Note: If you’re in the market for a enterprise-caliber redesign,CMS migration or conversion optimization services please don’t hesitate to contact me and I’ll put you in touch with a well-recognized interactive agency.
Major website redesigns are almost always a royal pain in the neck for all parties involved. For starters, there are typically scores of decision-makers involved, both internally and via agency partners. If said redesign involves a migration to a new content management system all sorts of potential IT complications must be addressed (never mind the potential SEO headaches). Analytics tagging can also be a major stumbling block, particularly if the redesign involves multiple domains, multiple conversion funnels, and multiple business divisions. More often than not, these and other complications lead to delays, missed milestones, and a general inability to launch the new site(s) on schedule.
Oh and did I mention the cost?
The good news is that some trailblazing, enterprise-caliber companies have discovered a way to move beyond the endless cycle of website reincarnation and into a state of web design nirvana; a state that is achieved when the concept of redesign is dismissed in favor of iterative website evolution.
What do I mean by iterative website evolution? Simply put, I’m referring to a website whose assets are constantly being tested and whose outer vaneer and inner nuts and bolts are constantly being tweaked based on the analysis and learning gleamed from testing. A good example of this would be a site like amazon.com. That site has gone through tons of iterative changes, most of which are virtually imperceptible, and virtually all based on A/B and multivariate testing aimed towards maximizing business metrics.
And yes, it’s possible to achieve a similar, Amazon-like, iterative methodology for your website. Here are some of the table stakes for doing so:
- Secure a competent design & development provider (in-house or agency). This is often the most difficult step, so make sure to do your research. If you’ve already got a solid team in place, then you’re one closer to Nirvana.
- Get a really solid hosting environment (either in-house or via top-flight providers like Rackspace)
- Install a scalable content management system (CMS). It can range from a free platform like WordPress to an enterprise option like Sitecore. Just make sure that the platform you choose allows for heavy customization and that the company supporting the platform is setup for the long run. I would advise against building a proprietary CMS unless you have mammoth budget and an absolutely elite dev/IT team.
- Integrate and heavily leverage A/B & multivariate testing software. You can go the free route with something like Google Website Optimizer (a very solid product with few limitations) or if you’re already running Omniture, I would recommend going with their extremely robust Test&Target product. FYI – in order to maximize these tools you’ll need folks that are good at both design (e.g. building the variations of objects that will be tested on particular pages) folks that can implement the testing/analytics code properly and folks that can analyze the test data as well as provide recommendations for future tests
- Create a mobile-friendly version of your site(s) that leverages that strategies listed above
- Make sure that SEO is baked in from the very onset and that it is always top of mind as new page variations and new content pages manifest themselves.
Will following these steps absolutely guarantee that you will never need to engage in a major redesign again? Perhaps not. After all, it’s hard to predict how the ever-changing online landscape will impact your site. What I can tell you, however, is that if you don’t engage in the activities outlined above, you will almost certainly continue to suffer through that endless cycle of website death and rebirth that plagues many brands today.