How To Do A Website Redesign

There are many reasons why you may be considering a website redesign. Maybe you’ve found your site traffic to be stagnant, or your conversion rates to be dropping. Or maybe your website’s appearance looks outdated and no longer serves the taste – or expectations – of today’s internet users.

If any of these scenarios are familiar to you, your instincts are right: you need a website redesign. In fact, poor designs – in terms of layout and structuring, functionality, and style – can have a negative impact on sales and conversions. In some instances, your visitors may be put off by the visuals, in others they may not feel secure about entering credit card details on your site, and in other cases, they may find the navigation to be counter-intuitive and frustrating.

No matter the cause, a redesign is the answer. However, redesigns are quite complex. Completing a successful website redesign is a far cry away from just redoing everything from scratch. There’s a good reason SEO gurus like Neil Patel hate website redesigns – and it’s because if a redesign isn’t conducted properly and cautiously, it can tank (i.e. sabotage) your SEO. This means years of work down the drain, decreased conversion rates, lower organic traffic, and in the very worst case – the downfall of your business.

Of course, none of this is meant to scare you from doing a redesign. It’s just meant to convey how important it is to be careful and methodical. Luckily, we’re here to guide you through the entire process and point out the main Do’s and Don’ts of how to redesign your website. We’ll also answer some practical questions, such as why you should redesign your website, how long a redesign will take, how much it will cost, and perhaps most important of all – how to do it without tanking your SEO.

What Is a Website Redesign?

A website redesign isn’t just revamping the colors or fonts on your homepage – it’s altering the visual and functional design, structure, code, and content of your existing website in order for it to better suit the needs of the visitor. In fact, since the main purpose of a website redesign is to increase conversions and sales while decreasing bounce rates, a successful redesign is planned and executed with the users in mind. So one of the main areas of website redesign is focusing on boosting user experience.

What’s the Difference Between a Website Redesign and a Website Refresh?

The difference between a website redesign and a website refresh lies in the scale of changes you want – or need – to make to your site. If you’re making changes to the structure, code, and overall design, we’re talking redesign. If you’re just updating the look of the website by playing with colors and fonts, you’re looking at a website refresh. In other words:

  • A website redesign means changing the core structure, or functionality and look of a website. New codes and functional/layout restructuring will take place in order to better suit user needs. You’ll probably need a team of web developers, creative designers, and UX/UI designers working together to complete all aspects of the redesign. You may also change the CMS (content management system) you’re using to build and run your website. Usually, after a period of structuring, building, and testing, the redesigned site goes live once all the new aspects have been successfully put together.
  • A website refresh is much lower-scale. It doesn’t involve changing the site’s functionality or structure, but only minor changes and updates, like new colors and color patterns, new typography, or minor changes to the user interface.

In any case, the principal aim of both processes is to improve user experience as well as boost sales and conversion rates.

Why Redesign a Website?

There are several scenarios which are basically your website’s way of saying redesign me, please. See if your brainchild fits one of them. If it doesn’t, refer to the old adage: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  • The design looks outdated. Old websites are cute, aren’t they? Banner ads everywhere, grainy animation, Times New Roman… like this ol’ gem. They’re cute as long as you want people going ha ha, aw, nostalgia, the ’90s were funny. Not so great if you’re trying to rake in visitors and make sales. Of course, outdated designs aren’t always this extreme – even sites a couple of years old may be in need of changing. The times, they are a-changin’, technology-wise.
  • You’ve been getting user complaints about navigation and on-site experience. If your users are contacting you and telling you they’re having trouble navigating to the correct pages, experiencing failures with site functionalities, or feel frustrated due to problematic payment, signup, or what-have-you forms, it’s time to make a change.
  • Your conversion rates and sales are dropping. This is one of the best indicators that you need a website redesign. Conversion rates and sales decrease when user experience is subpar.
  • You’ve bought out a website and need to revamp it to suit your brand. If you’ve bought an existing website and want to reinvent it as a part of your own brand, you’ll need to do some redesigning for it to be a recognizable part of your online presence. In this case, you may be able to get away with some small tweaks to its creative design and functionality.

