I think the process of designing or redesigning websites is fundamentally flawed, broken even. It’s back to front with the tail wagging the dog and the internet is full of sites that hurt their companies because of this ill-conceived approach.

The problem is that these web design projects are led by web designers.

Now, let me be clear: I love web designers. I love working with them and a good web designer/agency brings a lot to the table. My issue is with the process and that web designers often end up being leading website design or redesign projects. And that process often breaks down like this …

  1. Company notices that their website stats aren’t where they should be and decide it is because their website has looked the same for a few years – so it’s time for a refresh.
  2. Marketing team (if there is one) jump at the chance for a new website because they’ve probably been asking for one for years.
  3. Company gets proposals from web designers/agencies and hire based on some flashy visuals – because everyone loves new shiny things.
  4. Target audience is refined and defined – but everyone kind of knew that already.
  5. Website redesign continues, recycling old content and creating some new.
  6. Lovely new website goes live with a big fanfare, prompting spike in traffic. Everyone is happy and draws a line under the project.
  7. Short-term spike in traffic levels out and web stats return to where they were, which was not good.

Can you see where it went wrong?

It went wrong at stage 1 – around the time the company didn’t properly diagnose what the issue was. Were they not getting enough traffic? Or were they getting enough traffic, but too many visitors were leaving the site without converting? There are so many symptoms (and so many causes of those symptoms) that need to be looked at properly before even thinking about a redesign.

Now the above isn’t some fiction I’ve conjured to make you think about your website’s performance or whether it needs a redesign.  No lie, about six times a year we get invited to pitch for PR and marketing and the exploratory call goes something like this …

 Us: So what are your key objectives?

Company: We had our website redesigned a few months back. It looks great but it’s not doing enough to generate new business so we want to drive more traffic to it.

Us: Driving more relevant traffic won’t be an issue, but what do you have in place on the new site to capture contact details and information etc?

Company: Great. We’ve a contact form, request call back feature, and a chat bot.

Us: Cool, but conversion rates for those features is, on average, between 1 and 2% which means 98 out of 100 visitors leave your site without interacting in any way. We can look at your site and make sure it’s optimised to increase conversion rates.

Company: Well, we’ve just changed the website so don’t really want to go back and change anything.

Okay, so that dialogue is précised, but that conversation happens on an all-to-often basis.

So my plea to every company and exec out there considering a redesign is to stop and think. Get an SEO healthcheck (*cough cough* we do those, btw) and a lead conversion audit (and we do those too) of your website so you can properly understand the real issues. That way, any changes you do make will have the biggest impact and will be money well spent.