You hear it all the time. ABC Company had launched an all new website. Unfortunately, this approach is far from the ideal way to do things. A relaunch usually ends up meaning “we let our old site become stagment, let’s try this again”. Embarrassingly enough, this is something we’re guilty of ourselves. We’ve been so busy focusing our attention on helping our clients that we’ve been negligent in doing the same for ourselves. The end result in our case is a site which has barely been updated over the past three years and really doesn’t do anything to explain what it is we actually do. Well, these days we seem to have even less time than ever, but we’re finally forcing ourselves to tackle this desperately needed project. If all goes well we’ll have our all-new site in place by January, and we’ll finally have a website for ourselves which represents the concepts and capabilities we recommend to our clients.
How should it be done? Where possible I’ll almost always recommend gradual change over time, unless there is really a major need to do something in a hurry, or unless the site doesn’t have much of a pre-established user base. By introducing small sets of changes over an extended time period ideas can be tested out in specific areas of your site without much risk. This allows you to see how your users react to the changes, and makes it possible to empirically measure their effectiveness.
This approach is particularly important if you have any significant interactive areas of your site, in particular e-commerce capabilities. There’s nothing worse than launching a new site design only to hurt sales and alienate your users by moving things away from where they’re used to finding them.
Another hugely important consideration is search engines. The easiest way to kill a well established search ranking is to launch a new site without taking migration of the old site into consideration. If you find yourself in the middle of a redesign always ask your team what their plan for maintaining existing traffic is. If you don’t get a clear answer to the question please, bring in an expert to handle that side of things.