Things To Consider If You Plan On Redesigning Your Website

by Oct 15, 2015Brand, Tactical0 comments

“The tendency is to use overexposed, high-resolution photos as full-width background images with a powerful blurb. Honestly, you can never have too many beautiful, custom images on a website.”

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Caio and I spend a lot of time carefully crafting our new website, which launched about a month ago (mid-September 2015). We learned a few things during the website redesign process and we thought it would be important to share with you.

Redoing a website is kind of like redoing a kitchen… It sounds so simple, so easy. But it always ends up being more complicated and time consuming than you anticipated. You can no longer just redesign your website. You end up exploring new plugins, learning about new front-end/back-end functionalities, redoing your website content, seriously considering rebranding, rethinking your business model and contemplating the purpose of your existence. But it’s a necessary process. Your website can no longer be thought of as a virtual brochure. It plays an increasing role as a sales funnel. You use it to convert website visitors to newsletter subscribers and ideally, a few of them become loyal customers. Now more than ever, your website is the key decision-swaying factor when potential customers are searching for information on the web. And if they leave your website without being utterly impressed, then odds are they won’t be considering your company when they make that purchase decision. Yes, this is old news, but it’s important to be reminded of this now and again. By now, you’ve been looking at other company websites and you’re starting to think, “Yikes, mine needs to be updated…” Let us shed some light on what you should know and consider before redoing your website.

Website design: Front-end Considerations

Make your website simply beautiful.

Website design has been gravitating to a pure, simple and elegant look for some time now. Before you jump to the conclusion that everyone is trying to imitate Apple, you should realize that it wasn’t all too long ago that web developers designed the majority of websites. The problem? They didn’t have the greatest design eye. As a result, the web design standard was years behind what graphic designers were doing with print media. So, why weren’t there more web designers back then? Maybe they weren’t passionate enough about html and JavaScript to learn about Web design. But nowadays, you don’t need nearly as much coding skill as you once did to build a great website. The result, more and more designers are now building web sites and web design is a bustling profession. To get back to the point… Most great designers will agree that less is more. And this quality vs. quantity argument is now transforming Internet design in a positive way. Beautiful websites increase user-engagement. In other words, when your website is nicely designed, visitors are more likely to stay on the site to read its content and interact with it. You too should follow suit. Keep your website design simple and beautiful by carefully considering the following design elements:

2015 Web design trends. Not fads.

Large typography The trend nowadays is to use large uppercase letters as title fonts and much smaller typography for body copy. However, the font you choose to use on your website must be legible and reflect your overall branding. From a design perspective, it is never a bad idea to use 2 very distinct fonts styles (one for titles and one for body) that pair well with each other.
Stunning one-page websites You might have come across a few of them by now. They are most often beautifully designed and engaging. They conveniently minimize the number of clicks needed to find the information you are looking for, while, at the same time, entice you to glance at everything. Google’s search algorithms do not favour these sites though. Google tends to favour multi-page sites that have a certain number of pictures and characters on each page. Will Google’s algorithms accommodate for long, one-page websites? Only time will tell.
Many large, full width sections Websites in pre-2005 had a boxy feel. Literally. Like, there was a box surrounding the content area with a background photo or colour that remained the same, regardless of which page you were on. That was the Jurassic age of web design. Welcome to the 21st century! Where websites span the full width of your screen. Yes! From one end to the other. Seriously though, websites now have many beautiful, full width sections on every page that group relevant content together for a stimulating user-experience. For example, one section might include your social feed, below that, you might have a full width map and below that, a full width contact us section with a contact form.

Parallax Scrolling

The parallax effect responds to your mouse or track pad scrolling, where foreground images move faster than background images (much like this). They are very effective at impressing users, even though they have been around for a few years now. More and more website templates are now integrating this feature as a result of its growing popularity.
Animations Similarly, simple animations are becoming very popular. Whether it is call-to-action buttons that interacts with mouse-overs or icons that appear as you scroll down a page. The key here is not overdoing it, because too much of anything is just cheesy.

(Clicking it will simply refresh the page)

Icon that animates as you scroll down
High quality, custom photography Stop using stock photos! Please, I beg you! They look overly generic as to appeal to the masses, so that more people purchase them. Plus, they can cost a small fortune per photo. The last thing you want is a generic-looking brand that no one will remember you by. Your business deserves high-quality custom photography. Most photographers will charge around $100 for a photo shoot, and if you come across a really nice one, they will provide you will all of the raw photo files, along with beautifully edited versions of the best ones. Odds are with a 1-hour photo shoot you will have a hard time choosing between a dozen of them, which is a good problem to have. Custom photography is great way to engage your site visitors. They would love to see close-ups of your chef garnishing your signature restaurant dish or of an amateur yoga class attempting a pose in unison. The tendency is to use overexposed, high-resolution photos as full-width background images with a powerful blurb. Honestly, you can never have too many beautiful, custom images on a website.

