Most websites have a shelf life of maybe 3-4 years. This is not because they were poorly made to begin with but the speed at which web technology is evolving the older sites start to look like poor country cousins compared to the newer launched sites. Therefore it is imperative to keep redesigning every few years to take advantage of latest technology as well as maintain a contemporary image. Many clients of mine are now in their 3rd or 4th redesign avatar of their sites.
Most web redesign jobs can be a bit messy especially if the logistics are not handled well. Here are some ideas and thoughts to help make the transition smooth.
Backup, backup, backup…before touching the old site make sure your back it up.
Before your website designer touches the old site make sure you have a backup of the old site design. This includes:
a. HTML files
b. Image files
c. SWF files (if any)
d. Source files (Psds, Flas etc)
e. Database backup files (.sql or any type of dump files).
Once you have a copy safely in hand and are confident you can restore it if anything goes wrong then proceed.
Check the platform on which the new site is being built – is it the same as the old one or a new one.
Web designers generally prefer to work on either the LAMP (Linux, Apache, PHP, MySQL) platform or the Windows (IIS, Asp.net, SQL server) platform. If the the new site’s platform is different from the old one you might have to switch your hosting package. Make sure you work out these details with your web designer before starting.
Throw your hat over the wall. Commit completely to the new design. No waffling.
I have seen many times the website owner goes for a half-hearted redesign job and keeps sitting on the fence on many issues. The web designer has to hear stuff like ‘but in the old site we had…’ or ‘will it work like the old site?’. Leave your old site behind and commit whole-heartedly to the new site. Set a hard target to get the new site up and running and then go all out for it.
Make sure you get a CMS if you don’t have one already.
A CMS (Content Management System) allows for the site to be update online almost immediately without touching the source files. This allows for quick updates, more systematic filing of web pages and is easier to maintain. If you don’t have one in your old site then get one, even if you do, make sure its there in the new site.
Take the opportunity to revise and renew site content. Don’t recycle old content. That’s just lazy.
Many clients out of sheer laziness (or busyness) will just tell the web designer to ‘take content from the old site’. They are missing a great opportunity to relook at the information on the site and rejuvenate it. Smarten up the language, correct errors in hindsight and bring a new fresh feel to the words. Let the redesign start with a review of the sitemap and add/remove sections as per the business directions and opportunities.
Be mindful of SEO, some website addresses are well indexed in search engines, retain those as far as possible.
Normally a new site would look to change everything including the addresses of most pages. However some pages are well indexed in search engine and it makes sense to retain the old address (with new content though) just to ensure you do not loose the SEO mojo. If the site is poorly setup in terms of SEO then this would be a great opportunity to make it search engine friendly.
Create buzz with videos and social media content. Let your company’s personality shine through.
Youtube videos, social book marking icons, blog feeds (if you have a blog) are all new and can enhance your site content tremendously not to mention adding to your marketing mix. Create some multimedia content (and no boring chariman speeches please). Interview employees (the ones that like your company), create viral videos of fun stuff in the office. Let your company’s personality show through the site.
Plan your transition carefully to reduce site downtime as much as possible.
Normally a certain amount of downtime is natural for any site transition but some clever planning can reduce it to the bare minimum. Usually a clever web designer can transition a site within just one or two hours. Too much down time will cost you not only in terms of immediate visitors but also in the search engines.
Launch with a party. Celebrate your new site. Issue a digital PR release
Most website redesign launches go unnoticed even within the company. But this is a good time to celebrate this achievement and have some fun as well. Who does’nt like a party right? (except for maybe Bob in accounting). Make some noise by issuing a digital PR release. It probably won’t be as big as a Google +1 launch but it might get noticed by important people.
Having a new contemporary website can be very good for business and for company morale. So if your site is touching 4 or pushing past 5, its time for a redesign.
We do a lot of redesigns – check out our work at http://www.miracleworx.com/portfolio.htm