How Often Should You Redesign Your Website?

Experts recommend redesigning your website every 2-3 years to make sure your website looks fresh and modern, and that it suits contemporary user needs in terms of UX/UI.

If you experience a drop in sales, traffic, and conversion rates sooner than that, then you may need to do a redesign earlier.

If you’re running a small business and are on a limited budget, redesigning every 5-8 years would be enough. Instead of full-scale redesigns, you may wish to invest in some smaller website refreshes along the way.

How Much Does It Cost to Redesign a Website?

The cost of redesigning a website depends on the degree to which you’re looking to shake things up. It also depends on who’s going to be doing it. And of course, it depends on what your budget is. A redesign can cost anywhere from $100 – where it’s all minimal changes and you do it yourself – to over $40,000, if it’s a big website that requires a host of new functionalities, designs, and so on.

Let’s take a quick look at your options:

  • DIY. Redesigning a website by yourself is by far the cheapest. You can head over to ThemeForest and choose a website theme – they cost between $30 – $100. If you want more creative control over how the site functions, you can consider purchasing a Genesis Framework package, which includes the framework of your website as well as the visual design. As the framework encompasses the back-end of your site, you can use it to easily edit and create content as well as visuals. Getting the framework plus a theme costs between $100 and $130.
  • Hire a freelance designer/web developer. Whether you opt for a designer or a developer (and sometimes one person can do both) depends on what you need help with for the redesign of your website. For visual redesigns, look for a designer; for functional redesigns, look for a developer; and for better user experience, look for a UX/UI designer. In any case, a freelance designer would charge between $2,000 to $5,000 for simple websites and visual redesigns. The price can go up to $15,000 for larger websites and more intricate designs. If you hire multiple freelancers for various aspects (look, functionality, UX), the price increases per worker.
  • Hire an agency. Although it’s the priciest option when it comes to redesign, you also get the best value-for-money, especially if you’re doing a full-on visual, functional, and UX redesign. A web design and development agency comes with its own tried-and-true team which will work to bring all the elements together in an efficient and visually pleasing manner. Plus, it would probably get the job done faster than a single freelance agent doing everything on their own. For a smaller, simpler website you can expect the redesign to cost between $15,000 and $20,000, while a bigger and more complex website would cost $20,000 to $40,000.

How Long Does It Take to Redesign a Website?

This really depends on the scope of your redesign. A simple redesign, which uses templates, existing themes, and plugins, and doesn’t require much additional coding, will take around a month (30-45 days). A more thorough, complex redesign with custom elements, for a bigger website with more pages (between 25 and 40), can take anywhere from 2 to 6 months.

If you hire a freelancer or an agency, they can provide you with an estimate based on what you need done. Of course, the estimated deadline is often subject to changes, so be prepared for it to last a bit longer than initially expected.

How to Redesign Your Website: a Guide

The most important thing when doing a redesign is to do it with the customer in mind. So you should focus on user experience, site ergonomics, and what makes a customers’ visit to your website the most pleasurable and frustration-free. But for customers to actually get to your website, you need to do your redesign with great care, so as to ensure that your website doesn’t drop in the search results. That’s why we’ll start off with SEO.

1. Start With SEO

A lot of the time, people redesigning websites build new pages and forget the old ones, move or delete old content, and change page URLs like it’s nobody’s business. These three things are an excellent way to disappear far into the void of never-accessed page 2 of search results. In other words, to make your way into the irrelevant, last pages of a Google search.

What these types of redesigns are forgetting:

  • Existing pages have already built up authority for search engines. Changing what already works will have a negative impact on your online visibility and SEO.
  • Existing, optimized content gets lost amongst the new pages and fails to reach visitors and search engines.
  • Site crawlers hate duplicate content, poorly constructed redirects, and error pages. They’ll drag your website to the bottom of the search results as a result.

