Far too often, a website redesign starts off focused on appearance instead of measurable goals. If appearance is your first priority, you’re on the fast-track to failure, so before you jump into the fun stuff, grab a pad and a pen and spend some time figuring out the answers to these 4 questions:
1. What are your goals? Before you change a single line of code, before you even start thinking about what your new website will look like, you need to know exactly what you want it to accomplish. Do you want your new website to present a particular image? Do you want it to generate more leads/sales or do a better job of converting the traffic you’re already getting? Figure this out and you’ll get a lot more from your new website, plus, the entire process will move more smoothly and quickly.
2. What is and isn’t working? You need to know how your current website impacts your goals. This means spending some time analyzing your website traffic, leads and sales. You’ll probably notice that a small handful of sources drive most of your traffic, leads and sales, but a little more digging will often turn up some low-hanging fruit that you’re missing out on. Maybe you’ll realize that 70% of your revenue comes from one or two products, which would be an indication that you should focus on developing more similar products. Or perhaps you have a #1 ranking for a particular keyword but don’t rank at all for a few other variations that may drive reasonable traffic with lower competition. The more you dig, the more opportunities you’ll find.
3. What are you up against? Potential customers will be looking at your competitors, so you need to as well. The idea isn’t to copy, or even emulate them. The idea is to make sure that your website covers the same bases they do while filling in the gaps they’ve missed. For example, if all of your competitors offer online ordering, you damn sure better offer it too, but also offer what they don’t. Perhaps you sell a complex product that people often call you about before ordering online. You could launch a blog or forum that lets your visitors learn more about it. This helps present you as an industry leader and will often help to shorten your sales process too.
4. Where are you now? Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was Apple, Starbucks or any other large, successful company. Take a cold and emotionless look at where you stand today; traffic, exposure, brand recognition, budget, etc. If you’re running a small mom-and-pop store with little website traffic, spending thousands of dollars to add the newest web 2.0 social-media this and that to your website is a really bad idea. You need to invest for the future, but rather than adding features, focus on driving traffic and building a brand. Before you add any special functionality, you should determine how it’s going to help you reach your goals.