The thought of changing your website might give you the shivers; that’s normal for many business owners. Perhaps you’re concerned that changing your website’s design could upset your loyal fan base, or affect how you are positioned within search engine rankings. While these are valid concerns, successfully redesigning your website can result in huge gains, such as increased search engine rankings, higher conversion rates, better traffic, and improved branding.
Here’s how to wrap your head around a website redesign.
1. Do Your Homework
There is considerable research that needs to be done before taking on a site redesign project, such as learning general rules of website information architecture, navigation, design, and content. Research how to redesign your site so that it is functional and compliant with web and ADA standards.
For example, your website should be accessible to people who are disabled according to Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Using a quality web content management system (CMS) will make it easier to maintain, integrate, and syndicate content. WordPress is an example of a phenomenal CMS, which is quickly skyrocketing in popularity among bloggers and business owners alike. It’s a particular favorite of online marketers as well, due to its wealth of plugins which facilitate marketing and syndication. The application’s templates can be conveniently changed so that you can instantly produce thousand of pages composing your website.
2. Maintain Your Layout
Drastically changing a website’s look could make it unrecognizable to loyal, recurring visitors, but this doesn’t mean that a redesign can’t be creative. You can still keep the website’s logo and weave in signature photographs, typography or icons throughout, ideally in a similar location from your old site to let users know that it’s the same website with something new and interesting to offer them.
Try to keep your layout as close as possible to the old style as possible, so repeat visitors don’t get frustrated when they can’t find a particular section they love to read. Instead, focus on updating the look and feel of your website. Above all, focus on increasing its simplicity. Simplicity is the key to usability, and usability should be the main goal of any site redesign.
3. Maintain SEO Optimization
Restructuring a website will inevitably create “growing pains” for Google as it is forced to reindex your site’s pages, but there are several things you can do to make a transition less problematic, according to this article from Tide Interactive:
Maintain your old site’s meta tags, meta descriptions or meta keywords
Keep URLs the same
Send a new Sitemap to Google via Google Webmaster Tools right after launching the new website
If you prefer to change your meta tags, meta descriptions, meta keywords and old URL, you can do so via 301 redirects. Google will confirm that a page has permanently moved to another location which will allow it to be transferred to a brand new URL. Be sure to 301 redirect each page that has moved; if any are deleted, they should be 301-redirected to the next closest page on your website, in terms of relevance. This is crucial for preserving inbound link equity.
The most convenient way to configure 301 redirects on an Apache server is with .htaccess. Another method is setting the document header info using PHP. WordPress also has various plugins that faciliate the redirect process.
Rebuilding a site is much like painting your house a different color or buying new home decor. You will need to set aside a realistic schedule, budget, and a specific designation of resources to successfully overhaul your site. Whatever steps you decide to take, a site’s redesign should improve interaction with site users by learning their needs and expectations, increase your site’s traffic, and also maintain high rankings on a search engine’s page results.