This week we launched a redesign of our website and for me it was a valuable lesson in the importance of website usability. I originally initiated this project so we could make sure our website was capable of serving the ever growing mobile market. Our client websites were all responsive, but we had yet to take the time to make our own website mobile friendly. I completely underestimated the value of a redesign so I was taught a very valuable lesson in the process.
Good Usability is Backed by a Solid Process
The website redesign went through the same project plan used in our all-inclusive website design packages. While it seems long, it is a critical element for success.
The design process we took was the following:
- I took a hard look at our business model and reevaluated our target demographic and our offering.
- Focusing on what makes us happy and what brings in revenue, I modified our call to action (go somewhere) focus and made sure the website clearly navigated people to the right service or product offerings.
- I reviewed keywords and our existing sitemap. I adjusted both to make sure the keywords and content were aligned with the service and product offering I thought would best match our visitors.
- I then surfed the web to see what websites inspired me.
- I created a detailed (multi-page) requirements document for our graphic designer.
- Then I waited. And waited. And waited. In reality it was a week, but it felt like forever. Carla and I were in the design process for about a month. This is way longer than we would do for a client, but I was pushed behind customer builds and I was very picky. I wanted the design comps to be perfect.
- Next we moved our entire website over to a development instance so we could create the new theme and test. This took about another month.
- I double-checked the design with my husband, kids, team members, and clients. I wanted input from people other than me, because not everyone sees the world as I do.
- During that time I continued to review our offering, our keyword focus and our content.
- I also went back through all of our WordPress plugins to see what was no longer being used and I deleted them. I switched plugins as well and opted for some more advanced functionality. While this process was time consuming, it was worth every bit of time I spent on it.
- As the coding team built out our new design in the Genesis Framework, I could see a few items needed tweaking. Sometimes what Carla and I envision in design doesn’t translate well through code. So we adjust the design slightly to accommodate what is both functional and feasible.
- After the desktop version was built out, the team spent a few more days working on the responsive functionality. And we again adjusted some of the design elements. Thankfully one of my coders has a very good visual eye and he can do this all on his own making the end product is wonderful. I always feel so lucky to have him and have this talent on our team.
- I then held my breath and I tested the new website on my iPad and iPhone. It looked great.
- Then even though we had a few more tweaks to do, I had the guys push us live. Client projects were starting to back up and I had to get the team back to our customers. I accepted that a version two would be required and I knew we could circle back in a few weeks and make it happen.
We were finally live and I could breath again. What a relief.
The Results of Good Web Design
Initial results were more than favorable. I loved the new look and I knew it felt very much like a “Rebecca design”. I joke about being the Pixel Princess, but in reality I am a very organized person who has to live in a symmetrical world. My desk and my website have to be clean and balanced for me to be happy.
The next day had arrived and I started seeing comments from people on our design upgrade. Theme buyers on social media websites and clients in email both would tell me how great it looked. I was pleased.
A day passed and I thought I would check my Google Analytics. We had taken the website down for a few hours during the go-live and I knew I had lost traffic and potential sales in that period. When I went to view Analytics, I simply wanted to know how much traffic the few hours had cost us. I was expecting to be annoyed, but it was just the opposite. My custom dashboard showed me the website was a huge success and that visitors really liked it. I was giddy.
Why Was the Redesign a UX Success?
I believe the migration was a success because I took the time to do it right and I followed our detailed process. I didn’t rush even though I wanted to push ahead at mock speed.
I put a lot of thought into what people are looking for when they come to our website and I made sure they could easily find this content. I also made sure anything that wasn’t of value was removed. I think this made a huge impact.
I also asked around and made sure the website accommodated various users. The home page icons, for example, had to change on hover so you knew you could click them. At first I thought this idea was silly, but my husband said he needed it so he knew it was a link. I would have gone for the words, but he was adamant that he would want to click on the images. So we made it happen. That allowed me to service people like me and like him, which is a win.
The Take Away
Not everyone has the resources I do when building or redesigning a website. While I can afford the use of a professional graphic designer and coding team, others may only be able to purchase a premium WordPress theme. And that’s okay. You can still have success.
The key is to stop and plan. Before you purchase that new theme or even look for a website design firm, stop and think about your visitor, what information they need, and what you want them to do when they reach your home page. Decide what you need before you start looking for solutions.
Taking the time to plan and focus on your website visitor is what brings success.