Website crawlers determine the value of your website based on various coded algorithms. Some factors include keyword optimization, page loading speed, and layout (structure, organization). Crawlers like unique, original, well-written, keyword-optimized content and they hate duplicate pages. They also don’t like 404 errors, missing links, and slow loading speeds. All these things can happen if you aren’t extra careful with content and layout when doing your redesign.

Some SEO things to keep in mind when redesigning include:

  • Avoid changing URLs whenever possible. Moving blogs, pages, and content or updating permalinks can lose you your site’s backlinks that you’ve built up over the years. Do your best to keep URLs unchanged during your redesign. If not:
  • Make sure to create 301 redirects when necessary. As of 2016, 3XX (301, 302) redirects no longer lose pages’ SEO value. However, 301 redirects do slow down page loading speed, and too many redirects add up – and so does the time it takes for a page to load. Remember that while a 301 redirect isn’t a ranking factor, page loading speed is. A 301 redirect every now and then is admissible, but it’s not the optimal solution (the one above is). Try diagnosing your redirects before taking your redesigned site live.
  • Research the pages on your website, and see how they’re ranked. Using a tool like Ahrefs can help you get a sense of which pages are doing pretty good, SEO-wise. Keep as much as high-ranking content as possible. Instead of starting anew on pages that already have some authority, just add content, like text or images. This can even help you increase SEO traffic by up to 111%. You can also use Google Analytics to study traffic patterns.
  • Get a technical SEO audit. An audit will examine your website’s overall SEO performance. You’ll get an inside scoop at how much traffic you generate, how each page performs (which ones rank high, as opposed to which ones have the least traffic and highest bounce rate), technical problems in terms of broken links and 404 errors, the keywords you’re ranking for, and what layout/navigation problems are preventing visitors from turning into clients. Screaming Frog is a great SEO audit tool you can try.
  • Reevaluate your goals and target audience. Redesigning is a good time for this. If your target audience has changed, you’ll need to aim for design, content, search engine, and so on, that is suitable for your current target audience.
  • Important steps while building and after building your new site. While you’re building your new site, make sure to no-index it. This will prevent search engines from crawling it before it’s ready – and before it’s ready, it’s just a duplicate of your old site. Doing this in WordPress is easy – just go to Settings and you’ll find the option there. Before publishing your new site, make sure to crawl it and see if everything’s in order.

If you’ve decided to do the redesign through an agency, and are in the midst of choosing one to work with, notice how much attention they’re paying to SEO before coming up with plans and concepts for your revamped website. A good agency will do all this without having to be reminded of it. 

2. Content

Once you’ve gathered detailed data about all the pages on your website through an SEO audit, it’s time to analyze this data and see how you can use it to improve SEO and user experience on your website, starting with content. Here’s an overview of what the content phase looks like:

  • Create a sitemap of your old website, where you chart the current URL structure. Keep the URLs unchanged for well-ranking pages, use 301 redirects where needed, and just overall make sure there are no duplicates or dead-ends.
  • Based on how various pages are doing, decide where you should edit the content as little as possible (well-ranking pages), and maybe just add some text or images to it. Pages with insignificant ranking can be completely updated with new, high-quality content.
  • Create a new sitemap for your redesigned website. You can use any of the popular SEO or sitemap plugins for WordPress.
  • Add new content. It’s time to add new content to the appropriate pages. This includes high-quality text as well as beautiful visuals – images, videos, and so on. If you don’t have a blog, make one! You can hire a content writer and a web designer to help you out.

3. Design

Design should follow user research, content, and SEO auditing – not precede it. It’s important to first get a clear grip of what you need to do before you come up with a visual concept for the redesigned website.

Again, the main thing here is redesigning with your customer in mind. What brings them to your site? What can keep them around? What sort of layout, structuring, and content can improve their experience on your website? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can start changing the look of the main pages (homepage, about page, contact page, etc.) to be attractive for the visitor.

