Six things you learn when your website is redesigned

Have you ever redesigned your company website? It’s a bit like the professional equivalent of moving house – just replace bubble-wrapping of bone china with 301 re-directs.

It’s basically the same, but with even more stress and checklists and considerations and a vague sense, at the midway point, that you’re losing control before it all ties together in the end.

Over the last 15 years our website has undergone some amazing changes. In the days of internet infancy, our first one was barely recognisable as a website, much less as the accessplanit site.

Now we’ve done it again, with a new website for the new year, in order to showcase our new training management system.

Over the last few months, working with our website designers, this is what we learnt.

Seriously think about your brand

A website redesign is usually carried out for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Catching up with advancing tech (think fully responsive sites)
  • It was all a bit too familiar
  • Rebranding exercise (maybe to showcase a new product or service or target a new demographic)
Whatever your reasons – particularly the final one – this is the moment, before the real work starts, when you need to start really considering your brand personality, your target audience, and what you want your website to say to them when they visit it.

Once you’re certain about who your brand is, study every aspect of your site. The core messaging, copy, images, videos, even the layout all need your attention. Do they work well together, as well as standalones? If you’re running blandly formal content alongside goofball emojis, something’s gone wrong – and your customers will pick up on that.

Colour yourself interesting

You’re a smart professional, so you’re probably aware of colour psychology. You know, yellow means friendliness; pink equals love; red is passionate, and so on.

I’m not saying place this front-and-centre. Sure, you might want to show that you’re a loving company in touch with nature, but a website decked in green and pink is going to put most users off their lunch for life. Work closely with your designers here to make sure that the colour palette jives together, but also acts as the non-verbal equivalent of literally screaming your brand personality and values.

For us, outside of our familiar blue (reliability), we’ve also brought some extra colours into the mix, such as green (growth), orange (optimism) and purple (imagination). Mix them together – not literally – and each colour represents a facet of our company’s identity.

Be specific but not rigid in your vision

The mark of a good leader is to recognise great ideas, no matter who comes up with them.

When the design and development work begins, you’re clearly going to want to know what you’re aiming for, particularly when it comes to an accurate representation of your brand. At the same time, take the time to hear ideas and even potential issues from your chosen design agency. You’re not just paying for them to build your vision; you’re paying for their expertise too.

It’s easy for a company to tut and roll their eyes when bad proof-of-concept designs strikes their inbox; just as easy for a web design agency to do the same when their client requests the hundredth change of the day. These sort of festering issues can fray what should be a wonderful professional relationship, and a lot of that is down to a total lack of clear communication – often because there’s less of a vision for what the website should be, and more of a vague idea of what it shouldn’t.

But it’s crucial to remember that this is a partnership. Teamwork makes the dream work, and all that.

Don’t expect it to happen overnight

Website redesigns take far longer than you might think. Maybe even longer than that, even. Start by getting realistic time-frames from your web design agency, and then add a few more weeks to that for unforeseen circumstances from both sides. Bugs and glitches might show up in the system, the formatting and style may not work on certain screen sizes, a change in direction, that sort of thing.

That’s not just because we’re dealing with technology here, which likes to throw little tech-spanners in the tech-works apparently for kicks. It’s also because web redesigns are part art and part science. Both these disciplines require time and talent to deliver the best product.

I’m not saying this process should take decades (and you should probably fire your PM if it does, to be fair); you’ll have a deadline and you’ll want to stick as closely to it as possible. I’m just saying, be prepared to be somewhat flexible if you want your website to hit your expectations.

Think social

The redesign work doesn’t begin and end with a new website. Even during the planning stages, you need to be considering your social media channels too. You might think all it takes is a new banner image or cover photo, but there’s a lot more you can do. For starters, you might want to consider using YouTube to its fullest, since video content is seriously on the rise right now. Better yet, that content can be placed both on your website and other social networks.

At this point, you’ll also want to return to your brand’s market, to ensure that what you hope to achieve with your new website is also reflected on other platforms. Are you connecting and networking with the right people? Are you being liked and followed by those interested in your product or service? And if not, why not? Are you putting out the content your audience wants to see on those channels?

Questions. Questions. So many questions. But this is the best time to be asking these, and in doing so, help humanise your brand (people, after all, don’t engage with companies; they engage with other people).

Make changes in line with your overall goals, not just your overall redesign.

It will get better

Remember that stress I mentioned earlier? Yep, that’s not going away any time soon. It’s understandable to fear the worst, but it will get better. Keep the faith. With a firm hand on the tiller, your project isn’t going to fall apart. Slowly, as each piece of the puzzle falls into place, and the website takes shape, that stress is going to evaporate to be replaced with excitement. Then stress again. Then excitement. Then…

Basically, what I’m saying is, getting your company website redesigned is an emotional roller-coaster, which ends with just the same ecstatic adrenaline rush at the end. There’s bound to be a few sleepless nights, especially the day before the launch, but few things are as enjoyable as seeing all that hard work come together on the screen.

For me, every single one of the lessons we learnt over the last few months has made the journey all worthwhile; the ups outweigh the downs; the pros beat cons. Not only do we have a fully responsive website that reflects who we really are, what we really do and how we can really help, but we’re so much stronger as a business – and as a team – because of this learning curve.

I hope you find your website redesign experiences just as productive, giving you the competitive edge in your industry. And if you’re still in doubt about a site’s importance, consider the three-second rule of web design: You have three seconds to capture a website visitor’s attention, and if your content and layout isn’t appealing, you’ve just lost that customer for good.