Top 10 Web Site Redesign Mistakes

Embarking on a web site redesign can be a daunting task. If you don’t get it right, the damage can be immeasurable. Avoid these (too) common mistakes on your next web site project:

10. Thinking “Redesign” instead of “Overhaul” – The fact that you consider your “redesign” as a major project really means you need to completely overhaul it. A redesign implies just putting on a pretty face. A pig is still a pig as they say. You need to take a step back and look at the project as an opportunity to significantly improve your web site design, usability, function and content.

9. Large Releases – Massive software releases are expensive and difficult to test, develop, launch and measure. A more effective approach is launching your new web site in smaller but frequent iterations. Define, User Test, Refine, Develop, QA Test, Launch, Evaluate, Refine. Tackle improving one or two parts of your site at a time. Start with high impact areas. Develop a roadmap which provides you with a visualization of your desired end state. Be prepared to constantly adjust that roadmap based on what you learn on each iteration.

8. Lack of Web Analytics – Do you know what parts of your site are popular? Least popular? Which web site is your top referring site? Which search terms from search engines are bringing people to your site? What are people searching for on your site the most? This information helps you prioritize functions and content. It also gives you insight into missing features and content that will ultimately drive more visits and sales. Once your new site is launched, how will you measure its effectiveness?

7. Minimal (or No) Quality Assurance (QA) Testing – You don’t really want your customers finding your mistakes, do you? This does irreparable damage to your web site’s and company’s reputation. Make sure you leave enough time for significant QA testing and hire a thorough QA specialist. Having the right requirements (see also #1) will also help here as well.

6. Ignoring Your Customer – The customer may not always be right, but you have to take their needs into consideration. Do you really know who your customer is? Do you know their likes and dislikes? What demographics are they in? If you have a retail presence are they really the same customer online as offline? The answers to these questions and more greatly impact the function and design of your new web site.

5. Giving Your Customers Everything They Want – Wait, didn’t I just say you have to take their needs into consideration? Of course. But customers do not really communicate effectively what they want and need. The secret is listening to your customer and reading between the lines. When the customer tells you what they want or need, you need to look deeper and understand the motivation. In that way, you’ll be able to find exciting and innovative ways to address that need or want.

4. Lacking Detailed Goals – Why are you embarking on a web site redesign? What do you hope to accomplish? While this may sound obvious, most companies fail to effectively establish effective goals for their web site redesign. “Increase Sales” is not an useful goal. “Increase sales by 25% through improvement of the shopping cart user experience and content.” is much better. Detailed goals keep the project team focused and on scope. See also #3.

3. Scope Creep – This is of the most difficult issues to control for any project. There are many things that need to be fixed or addressed in your web site redesign. Clearly documenting and communicating the scope and goals (see also #3) will help keep the project team on track. Make sure you have a strong Project Manager that will keep everyone in focus and has the authority to eliminate the creep.

2. No User Testing – You need to test your new web site with your customers before you launch. This testing has nothing to do with QA. This is all about making sure your customers understand your new site. The navigation. The nomenclature. The taxonomy. The function of new and improved features. They are testing the usability of your site. Test as often as you can between iterations. If you have never done a usability test on your site, now is the time. It is an exhilarating and eye-opening adventure. The usability of your site equals its experience. Customers don’t react to features – they react to experience.

1. Shortchanging Requirements Gathering – For a major web site redesign, a significant portion of your time and budget should be allotted for gathering requirements. Why? For every $100 you spend in development on fixing mistakes, it would have only cost you $1 to fix the same mistake during requirements. You can’t afford not to get this right. Gathering the right requirements will reduce your development time and costs by up to 30%. Modern techniques such as requirements visualization make this more effective than ever.

Keeping these in mind will help you launch your next web site project with less pain, frustration, and costly mistakes.

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