There are a few steps in the design process:

  • Start with mockups. A mockup is a visual, non-functional, static representation of what your website would look like. It serves to show what your website and its functionalities could potentially look like. You can ask the freelancer – or agency – to come up with several mockups that use different color palettes and patterns, layout and organization, shapes, fonts, buttons, and so on. A mockup can be created in an image manipulation tool like Gimp or PhotoShop. Once you choose and edit your favorite mockup, the developers will be able to realize your vision more easily. If you’re doing this yourself, you can just browse through popular templates that have shown to be successful in boosting user experience. Or, you can copy the layouts of the best UX site templates.
  • Make sure to include images. High-quality, relevant images – and visual elements overall – are important in getting people to stick around. You’ll need these for most pages, as well as for your eCommerce store – if you have one.
  • Pay attention to fonts. Use readable, user-friendly fonts, and never more than three types of fonts per page, or even per website – it looks silly and confused. Which isn’t you. Opt for easy-to-read fonts like Merriweather or Roboto from Google Fonts, or Arial, Trebuchet, or Calibri from Microsoft Office. In any case, it should be a font that’s readable in different sizes, small and large.
  • Don’t get rid of everything old, just cuz. If your logo already has widespread recognition and is working for you, you don’t need to change it. You can update it, or refresh it – something like softening the curves or playing with the color tones – if you think that it looks a bit outdated. But a complete do-over, just cuz, will do more harm than good. You’ve got a brand, stick to it!

4. Development

Once you’ve conceptualized how your website will look and function, it’s time to make it… well, that way. This phase is called development, where front-end developers will code your redesigned website with the decided-upon look and functionality (plugins, payments, signup forms, buttons, etc.). They can refer back to the mockups for guidance.

Then, back-end developers will handle the structure of your website and its databases on its server. This is usually done by integrating the back-end to a CMS like WordPress.

You’ll also want to make sure to develop a mobile-friendly version of your website. The design for desktop and mobile, as you’ve noticed, is quite different. In 2020, over half of website traffic, or 51.53%, came from mobile devices, so it’s pretty important that you have a mobile version for your website. An agency or freelance developer can do this for you.  

5. Publishing Your Website

Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind in this last step of the process – publishing. Remember, it’s not a one-time press of a button. This, too, is a process. In the spirit of what you should and shouldn’t do, we’ll format it as redesign do’s and don’ts.

Do:

  • A/B testing. A/B testing can help you determine how well the new pages on your website are doing, in comparison to the old ones. You can also try out different page alternatives if you have the budget. This can help you optimize user experience and conversion rates! Try a tool like Crazy Egg to test the efficiency of your website, product pages, signup forms, and landing pages without having any knowledge of coding. Using the data provided in the results, you’ll be able to tweak your design, functionality, and overall strategy in the direction that seems most promising.
  • SEO optimization for the entire website. Make sure you optimize the SEO for all the pages on the redesigned website, so as to draw in users via organic traffic, like Google searches. This includes integrating keywords, writing custom meta descriptions, alternating text to images, and so on.
  • Test everything before publishing your website.

Don’t:

  • Don’t do a hard reset. Remember how we talked about domain authority and  SEO-optimized content? Don’t get lost in the process of redesigning and end up doing everything from scratch. Always remember that some things are worth keeping.
  • Don’t update everything at the same time. What’s the rush? Updating everything at once, i.e. suddenly publishing a whole new website can leave you with a lot of bugs and inconsistencies. Be aware that a website redesign takes time, and quality shouldn’t be compromised in order to get your new look sooner. Introducing the new aspects one – or a few – at a time gives you and your team space to see how they work, deal with a manageable number of problems at any given time, and more room for learning and adjusting.

A Few Words Before You Go…

Trust the process. Rushing barely ever gets the best possible results, and the best results are your aim in redesigning your website. Keep in mind that redesigning your website doesn’t mean starting from scratch, but improving on what you already have.

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