Sometimes a website redesign feels a bit like throwing out some old clothes in the spring and going shopping for a new style. There may not be anything glaringly wrong with the site, but you’re bored with it and feel like a fresh look might be just the thing to attract some new business.
That can work when you’re clear that this is the main reason you’re doing it, and that it will mostly be a cosmetic change.
But all too often what happens is that a business owner is shopping for web marketing solutions and someone automatically mentions, “We need to redesign your site!” As if that is a given in any circumstance, the business owner agrees without asking many questions and ends up throwing a bunch of money at a project that doesn’t make much difference.
Why is that?
A first impression is more than just aesthetic.
Sure, it’s true that if your previous design was terrible or dated looking a redesign can make a difference in phone calls because the business looks more legit to visitors.
But quite often a small business’ biggest challenge is attracting those visitors in the first place, and then compelling them to call.
It may not be immediately obvious, but those challenges are symptoms of the following issues:
- The website is not well optimized for search, so it’s not showing up in results
- The language of the website is not building enough rapport with visitors to encourage a phone call
- The site isn’t demonstrating enough “social proof” (like reviews) to create trust
When a marketer immediately tells a business owner, “You need a new website!” as though that’s the universal solution, it should be a warning flag. When there isn’t a deliberate reason given, the new site is not likely to get the above items right, either. Then you end up with a new site that still misses the mark because there wasn’t a concrete plan behind the work.
The suggestion should ideally begin like, “Your current site isn’t a great mobile experience and spends way too much time talking about why you think you’re great and not establishing why you’re trustworthy.”
From there, the proposed design is going to address some specific things, and it’s clear to everyone involved why the new design is important in the first place.
More importantly, the business owner will have some specific expectations to pay attention to once it’s launched. In the above example, the better mobile experience may improve sales in itself, and looking at the site analytics should indeed show that more of the visitors are engaging with the site because of the improved content.
The point is: You should expect more from anyone redesigning your site. If the only reason you can think of that you’re redesigning the site is to redesign it, save your money until there is clarity. You can revamp the content and other parts of your branding without going there, and sometimes money and time are better spent addressing those first.
A website’s design is a story.
You want your site to look cool; that’s understandable. But what any business owner needs to keep in mind is that “cool” is subjective, and matters primarily for the first 1-3 seconds of looking at the site.
A sharp-looking design indeed sets the stage right off the bat for a new visitor. But then what?
Strategic design choices aren’t there simply to look good, but also to complement the verbal message being presented. Is information easy to find without requiring a lot of clicks, and does it actually speak to the reader?
What is your reader thinking and feeling as they enter your site, and given that, what is the most important thing for them to know about you?
It’s a simple set of questions, but ones in which answering them honestly may surprise you with what you come up with. It may suddenly make sense, once you have those answers, why your former site wasn’t hitting the mark. Chances are, those answers will require more than simply a redesign for a newer, cooler look based on someone else’s take.