How to Plan a Fail-Proof Website Redesign Strategy

Contributed content / By Reed Steiner / 19 May 2020

Website redesigns fail when businesses don’t strategize. Learn how to build a strategic website redesign plan from existing analytics to minimize risk and maximize ROI.

Most website redesigns fail--and most of those failures are easy to prevent. With just a pinch of preparation and a smidgen of strategy, your redesign project plan will be “risk-free and detailed” instead of “risky and de-railed.”

At Fyresite, an agency that specializes in apps and websites, our web designers do great work, but they can’t fix broken websites until clients fix their broken expectations.

To help your business build the best possible redesign strategy, this article will explain why redesigns fail. Then it will teach you how to organize your analytics into an actionable strategy.

Why Redesigns Fail

To build a fail-proof strategy, we need to ask why website redesigns fail. The answer is simple: people push toward the wrong objectives.

Why? Redesign teams get excited about an idea without checking if the users get excited, too.

And who can blame them? It’s easy to see a flashy mockup and go all-in. But 76% of users just want the website to be easy to use—prioritizing artwork over usability misses the point.

So, if redesigns fail when teams shoot toward the wrong goal, businesses should take time to aim. The following five steps will teach you how to identify all those issues and put them into a single document that you can hand off to your developers.

5 Steps Toward a Fail-Proof Redesign Strategy

  1. Delve into Data
  2. Take a Tour
  3. Check Your Work
  4. Set Goals
  5. Finalize Your Blueprint

Step 1: Delve Into Data

The best way to identify problems is to look at the data. To demonstrate, we’ll be using the Google Analytics demo account so you can follow along.

Once the home page loads, go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages on the report navigation bar on the left. You’ll land on a page that shows a chart of traffic trends.

Google Analytics demo account used for website redesign strategy
 
This page tells you about all your website’s pages. While the graph is a helpful, appealing visual, the important data is in the table underneath the chart. 

Google Analytics Table for Website Redesign Strategy
 
This table lists all your pages by pageviews. Each column tells you something different about how it’s being used.

  • Pageviews counts how many times that page is viewed (including repeats).
  • Unique Pageviews counts the sessions in which that page was viewed. If a user visits the same page twice in one session, that’s only one unique page view.
  • Average Time on Page shows how long people stayed on that page.
  • Entrances counts the number of times users entered your website through that page.
  • Bounce Rate is the percent of sessions in which the user doesn’t interact with anything or visit any other pages.
  • Percent Exit shows the percent of visitors that left the site after viewing this page.
  • Page Value is the average money value of the page per unique view.

Use this data to rank your pages by importance. For instance, if a page has high traffic and page value, avoid changing it. However, if it has low traffic and page value, it’s safe to redesign.

This data is very useful for ranking your pages, but it’s not enough to determine what’s wrong with your current website. To improve your analytics, collect context. 

Step 2: Take a Tour

Numbers can be soulless, so walk a mile in your user’s shoes. 

Website tours are the best way to contextualize analytics. Fyresite’s modular mining case study is the perfect example. By exploring the website, we found out why users bounced (too much content) and fixed it (better organization). 

Your website is no different; tour it to contextualize the data.

If you don’t know where to start, go to Audience > User Flow. 

Google Analytics user flow screen

This page maps every user’s journey in the past week. It’s a useful starting place for your website tour, but don’t stick to it too strictly.

Remember: a tour is meaningless if you don’t take notes. Before you begin, create a shared document and list all the pages your team needs to visit (prioritizing the most valuable pages, of course). List the important “Pages” data for each page and leave space for notes, as shown below.

Demo redesign sheet example
 
This page uses tables, but you can format your document however you like.

Once your document is ready, add screenshots and notes for every page. 

Add screenshot and notes
 
The document is now stuffed with notes, screenshots, and suggestions for each page. More importantly, the bullet points seek to explain problems in the data.

Touring your website contextualizes your data to help you identify problems. However, you still need verification.

Step 3: Check Your Work

You’d be surprised how easy it is for an entire team to miss a glaring problem. That’s why verification is crucial: a second set of eyes finds what no one else can see.

The most effective way to check your work is to ask users. Schedule focus groups to watch real people explore your website in real time. For more customer feedback strategies, read my guide to product and market fit.

If you think UI elements are part of the problem, heatmap tools are just as good. This example is from the Hotjar tour page, and it maps mouse movements.

hot jar tour page mouse heatmap
 
If more users move their cursor on a certain part of the screen, Hotjar will label that area “hot.” That way, you can visualize which parts of the screen grab the most attention.

With both user feedback and heatmapping tools, you can easily test your problems. If the evidence supports your hypothesis, you’re on the right track. 

Once you’ve gathered evidence, you can be next to certain that you’ve identified the biggest issues on your website. Record each problem on your sheet.

demo redesign sheet final
 
Remember to list your evidence as shown. Collecting that extra info helps keep your entire team on track.

Step 4: Set Goals

Identifying problems is only half the battle. Next, you need to translate these problems into specific goals.

The key here is “specific.” By making your goal specific, measurable, and written, you’re also making them easier to digest. That means the final product will fit your specifications much more tightly.

How to Write Strategic Goals

A good goal will clearly explain your specifications to your developers. Here’s a nice rule: tell your developers what a solved problem looks like, not how to solve it.

Let’s walk through some examples. What’s wrong with this goal?

Vague goals are harder to reach
 
This goal isn’t good because your developers don’t know what an “improved page” looks like. 

But on the other hand, this next goal is just as bad.

goal is too simple
 
This goal isn’t productive because it tells the developers exactly how to solve your problem. What if a bigger button isn’t the best solution?

To avoid both problems, try setting goals like this one:

Perfect example of a goal that's actionable
 
This goal is perfect because it explains what a “solved problem” looks like without telling the developers how to solve it. Even better, it includes a measurable variable.

With goals like this one, you can’t go wrong.

Once you’ve finalized your goals for each page, write them visibly on your document.

Put sitewide goals at the beginning of the document and page goals near the problems they solve, as shown below.

Put sitewide goals at the top of your strategy document

When you organize goals this way, people won’t blow small goals out of proportion.

Good goals are critical, so don’t skimp on them.

Step 5: Finalize Your Blueprint

Not all goals are created equal: streamlining your checkout process is probably more important than cleaning up your logo—so don’t give both goals equal weight.

Before you share the document, check that you aren’t giving a small problem too much attention.

One way to put the appropriate amount of stress on large goals is to subdivide them. If you list several small goals underneath your big goals, developers will understand that the bigger goal is more important.

On the other hand, you could just tell them which goals to prioritize. At the end of your document, list your goals in order of priority. If you really want to hit the point home, assign an “importance score” to each goal. Trust me—agencies want to know which goals are the most important.

Once you’ve ranked your goals, polish the document. Add a cover page, a table of contents, contact information, and anything else readers need to make sense of it.

Congratulations! Your strategic document is ready to roll.

Create a Strategy to Prepare for a Website Redesign

Poor preparation kills website redesigns. To fail-proof your project, plan ahead and set great goals to create a website that's easy to use and helpful for your audience.

Remember: guesswork isn’t research. You need to study your analytics and build context through website tours and user interviews. Skipping any of these steps sets you up to miss your target, so take time to strategize.
 

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