Website redesigns can be a bit perilous:
- Redesigning an old, out of date site is usually really smart, but sometimes old and “out of date” sites are surprisingly effective.
- Redesigns typically impact organic search traffic and rankings. Sometimes, the impact is positive. Sometimes it isn’t.
- Redesigns that don’t incorporate data and consumer research usually don’t work well.
Many companies have experienced big traffic and revenue losses as a result of a botched redesign. If you want to avoid that possibility, you need the right process.
Start With Heatmaps and Surveys
The best redesign process starts by measuring and asking users for feedback:
- Hotjar is a very nice tool for tracking user interaction with your site. You can watch users interact with key pages, see where they click, what they focus on, etc.
- Google’s Website Survey system is free, but there are plenty of other tools that ask users to share tips, feedback, and sentiment.
- Agencies like ours can help you with panel testing, live interview testing, and more.
The survey and review process can take weeks or months, and it’s not something you want to shortcut. At the end, you should have a very good idea of what you need to fix.
Figure Out What’s Working
When you’re working out a redesign, Google Analytics is a gold mine. It can tell you which pages have the best performance in terms of both engagement and conversion. It can also tell you which page(s) search engines like and is rank highly.
Previous customers can also be a good source of information about what’s working on your site. If you survey all your previous customers and ask them some basic open-ended questions about your site, you might find out that a lot of them really like a certain feature or set of data.
Do Some Wireframing
Once you know what’s working and what you need to fix, use a basic wireframing tool like Moqups to start laying out key pages. Try and lay out a product page, category page, and homepage:
- Start by copying the layout of the most successful ecommerce site in your niche
- Adjust the layout to reflect what you’ve learned from surveys and heatmaps
- Solicit feedback on the wireframes from all the key stakeholders, explaining that the layout you’ve created is based on data
Wireframing is important because, unlike design mockups, it’s not about how things “look.” It’s about making sure all the key info is on the page, that the layout makes sense, etc. Sharing wireframes with key stakeholders is important because it helps them understand the redesign process isn’t actually about design.
Make A List Assets You Have and Assets You Need
Assets are images, video clips, product data, blog posts, product reviews and testimonials, and so on. All of these assets have an outsized impact on your website’s success:
- Imagery and video is crucial to the success of most websites, but it’s usually treated as an afterthought. Don’t make this mistake. Instead, think about what images your customers will want to see, what images you’ll need to tell the right story, etc. Try and budget professional photography and videography to make what you need.
- Content like blog posts, PDFs, install guides is all critical to SEO. Make sure it’s in a format that’s easy to import/load into the new site.
- Reviews and testimonials are very important.
- Product data is obviously critical, and it’s usually the most difficult asset to pull together. So, it’s good to work on that before you start the actual design process.
Find a Designer
Once you have your user surveys and heatmaps, your list of what’s working and what you need to fix, your wireframes laying out key pages, and your assets, it’s time to hire a designer.
While design is always important, it may surprise you to know that design is usually the easiest, least critical component of an ecommerce website redesign. The reason is simple: Ecommerce websites should mostly look the same!
Ecommerce website design is NOT about being clever or innovative, coming up with new ways to show product info, “making a statement,” etc. It’s about making something that’s familiar and easy to use, because you want your customers focused on products.
PRO TIP: When interviewing designers, ask them one question: What is the purpose of an ecommerce website? If they say anything other than “sell products and make money,” find another designer.
Show the designers you’re talking to your data, notes, and wireframes. Listen to the questions they ask and the suggestions they make. Most importantly, make sure to hire a designer that asks you tough questions and challenges you on your wireframes.
Test The Development Site
Most designers will take your assets, your wireframes, and your notes, and turn them into a development site within a few weeks or months. Once this dev site is live and mostly working:
- Ask employees, friends, and family to test the site. Ask them to find things that are broken, missing, or wrong.
- Do at least one round of user testing. You can hire an agency to do this for you, or just order up a batch of video tests using something like UserBob.
- Consider asking customers to try out the site. Last but not least, your best customers would probably try out your new site and give you feedback if you invited them to do so. Just make sure you’re picking customers who represent your “typical” buyer.
Last but not least, make sure your marketing team compares the dev site to the live site: They need to be looking at ad landing pages, checking for 301 redirects, making sure sign-up forms work, and so on.
Summing Up, Website Redesigns Are Hard
If you do a website redesign the right way, it’s a long, difficult process. It’s going to take several months of work to really do it right.
However, the payoff can be exceptional. Many of the redesign projects we’ve completed have resulted in extraordinary gains in traffic and sales. The trick is to be patient, go step by step, and focus on usability.