Seven tips for determining if it's time for a website redesign

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For a small business, the factors involved in redesigning a website, such as budget, platform changes and SEO implications, can be daunting. Before investing considerable time, money and soul into a redesign, it is important to critically evaluate why you are redesigning your site, and why you are redesigning right now.

The truth is there is no ready-made formula telling you when you should or shouldn't redesign your site, so here are seven questions for small businesses to recognize when a redesign is necessary.

Has your site grown gracefully?
A few years ago, after your latest redesign, your site worked exactly how you wanted it to, but how does it perform now? Over the years, you may have added new browsing functionality, made navigation changes and expanded products or content to improve conversion, stickiness or traffic. Some of these changes may have been tacked on, and your existing site structure may not have accommodated them seamlessly. Over time, these types of organic changes can make a site unwieldy and impact conversion.

Is your site flexible?
Having a site that can accommodate your evolving business needs is crucial. Setting up a sale, for example, should take hours, not days or weeks. Changing an add-to-cart button from green to red and implementing a quick A/B test should be feasible without five meetings with your IT department. Your site should be able to be easily updated and maintained by business users. If your site isn't keeping up with your business, you may need to get on to a more agile and robust platform for change and growth.

Does your brand need rejuvenation?
Developing a visual design that attracts users while simultaneously fulfilling your brand and business goals is a tall order. Doing so as your business evolves is tougher still. But the visual design is your public face. If your site feels stale, uninviting and unmemorable, it probably is, and it's time to change — you'd do the same thing for your physical office or reception area.

Are you listening to your customers?
Your customers are trying to tell you what works on your site – through what and how they are ordering, where they are dropping out of the transaction funnel, and through feedback from comments and customer service calls. Keep it user-friendly by observing and listening to them. Your customers' expectations will evolve as they are exposed to newer things on the Web, and as technology allows better user experiences. Redesigning around customer feedback is essential.  

Is your site shopper-focused?

Step back for a moment and consider the following questions: Do you truly understand your shopper? Do you know the various shopper types and their respective personalities, aspirations, backgrounds, preferences and tastes? What contexts and environments do they live in? Are they social? Introverts? Small town or big city? How do they think and interact in the real world? What is their communication style? Are they experts?  Do they need hand-holding and explanation?

Your site's design must cater to your customers; your content and labeling should speak their language. Your navigation structure should allow for customers to shop the way they want to shop – not how you think they should. Be there when they need you, and by gosh, get the heck out of their way when they don't.

Are you using social media?
It's human nature – people's decisions are influenced by other people's opinions. Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites have capitalized on this phenomenon. So should you. Integrating sharing and interaction features with your site will increase traffic and sales. Different businesses need different amounts of social exposure, but almost every site can benefit from it in some way. The time when you could ignore social media is gone. Brands are now regularly leveraging this channel, and enjoying increased sales and share of mind.

Are you capitalizing on recent technology advantages?

As Web languages have matured, things once impossible are now the norm. What's important is making technology work for your customer — and for your business. In fact, your site can define how you run your business, giving structure to your business process. The magic of the Web is the constantly evolving technical possibilities, and correspondingly evolving consumer expectations. Consider the following: Use location-based functionality; integrate reviews; introduce new methods for browsing and finding products; and speed up your page load times.

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, your business website may be ready for a re-haul. The tips above should be good conversation starters if you decide that now is the time to tackle a redesign.

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