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If you’re a small business owner who often spins multiple plates, it can be tricky to keep your online presence fresh. With a million and one urgent tasks seemingly piling up in your inbox, finding the time to step back and take a long hard look at your business website design is no easy task.
However, even if you do decide to pull the trigger and commit to a redesign, your troubles aren’t over. Website makeovers can take considerable time, money, and effort — and the results can often be wildly mixed.
In this piece, we’ll give you some simple pointers on how to tell if it’s actually worth reworking your site, and explain how to dodge disaster when you’re creating a fresh new look. Follow our tips, and you’ll approach your next business website design with considerably more confidence and calm. Let’s begin!
How to tell if your website needs a makeover
The key as a small business owner is to know the purpose of your site. It’s there to generate leads, sell products, or both — and that’s it. What it’s not there to do is win design awards, impress the creative community at large, or fit in with whatever online trend is the latest flavor of the month.
Put simply, any decision you make about your site has to be balanced against the wider needs of your business.
A full-scale makeover is a big undertaking that involves a significant degree of effort and risk. Is revamping your business website design worth it? You have to ask yourself whether that energy could be better spent in other areas of your operations.
You should also ask yourself whether a series of tweaks or smaller on-site improvements might be a more sensible approach to take.
Start by defining the actual problems you and your customers are encountering on your website, and consider them one by one in search of targeted solutions before you commit to an overall revamp.
Checklist: 20 website design mistakes
Not quite sure what primary business website design elements to review before making a redesign decision? Check out this checklist of 20 website design mistakes for a quick run-through.
If you do decide to go all-in on a redesign, it’s important to make sure you steer clear of the classic pitfalls below. While they’re not the only mistakes you should avoid, sidestepping them enables the process to run much more smoothly.
3 business website design makeover mistakes to avoid
Not knowing your numbers.
Not understanding your audience.
Not communicating with developers.
Let’s take a look!
Mistake No. 1: Not knowing your numbers
As we mentioned, your site exists to do a few very specific jobs, and those jobs have metrics attached. Unless your redesign improves numbers such as overall traffic, conversion rates, incoming leads, and actual products sold, it’s failed.
Naturally, if you’re not crystal-clear about how your site is currently performing, you’ll have no way of knowing what effect your redesign has had. All developers and designers involved in the makeover of your business website design should be very aware that you’re in a numbers game, and should understand that the aim of the project is to make those numbers better. Only commit to changes you have reason to expect will accomplish that goal.
Mistake No. 2: Not understanding your audience
As your website’s owner, you’ll already be deeply familiar with it. However, you aren’t representative of its day-to-day audience, and neither are your designers or developers. User flows and color schemes that you find clunky or tough on the eye may actually be loved by the people who put money in your pocket every week.
Before so much as a line of new code is written, or a new template is considered, make sure you’ve sat down with some of your site’s real-world users.
You want to watch them attempt to fulfill standard site goals, record what they succeed at or stumble over, and ask them for their overall impressions. You can even use services such as UserBob or UserTesting to streamline this process. This bottom line is this: consult your users before you perform a makeover.
Mistake No. 3: Not communicating with developers
By following our advice so far, you and your redesign team should have a nice set of checkboxes for your makeover to tick. Getting real about existing site metrics, as well as user goals and frustrations, clears the runway for the actual work to begin. However, your job is not yet done — you need to be actively involved in reviewing the redesign as it happens.
Though the trend these days in design and development work is towards iterative improvement and collaboration, far too many web developers still pursue a ‘big reveal’ strategy on smaller sites. This usually manifests as the developers pitching some initial approaches that you agree to, then disappearing into a cave to do the actual work before unveiling the fruits of their labor at the end.
In the days when most sites consisted of a few basic pages, there was nothing intrinsically wrong with letting a makeover team get on with it and waiting to see the end result. However, on modern sites with multiple moving parts that need to perform across a dizzying array of mobile devices, you need to be involved in the build.
What this means in practice is that your makeover team should show you their work in progress on a regular basis, and make swift adjustments based on your feedback. Don’t be afraid to get intimately involved in the process. By the time the big unveil for your new business website design comes, the only people who should be surprised are your site’s visitors.
Tackling a site makeover as a small business owner can be a daunting affair, and the risk of metaphorically shooting yourself in the foot is high. Our primary tip is that you think long and hard about whether a full-scale makeover is actually necessary, and let your decision be guided by the potential bottom-line impact on your business.
If you do proceed with a redesign, steer clear of classic mistakes by following our key business website design makeover suggestions:
- Make sure you’re crystal clear on your website’s current performance metrics, and focus on changes that will improve them.
- Be certain you fully understand how people actually use your site before making major adjustments.
- Insist that your makeover team show you their work in progress during the project, and are also open to feedback.
Image by: Photo via VisualHunt