Your web content matters. A lot.

Just like stock photos, you want to avoid writing overly generic content. You also want to avoid sounding like a used-car salesman when writing your website content. Research is telling us marketers that the best sales approach is to be conversational. What does this mean? Well, when you meet someone at a cocktail, you probably won’t start by saying: “BUY MY RESIDENTIAL CLEANING SERVICES AT A REDUCED PRICE OF $150, FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY.” You would start by saying “Hey! My name is _____________.” and proceed to follow a more natural conversation flow. Your website content should do the same. It needs to flow like a normal conversation. So, be conversational.

Should you be blogging?

So, here’s a rule of thumb: don’t have a blog page if you aren’t going to post any blogs. Simple enough? Similarly, if you have a blog page make sure you post articles frequently. I don’t want to give a number here (i.e. once a week) because the right frequency depends on many things: what your followers expect, the type of business you run, what you have to say, etc. To give you an idea, someone once told me that they went to a website that hadn’t updated their blog for over 6 months and they wondered if they were still in business. These are the conclusions that people draw from an inactive blog page. So, if you have a blog page, then keep on writing articles and if you don’t, you’re better off not having a blog page. A good blog starts with good content. What is good content, you ask? Well, ideally your blog articles should focus on subjects that are helpful to the audience you want to reach. Often times, blogs provide expert information, or help solve a problem. Of course, you are going to write articles on topics that your business specialized in, but don’t write a blog just to sell your services. If you’re a plumber, don’t write about “how to fix a leaking faucet” and then say that the solution would be to contact you. This can be viewed negatively and the last thing you want is for your viewers to leave your site with a bad impression. So, if you’re going to be writing a blog, be genuine in your approach to helping people solve a problem, or in providing expert advice. Or both!

Website Development: Back-end Considerations

Even if you aren’t going to be developing the backend of your website, you should consider doing a bit of research to learn about it.

Choosing the right CMS.

WordPress is a fantastic content management system (CMS), or platform that you can use to design your website. Organizations like, New York Times, Mercedes-Benz and Vogue use it, and for good reason too:

  • it’s user-friendly,
  • it’s secure,
  • it’s the most popular CMS,
  • it’s SEO-friendly,
  • it has millions of useful plugins, and, best of all;
  • it’s free!

Using cookie-cutter website builders, like Wix, Weebly, GoDaddy’s Website Builder and Squarespace sure is tempting. You have no idea how many people I come across who started with these CMS and switched over to WordPress after a few months. Why? They didn’t plan their website out. They just started to build it, piece by piece, and realized the platform’s limitations along the way. Maybe you’re in the same boat and that’s what landed you here? I wouldn’t be surprised. So, if you aren’t already using WordPress, you should definitely consider it for your website’s redesign.

Can you afford website downtime?

If you are only getting a few website visits per day and it wouldn’t hurt to enable Construction Mode on your website for a few weeks, then great! Other companies, however, literally cannot afford to do this. If you’re a restaurant, or you have an e-commerce store for example, odds are that your website visits equate to sales. In this case, consider buying another domain name, or sub domain to build your new website on. This way, your old site will still be live and you won’t lose any potential sales. Just make sure to consider the extra costs of purchasing the new domain name/hosting, the web development costs associated with the website transfer and subsequent bug fixes. These are minimal in comparison to the losses that can be had for turning away website visitors while you build your new site.

How can your new website streamline your business processes?

Now more than ever, your website can become a really useful tool that can help streamline your business operations. Consider how a restaurant can accept reservations through its website, how a gym can accept membership payments, again, through its website, how an art class can show it’s class schedule, you guessed it, through its website. Get the point? Yes, your website can use such booking, payment processing and scheduling plugins, plus about 1000 other ones. Plugins are like iPhone apps for websites, there’s pretty much a plugin for anything you can think of nowadays. We recommend using paid plugins. Free plugins are great for simple things, like website backups. There are often a lot more advantages in favour of paid plugins. They offer more features and customizability. This way you can tailor the plugin so it’s consistent with your branding and so it functions according to your needs. Paid plugins typically offer more support and have fewer bugs than free ones. Why? Paying a small fee for the plugin allows developers to spend more time building it. It also allows them to spend more time helping you to fix problems that arise, if any, and promptly. Remember, plugins can significantly reduce the time you spend doing the menial tasks that eat up all of your time. It’s definitely worth it to purchase paid plugins and to get a web developer to install and customize these things for you if it can add value to your business by streamlining your operations and impressing your customers. Don’t go plugin crazy though. The more you use, the more they slow down your site.

