4 lessons we learned redesigning our website

Design is important but without a strategy and learning from your mistakes, your new website is doomed to fail

While there is an open discussion regarding design vs functionality, we’ve learned a few lessons that we’ve learned as we were redesigning our own website and we’d like to share those lessons.

1. Your goals determine both functionality and design

During the initial stages of the project, we were simply regurgitating most of the content from our old pages onto the new one with instructions telling our front-end developers to make it look pretty.

There’s nothing wrong with copying the exact same content (if it ain’t broke) but what would be the point of redesigning your website if the content will be the same? It also wouldn’t make sense if the content suddenly doesn’t match up properly with the page.

So we revised the content to support the main purpose of the page. Whether it was optimizing our hosting pages to encourage more purchases to tweaking the FAQ section so that we can lead customers back to a certain product page, always keep your goal in mind as you develop content.

2. Always conduct tests to prove/disprove theories

It’s easy to dictate what you think your customers want on your website. You may have different theories about how customer might behave or want on your website, but without testing it, your conclusions will be based on inconclusive information.

Instead, always test your theories and analyze your customer’s behaviour online via A/B testing. Tools like Optimizely lets you test any changes to your website before you implement anything.

For example, we wanted to figure out which call to action resonated the most with customers and new site visitors. By testing different variants against our original CTA, we were able to increase conversions by 50%.

Our A/B testing tool of choice: Optimizely

If you plan on conducting an A/B test, remember to take a strategic approach to it. Consider different factors such as your goals, relevancy, implementation and segmentation before you even start testing.

3. Feedback is important

Getting feedback from your customers isn’t really a test, it’s just good business sense. While conducting experiments provides you with great deal of information, gaining insight on what your customers’ thoughts are is more valuable.

Even slight alterations to your logo matters

For example, one of the early iterations that we made was to change the header on our website. The previous version of the Webnames.ca website featured our logo with our tagline: “Canada’s Original Domain Registrar” but we took this out in favour of a simpler logo. After a month or so, we reached out to customers and asked them what their thoughts were about the change and they advocated that we use the old logo over the new one. Why? Because the previous logo resonated with our Canadian identity and the new version didn’t resonate as much.

You can’t simply get this information from testing — gaining insight into what your customers are thinking is really a great help towards improving and making sure that everything goes smoothly.

4. SEO will take up a lot of your time

From doing conducting research to optimizing content, SEO (search engine optimization) will take up a large portion of your time. I’d say that as we were overhauling our website’s design, we spent close to 45% on SEO alone. This included checking to see if we had all our keywords in place, all our H1 tags were correct, anchor texts, and more.

While SEO takes a lot of time, watching your rank go up every week is gratifying and is well worth the effort. For us, we noticed improvements on our rank but at the same time, it still is an ongoing effort to maintain and improve our rank. We’re not #1 for most of our pages but we’re getting there.

As a final note about SEO, there really is no magic solution to automatically rank you on the first page and at the first spot. It’s an ongoing effort and you really do need to allocate a certain portion of your time each week to monitor your rank and make any necessary tweaks.

Takeaways:

We’re still in the process of completing our redesign project. I’ll admit that we still have a ways to go but we’re getting there. While it has been a long project, we’ve learned valuable lessons that other businesses should be aware of before undertaking a project like this:

  1. Your goals determine both functionality and design
  2. Always conduct tests to prove/disprove theories
  3. Feedback from your customers is important
  4. SEO will take up a lot of your time

Learn more about Webnames.ca by visiting www.webnames.ca or connect with us over Twitter at @webnames.

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