Maybe you’ve outgrown your website, and it’s holding your team back.
Maybe you’ve rebranded and have exciting new design changes to make across your site. Maybe you’ve decided to migrate your site to a platform that better serves the needs of your business. Whatever the motivation, redesigning your website is an exciting project — and one that is big enough that you’ll want to get it right the first time around!
A redesign is an opportunity to start from a blank slate. It is a perfect time to make improvements not just to your aesthetic, not just to your tools, but, most importantly, improve your team’s working relationship with your website. You can improve your organization, reduce clutter, and build a process that will make working with your redesigned website less frustrating and more enjoyable.
Here are some mistakes that you should keep in mind as you go through this process.
1. Going straight into designing without building a plan
“A mistake that people make very often is they try to go hands-on-keyboard way too fast. They’re like, hey, we’re gonna redesign our site, let’s get fired up in Webflow. Wait, stop. First, gather your materials together. Especially enterprise teams or enterprise clients, you might have seven people building on this site. Have you talked about that as a team? Let’s do all of that ahead of time. That way, when you start adding things to the canvas, it becomes really quick.”
The first mistake that often happens in a website redesign is diving straight into building your site without taking the time to plan. This can be especially tempting to do if you’ve just switched over to a no-code tool like Webflow that makes it easy to immediately begin constructing pages. Your final result will be better if you take the time to prep first and set up systems that will help your team collaborate.
Establish class nomenclature that you will use across the site. Especially if you are redesigning because of business growth, you may have multiple people building within your site. You need to make sure you have a consistent naming structure for your classes so any team member can jump into the project and understand what’s going on. Figure out a system, such as the BEM method, and stick to it.
You also want to figure out what the basic building blocks of your pages are going to look like and how they’re going to function. Look at elements like navbars, buttons, columns, alerts, and inputs. Decide on a framework, such as Bootstrap, that gives your team a shared source to draw from. If you establish these things ahead of time, things will move much more quickly, and they will be more organized for the lifetime of that site.
2. Assuming what your visitors want without testing
A huge mistake in website redesigns is assuming you know what your visitors and users want without testing your assumptions. Testing is vital when a small change could make the difference of millions of dollars in conversion for a larger company. You need to identify the changes that will make the biggest impact in order to optimize conversions and profits. Simple user research and A/B testing can make a huge difference.
It is easy to assume you know what your users want when redesigning an established website with a consistent user base. It may seem like testing isn’t necessary if you’re redesigning a site for a small business or a newer growing startup. Neither is true. Testing your site and making decisions for your redesign based on real feedback is the best way to build a more effective website.
3. Starting a website redesign from the outside in, rather than the inside out
“One of our partners, Edgar Allen, talked a little bit about content-first design. I think the mistake a lot of folks make is they don’t start with their content first. Content is what’s gonna drive our site. Now let’s design around that. What do we have to say? What’s our story? What’s our content?”
A common mistake businesses make when redesigning a website is starting with the homepage, branding, and messaging and building from there. It might seem like the obvious place to start, but a website refresh will be more effective if you design your site from the inside out rather than the outside in.
The purpose of your site — the thing that your visitors are coming to it to find — is your content and your landing pages. They are seeking a product, a solution, or a source of information. The purpose of the homepage is to get them to that content as quickly as possible, so it doesn’t make sense to start building from your homepage before you know what it’s directing users to. What’s going to drive your site? Design around that.
People will likely come to your site in one of two ways. Either they casually explore and click around, (for instance, following Wikipedia rabbit holes) or they know exactly what they want, and search to find it. When they are looking for something specific, Google Searches and reviews will probably take them to a deep internal page on your website before they ever look at your homepage.
If you start with the branding and homepage, your team will be tired and running out of time before they get to your product pages and specific landing pages. Instead, design the deepest, most interior pages first. Cut all the fat and give potential customers exactly the thing they are trying to find, and work your way backward from there.
Building this way, your homepage can be looked at as a table of contents. When you’re writing a book, you start with the story, and the ideas. The table of contents begins the book, but its purpose is just to tell you what you’ll find within. Ultimately, that’s the main job of your homepage, and you can measure its success by how little time visitors spend on it — it means you’re helping them find what they’re looking for as fast as possible.
4. Forgetting about your existing content
“It’s a non-trivial effort to establish permanent 301 redirects for a thousand links. But it’s really easy to let some of those things go when you’ve got a deadline and people breathing down your neck, but you’re giving up the value of some of that evergreen content, especially guides. That’s one mistake that people make is not making sure that the value that they’ve already built and accrued passes forward to the new site.”
If you are redesigning an existing site, chances are you have a valuable archive of existing content that you will need to figure out how to carry through your website redesign. You should plan your content migration strategically to make sure you don’t end up breaking backlinks or losing content. If you lose content or break links, it will have a huge negative impact on your search engine optimization and domain authority.
You will want to audit your content before you start your redesign. List out all current URLs so you can set up 301 redirects and make a 404 page just in case. This can be a big project, so the earlier you start, the better. You should also assess your current content to see what might be unnecessary and needs to be deleted and redirected, what is outdated and should be refreshed, and what content is evergreen and needs to be preserved.
5. Not managing site bandwidth upfront
A common mistake is inadvertently overloading your site’s bandwidth with non-optimized images. It’s easy to just grab an image during a redesign and pop it into your page without optimizing first. You may simply want to see what impact it will have or get quick design approval. But when the time comes to launch, teams will rarely have the time to jump back in and optimize all those images. The result is publishing slow, non-performant pages that alienate users.
Think of your bandwidth as a budget to spend.
Get your assets right from the very beginning. Take the time to optimize them and choose your images carefully. Think of your bandwidth as a budget to spend. Many users will browse your site on mobile or have slow internet speeds at times — you want them all to be able to use your site with ease. A redesign is also a good opportunity to delete old and unused classes. Don’t leave tech debt for the person behind you to clean up.
6. Leaning too hard on trends
“I’m not automatically opposed to trends, but is it serving the purpose of what you’re trying to do? If the trend does, then great, but ultimately focus on the fundamentals. You will never go wrong focusing on the fundamentals.”
Your website redesign needs to be grounded in the aesthetics that resonate with your brand and audience rather than chasing trends. A trend can feel exciting and get people talking, it can make your brand feel suddenly more modern, and it can even get people talking effectively. However, if the trend isn’t aligned with the core purpose of your brand, your site will either be generic and unable to stand out or will quickly look outdated and out of touch as the trend cycle moves on.
Users want something that stands out, something that’s different, and something that has an identifiable voice. A particular trend may be perfect for you if it aligns with the story you’re telling. Your website needs to be a visualization of who your brand is, so choose your trends carefully and with intention.
The best website redesign results happen when you understand the why
The worst thing you can do when beginning a website redesign is fail to build your redesign around clear, achievable goals. You need to understand why you are redesigning and establish exactly what you are hoping to achieve with your new site. Within that redesign, understand the additional “why” behind each choice and each new feature. How does each of them support your objectives as a business?
What is your brand story? What is your existing momentum as a brand? What are you trying to do as a company this year? Do you have specific goals you want to achieve, and how will this website redesign help you achieve them? A website redesign is an excellent opportunity to take a step back and think about your long-term goals as a business.
Once you know where you want to end up, you can work backwards and figure out exactly what your website redesign needs to do to get you there. If you understand the why behind the choices you make in your website redesign, your new website will be far more successful. And if you need help getting started, our website redesign ebook has tips on how to approach your next redesign project — from collaboration and trust-building to best practices and picking the right tools.