Website development, as a field, has come a long way in the last decade, and it’s increasingly true that websites should be redesigned and updated frequently, to capitalize on the latest trends and functions. But whether your website’s last redesign was last year or last decade, there are several significant points any website developer should consider when drafting the redesign.
Are you happy with your website hosting performance? Should the website make the shift from shared hosting to desdicated hosting? Many critical decisions have nothing to do with the coding or design of a website, but instead concern off-site issues which can still impact its security, performance, and ease of maintenance.
1. Choosing Your Hosting Provider
Whenever you begin a website redesign, always evaluate the current hosting provider. Do multiple tests of the website’s current speed and security, and assess how easy to use and secure the hosting plan is compared to other options. If a business has grown to a substantial size, you may want to consider shifting to dedicated hosting for data security reasons. A redesign is the optimal time to switch hosting providers if necessary, so investigate your options as much as possible.
2. Domain Name Changes
Has the website experienced a brand shift? Has a better domain name become available? A redesign is also the best time to alter the domain name for a website, so investigate the possibilities. To ensure that all prior traffic is kept, many developers will forward the old domain to the new one until it expires.
These elements of a website redesign have less to do with how a website looks and more about how it functions behind the scenes!
3. Research Several Different Frameworks
There are many different website frameworks available, from Drupal to WordPress to custom coding, each with their own unique pros and cons. And don’t forget to research website builder platforms like Squarespace.com or Websitebuilder.com, which can roll in website frameworks and hosting into an easy package.
4. Determine a Website’s Content Format
If the website going to be an ultramodern online storefront? A simple recipe blog? A magazine-style website? It’s not uncommon during a redesign for owners and developers to decide to alter the content format of the website. Different frameworks can be better or worse for different content format types, so making a decision on the format type will help provide you with some direction on which framework might be better for you.
5. Scalability and Ease of Use
How many people will be managing or interacting with the backend of the website once the redesign is complete? Which frameworks are easy to use and learn– or might already be known by potential users? You need to plan for the website’s ease of use at this stage, and either select a framework which is easy to learn, or plan on spending some time instructing users on how to navigate their redesigned back-end. Scalability is also a key consideration: if content will be added or updated frequently, you need to plan for that, and select a framework strong enough to handle larger content and traffic loads.
Once you have all the above squared away, it’s time to get to the nuts and bolts of the redesign: how the website looks and feels, how it’s organized, and what functions it provides.
6. Color Schemes and Branding
Websites tend to perform better if they have clear branding and a uniform color scheme. Choose the website’s color palette to ensure that it matches the branding pattern you want to establish; clashing colors are likely to drive potential visitors away.
7. The Website Redesign Style
Should the website look clean and modern? Should it use a flat design or rich design? Select the style carefully, because it should match the feeling you want the website’s brand to inspire in visitors. When you’re certain of the style, you should begin gathering the collateral for that style: graphics and images. You should also begin planning the layout of the home page, and any major landing pages.
8. The Redesigned Navigation
A website’s navigation is one of the key elements which can make a website feel either easy or difficult for visitors to use. How is content organized? Are all major content types easily accessible from the primary menu? How many menus will the site have? Always sketch out sample sitemaps before you implement them, and try to anticipate how visitors will want to move between types of content.
9. New Functionality
What is the point of the website? What features can you add to increase its visitor-facing functionality? This is primarily planning new usability elements into the website which can aid or interest visitors and webmasters, which can cover anything from pop-up elements to captchas to CTAs to new shopping cart checkout features. All functionality features should be beta tested multiple times, ideally by a selection of different individuals.
10. Plan Third Party Integrations
The vast majority of websites rely on third-party integrations to achieve peak effectiveness. From Google Analytics to Mailchimp to social media cross-posting, there are dozens of different integration types which can add valuable new functionality and insights. But there’s a fine line between adding third party integrations in a way that’s helpful and engaging for webmasters and visitors, and creating a confusing, disorganized mess. A good rule of thumb is to keep visitor-facing integrations tastefully minimal.
Feature image adapted from Chris Bannister