lay out those goals and how your ideal website could help accomplish them, and how your current website may not be.
How can your website better serve clients and be a truer reflection of your client service commitment? How can it better align with your overall brand message? What functionalities can help you increase sales? As noted above, these don’t have to be specific ideas – you’ll get bogged down if you focus on specifics. Instead, sketch out overall goals and strategies that need to be integrated with your redesign.
A website redesign is not a one person job. Nor is it a one department job. It needs to take into account the insights and perspectives of every aspect of your organization. The perspective of a sales manager will be very different from the perspective of an IT staffer.
Here are some of the constituencies to consider surveying:
- Organization Leadership
- Department Leaders
- Marketing/Communications Department Staff
- Board Members
- Community Partners
- Industry Associations
Know Who Will Be Involved
A website redesign is a big project, no matter the size of your organization. Knowing who will be directly involved at what stages, who is communicating with your design partner and who has final approval over aspects of the project can help make the redesign go much more smoothly. Have a defined approval protocol for everything from the RFP to the moment the new site launches.
How to Determine Your Budget for the Redesign
There are three primary categories of website redesign partners – large agencies, small agencies and experienced freelancers.
- Larger agencies generally charge $30,000 – $60,000.
- Smaller agencies generally charge $15,000 – $30,000.
- Experienced freelancers generally charge $5,000 – $10,000.
So what’s the difference?
Agencies will provide you with a team of employees to work on your site with different members of the team pitching in with their own specialties. When you work with a freelancer, you might have the same person doing the copywriting and the visual elements of your website – or you might end up having to provide the written copy yourself. Agencies in general are able to spend more time on your brand and messaging while also providing the technical functionality your website needs.
So what does that mean for your budget? If your website is a large part of your business and your growth strategy, spend as much as you can budget and hire a small or large agency. Your website is a long-term investment and deserves to be treated as such. If your website is going to solve a major problem for your organization, whether that is a branding problem, perception problem or functionality problem, the return on investment will compound quickly. Larger budgets give you a greater chance at achieving success.
If you’re a well-established business with no growth goals and perhaps just updating your design to make sure your web presence matches your brand and looks modern, you don’t need to spend your max budget. In this case, a very small agency or a freelancer may be the right choice for you.
How to Find the Right Redesign Partner
While having the right budget gives you a better chance at success, the right partner ensures your success.
These are some key questions you should have in mind as you speak with agencies and freelancers about your project:
- What technology do they build websites on? Are they using a platform like WordPress, Shopify or a DIY one?
- What are their capabilities? E.g., do they code or work off templates and do they build their own theme for your site?
- What is their website design process?
- What is the makeup of their website design team?
- What experience do they have in your industry?
There are additional considerations if you’re putting out an RFP. Here are some tips to make the process easier on your end and for the agencies, but still effective:
- Do your own research – have a basic understanding of the website platforms that are available. Find out if there is industry-specific software that might be best for you.
- Know your objectives and necessary functionalities and state them clearly – but don’t necessarily ask for definitive solutions in an RFP.
- Instead, look for a talented team that’s willing to do the deep dive into your brand and data to come up with the right solution.
- But don’t include obvious requirements such as SSL, Google Analytics, or mobile responsiveness – add these as an attachment or bring up in an interview if necessary
- Don’t make the RFP too complicated – an overly-complex or format-strict RFP may cause teams to not respond, decreasing your available options. A cost proposal and answers to your key questions should be enough to get a good idea of whether they are a good fit for your project.
Get started. The best time to have updated your website was to have it done already. Start going through your existing website, asking yourself the questions and assessing the elements we laid out for you in this guide.
Determine your objectives, necessary functionalities, talk to stakeholders and get a budget set. Then, be ready to take the time needed to speak with potential web design partners and dig into whether they are the right team for you.
A well-done website redesign isn’t a quick, one-size-fits-all project, but the time and financial investment is always worth it.