So after reading my last post, What Does Your Website Say about You and Your Business?, you've made the decision to redesign your website - either because you have a new company focus or your current website is under-performing. Now what? Before you toss out everything you've done in favor of a fresh new design with radically different web copy and formatting, stop right there. It makes no sense to make improvements without knowing what needs to be improved. You must ask yourself the following five fundamental questions Why, What, Who, When and How.

Why do You Need to Redesign Your Website?

First, you need to define the purpose of the redesign project and then set measurable goals to make sure your web efforts are aligned with the mission. If, for example, you intend to rebrand yourself strategically as the uniform production company for all schools, then you need to create a website experience that compliments this objective. One metric you can track in this case is the number of uniform orders you receive in a month. Likewise, you could also chart the growth in new customer acquisitions and evaluate how well you're expanding your portfolio of schools by location. Once you have these goals in place, create web content and structure navigation in a way that leads to their completions. With regard to targeting the number of uniforms sold, you could include a "Shop" option in the universal navigation, or menu of web page options that spans the whole site. By clicking on it, visiters could access your entire catalogue of apparel. After viewing your selection of styles, they'll be that much more likely to submit an order. Likewise, maybe you specialize your clothing options for colder climates by using heavier, more durable fabrics. Showcase the need for these products in your web and social content to increase website visibility in these targeted geographic areas, and you could experience an uptick in new accounts. When you set clear goals, you pave the way for information to flow and for your website foundation to support your larger sales and marketing initiatives.

What Can We Take from the Current Website?

What is working for the current website that you can transfer? You've had this design for awhile, and it's partially been successful. There have to be some features you can definitely keep and/or alter slightly for the new website. Take a minute and gather all the data you need to evaluate the existing website's success so that you don’t rush into building a beautiful new website that does not incorporate anything your users liked prior to the redesign. Remember that in order to optimize website goals, you have to optimize the user experience (UX). If you remove what led to the most goal completions before, you could see poorer performance with your website redesign. What if you removed the "Contact Us" form from a web page describing your IT solutions and saw a dramatic reduction in leads because people didn't understand your website navigation and clicked away from your site? Had you taken the time to analyze the performance of this form across various pages, you may have been able to spare yourself the trouble of a failed redesign element. What shouldn't carry over to your new website? Say, for instance you haven't been targeting the right buyer personas or your buyer personas have changed. All of the content speaking to this particular audience will be irrelevant and ineffective, and thus not worth including in your website redesign.

Take the time to find out what has worked and why or why not. Then, duplicate your successes and remove your failures on the new version of your website. Base your decisions on all the data you collect and not merely on a few positive or negative outliers. Your ability to step back and look at all the evidence objectively will clear the path for you to redesign a great website.

Need help determining what has and hasn't been working on your website? There are plenty of "freemium" tools to measure how your website is performing, such as: Google Analytics, Google Webmaster, Hotjar, Website Grader, Web Page Test, Nibbler, etc.

Who is Your Target Audience?

Understanding your target demographic will make setting the criteria for your website redesign even easier and will pay off in the end. Ask yourself questions like, "how does the majority of my audience consume information?" Do they tend to make more purchases on their smartphones or PCs? You can easily view website traffic by device type in Google Analytics. According to Mobile Commerce Daily, 48.5% of mobile shoppers are between the ages of 35-54. If your prospective clients fall within this age bracket, you should seriously consider prioritizing mobile responsiveness in your website redesign. Getting a deeper read on your audience's wants, troubles, needs, dislikes, etc. forces you to think about the website experiences you are creating. From there, you can judge what projects you should focus your energy on and build a web content framework that makes the most sense for your business needs.

Let's say the majority of your managed IT services revenue comes from serving the healthcare vertical, and you want to update your website to resonate with this audience. Start by jotting down everything you know that's relevant and could impact user experience. One giant pain point for doctors and medical providers is having to comply with federal HIPAA regulations. In tackling your website redesign, you should lead with this. Upon landing on your home page, the visitor should read something about your status as a HIPAA compliant IT provider. Perhaps you could include customer testimonials that say something like "By partnering with X MSP, I know I never have to worry about the security of my patients' data." That extra reassurance that a client won't have to worry about hefty fines or legal penalties increases your trustworthiness and makes you more appealing as a business partner. Including testimonials on the home page is a strategic redesign move, because it prevents prospects from having to hunt for this customer feedback, thereby enhancing UX and speeding up the conversion process. By organizing your website redesign based on audience insight, you'll make sure the right people get what they're looking for in the way they're looking for it. 

When Will You Know You Are Ready to Get Started?

Before you choose a platform for your website redesign, nail down the budget. To do this, factor in the cost of items such as website security, daily maintenance, a content management system (CMS) and web development, among other things. Website security is especially crucial. As security providers, yourselves, the last thing you want is for your website data to be unsecure or subject to malware. It may take weeks to fix and will end up costing you serious money, so take the extra step to secure your website and protect your files by enabling secure sockets layer (SSL) security. This extra data security measure is also a ranking signal, so by implementing it you'll increase your redesigned website's visibility in search results. It's worth noting that search results rankability and search engine optimization (SEO) are a whole other conversation when discussing blog redesign. To ease the learning curve, we created an introductory video explaining the value and fundamentals of good search engine optimization (SEO) for MSPs.

How Can You Start Rebuilding Your Website?

Then, once you've established your budget, you can evaluate which website platform is ideal. Depending on the size of your business, there are a number of online tools and cloud-based services you can use. Popular examples of freemium platforms are WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Joomla, Drupal, etc. These platforms are fully stacked and a few come with really user-friendly, free design options to help you start building your site immediately. Others offer a combination of free and paid designs that have already been packaged to work seamlessly in the platform. The one advantage of using fully stacked web platforms like these is that you can create and customize your new or existing website without contracting extensive outside help. Of course, that does mean your employees will have to have the time and skillset needed to carry out the redesign project. Keep in mind that freemium web hosting platforms may also be limiting in features and functionality. In the end, your best bet is to check what your hosting service comes with, peruse their built-in tools and add what you need to get started.

In summary, streamline the website redesign process and save yourself the wasted labor by taking the time to ask the right questions, set short-term and long-term website goals and regularly review your performance in meeting or exceeding these benchmarks. The biggest obstacle you will probably face is gathering all the requirements you will need to tackle this redesign project effectively and in a timely manner, but your ability to introduce changes with real results will make the entire journey worth it in the end.

Learn how to create buyer personas!