At SMCo the bulk of our work starts with website redesigns in WordPress and Squarespace. Contrary to what people often assume, these are far more complicated than new websites, so it’s even more important to approach them well-prepared for success.
While we do do some new sites, particularly at the Design in a Day™ level, most of our clients have a growing business that’s ready to go to the next level and, as a result, it’s time to think about a new website.
When clients come to us, they know they need something new, but they’re not entirely sure what that entails, what they need to be thinking about and how much work is involved. And while there’s a lot to consider when you tackle a redesign, there are three questions you must answer before undertaking a redesign.
#1 – Why now? What is the goal of this redesign?
Unfortunately, some businesses undertake a redesign because they believe they have a website problem. Sometimes they do. A lot of times, the problem is more complicated, however. Sometimes there’s an overall marketing issue—your brand position isn’t working, your message isn’t quite right or you’re not putting marketing resources where they can be most effective. I’ve seen online stores in particular suffer from this, when the site owners think the site’s design isn’t working, but in reality perhaps the product, pricing or guarantees are confusing or frustrating for the customer. This is a common, and solvable issue—but it needs to be tackled first, before a site redesign.
So, thoroughly examine your current website and how it is and isn’t aligning with your business goals. Ask yourself if you’re ready for a redesign or if you also need to take some time to dig into your product or services, your brand, or other issues that may be holding you back. The worst thing you could do is dive into a redesign project and realize that there’s a lot of other work that needs to be done outside of your website mid-project.
#2 Have you done an audit of your search engine optimization (SEO)?
It’s absolutely critical that you understand your most popular pages, what keywords you’re ranking for and how your site performs in search in general. In particular, Squarespace users need to take care if they’re coming from another platform, as Squarespace only allows for “flat” page structures, so you’ll need to take particular care with your URL redirects. I see problems related to search on redesigns all the time, and many of these problems can be prevented, if due diligence is done prior to starting the build phase of your project (I prefer to undertake an SEO study during the strategy phase of projects).
You’ll want to make sure that you’re running Google Analytics and Google Search Console, and make sure you know how to access them so that appropriate reports can be pulled so your designer can help prevent problems after you launch your fancy new website.
By the way, we include an SEO audit in all of our custom design projects—it’s such a key part of website design, we don’t want clients to not do this step because of budgetary concerns.
Need an audit you can take to your designer? We can help!
#3 Create your customer/client/audience profile.
Everyone’s business evolves, and with it comes a changing audience. Prior to a redesign, look at your customers or clients and ask yourself if they’re the same as they were when you originally designed your website. Chances are they aren’t.
I always recommend talking to a few trusted members of your audience about why they visit your website, what they would love to find, what they find delightful, and what they find frustrating. Learn what you can about what their other interests are too. All of this will not only inform your website design, but your overall marketing strategy. (For example, personally, I love using Instagram. However, SMCo’s core audience doesn’t hang out there—they’re on LinkedIn. While this doesn’t explicitly inform our website, it does inform our marketing strategy for redistributing old content and where we put our resources.)
Create a detailed WRITTEN description of your primary audience and share that with your designer (they should ask for it as part of your website redesign “homework”), and ask your designer for advice on how to help ensure your website speaks to that audience.
Similarly, if you’ve identified a potential new segment that you feel is untapped, discuss this with your designer as well. I can guarantee you that they’ll be able to guide you toward ideas for reaching that audience through your website or enticing them once they discover you. (A common example is our law firm clients whose core clientele is still Baby Boomers, but are seeing more and more Millennial and GenX clients approaching them. There are strategies that can help you speak to multiple generations.)
#4 Ask yourself—and your designer—if your current website platform is still serving your needs.
When you launch initially, your needs may have been informed by different factors than they are now. Perhaps you were on a shoestring, and a very inexpensive host or a DIY service made made the most sense. But as you grow, your tech infrastructure becomes more and of a concern, and the wrong choice can hold you back. A good web designer should be able to guide you to the platform that meets your needs and your future growth goals (even if it means referring you to a colleague who’s expert in a platform they’re not skilled in),
Obviously, there’s a lot more to redesigning a website, but if you approach potential website designers with these questions in mind, they’ll be able to guide you in the right direction more effectively and efficiently. As official Squarespace Specialists (though these days most of our large sites are built on WordPress), we get a fair number of inquiries from site owners who are specifically interested in that platform, but many times we end up recommending a WordPress solution, if the client’s needs would be better served. Or, if a WordPress client complains that their current site is slow, we can help guide them to hosting solutions and an improved site infrastructure that will tackle that issue. Or, say you’re a blogger who’s struggling to be found in a competitive organic search landscape, we may guide you toward a plugin for your WordPress site that can help.
My recommendation is that you approach the platform question with an open mind. If you’re unhappy or happy with your current technical setup, explain the whys to your designer and they likely can help you find the right solution. (If you love your design but your platform is no longer sparking joy, we offer a fabulous service to migrate you from Squarespace to WordPress and also conduct essential search engine optimization.)
Are you considering a redesign? Need some guidance about how to get there? Don’t forget that we offer one-hour strategy sessions with me (Sarah) that dig into big questions about your website and online marketing. It’s easy and, believe it or not, pretty fun!