Your new site must have a responsive design!

A responsive website design refers to your site’s ability to adapt or respond to various screen sizes. Try it out. Reduce the size of your browser and you’ll see how the menu will shrink and the content will rearrange itself to look good on a smaller screen size.
This is super important because people are viewing the web on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets now more than ever. Your new website needs to be responsive, so that it is legible on mobile devices.

"This is super important because people are viewing the web on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets now more than ever."

Most website templates are responsive out of the box. This is great, but does not mean that they are optimized for mobile devices. Most will adapt to various screen sizes, but some things will look slightly off. Maybe the slider title is smaller than your normal text titles. Maybe the space between text and images will just be slightly off from one section to another. Little things that will drive people with OCD mad. To truly optimize your website for mobile, you will need some knowledge of CSS and html. If you don’t know what that is, then it would be worth paying someone who does to optimize your site. Your mobile website visitors will notice these bugs as much as you do and every detail is a reflection of the way you do business. Do you let the little things slide? Well, my advice is don’t.

ATTN: Those in need of multilingual websites...

All too often, clients will ask us to develop a website and half way through the design/development process they’ll say “Oh! I forgot to mention, I need my site in English and French. This should be easy enough, right? Isn’t it just a click of a button?” So, that button that you see on the top of a website that toggles from one language to another, takes hours upon hours of configuration and testing. I anticipate and sincerely hope that sometime in the near future, we will be able to click a button in the backend of a website and it will change languages with little to no effort. But, we aren’t there yet. For those of you developers that will chime in and say, “Um, there’s a plugin for that called WPML” (WordPress Multilingual Plugin). This is precisely the plugin we use to do multilingual websites and thank god it exists! But let’s be honest, it’s kind of expensive for your average do-it-yourselfer and I’m sure we’d all agree, it could be a lot more user-friendly and intuitive. Hence, the hours of configuration and testing that I mentioned earlier. Do-it-yourselfers, beware! If you want to use WPML, make sure it’s compatible with the theme you purchased. (Check theme compatibility with WPML). And again, compatibility doesn’t equate to seamless integration… In short, there are things that are relatively simple to change, like the colour of a menu link, or the speed at which the slider changes to the next photo. It’s important to understand that others things naturally require more time to configure. Now that you know, don’t give your web developer flack for charging a little extra for that.

So, Your New Website's Done... Now What?

Have a plan to promote your newly designed website.

What do you do when your kitchen renos are done? You invite people over to show it off. By the time your new website is working perfectly and looking just right, it’s time to throw a virtual party! Get people excited about the redesign; share it on social networks. Build the buzz and drive more traffic. It’s a great way of reminding people about your offering and getting them to view it when it looks it’s best. But not everyone likes to be boastful. If you’re the type to buy a new car and not tell anyone about it because you don’t want to gloat, then consider this a modest approach to drive website traffic: ask your network for feedback on the new website. Everyone loves to give his or her two cents. You’d be surprised how many people respond because when you involve them in the process, they care that much more. It’s a win-win, because you drive traffic and obtain feedback. The information you obtain from the feedback can help you fine-tune your website in a way that makes it even more appealing and user-friendly.

But don't just let it sit there!

This is the reason your original website became outdated. Consider improving your website over time. Use Analytics to learn who is visiting your website and how they are using it. Do some search engine optimization (SEO) to improve your site’s search ranking and make sure it can be found by the right people. You can add more functionality, tweak the design and add more content (like relevant blogs) to further engage users. But above all, don't let it get to a point where you find yourself saying "Yikes, my site needs updating..."

To Recap...

If you are going to be redesigning your website, please carefully consider the following:

  • Your website’s overall design
  • 2015 website design trends
  • Creating truly unique content
  • Whether you should write a blog
  • Choosing the right CMS
  • Whether you can afford website downtime
  • How plugins can help streamline operations
  • You need a responsive website design
  • Consider your multilingual needs
  • Having plan to promote your website
  • Continuously improving it over time

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Meet the author.

Taro Abarbanel-Uemura

Marketing Strategist

Meet Fortified Marketing's founder and lead marketing consultant. Taro loves reading fascinating articles on various marketing-related subjects, just as much as he enjoys writing about them. When he isn’t savouring a latte while working on his newest blog post, he can be found at a coffee shop in Ottawa's Little Italy, or marathoning shows and documentaries on Netflix.

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