I know it sounds cliché, but a successful website redesign is equal parts art and science. You can have the best backend-optimized website in the world, but without high-quality visuals and a user experience journey to engage your visitors, your website will not be effective. Same goes if your site is a visual work of art but lacks the critical SEO and technical functionality to support your business.
So how do you measure the success of a website redesign? I recommend you look at performance through four distinct lenses: brand, web analytics, SEO, and user experience.
Your website is an extension of your brand. It reinforces the values you uphold and the promises you make to your customers. Like most things in marketing, your website’s success or failure depends on its ability to convey a story to its visitors. This is, by far, its most important function.
People come to your website in hopes of peeling back some of your facade. They are going beyond the products or services you sell because they want to know your history, your priorities, your personality—all the things that make your brand unique. They want to know what makes you tick and why you’re in the business of, well, whatever it is you do.
A great website should convince your audience that your business exists for a purpose and that the people who run it care about something more than the bottom line. And don’t just talk about how awesome you are. Instead, focus on how your company can benefit your customers and solve their problems.
Ask yourself these three questions:
For example, if your brand takes pride in having the lowest prices, you should showcase that through discounts and price comparisons. If your brand is the “trusted advisor,” your website should provide helpful guides, resources, and FAQs.
If you’re a CPG brand or manufacturer who sells directly to other retailers, you’re not off the hook. A recent commerce survey found “the majority of shoppers (54 percent) turn to brands over retailers for more comprehensive product information, in addition to enhanced customer service, better prices, and more personalization options.”
Whether you’re B2B or B2C, your website should not be a static collection of pages with basic product descriptions and contact information. It should be a resource hub for your brand as well as all your products and services.
Before diving into web analytics, I want to begin with a word of caution:
It’s important to distinguish between changes in performance that are directly tied to a website redesign and the regular performance fluctuations that would have occurred even if you made zero changes to your website.
It helps to have someone with a data science background to understand these performance fluctuations and their correlation to your redesign. Whether your initial performance trends are positive or negative, you should give your analytics platform enough time to gather sufficient data before reaching any conclusions regarding the success of your website redesign. Also, bear in mind that changes to your competitive landscape and other marketplace shifts, like search engine algorithm updates, can directly affect web performance. Therefore, you should do your best to map those changes to your redesign timeline and account for them in your analysis.
Tools like Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics can provide several key performance indicators (KPIs) to help you measure the success of a redesign. You should focus on any performance signals that reflect the usability of your website.
Take bounce rate, for example. If the percentage of people who immediately leave your site after only viewing a single page goes down, then you probably improved the user experience of the site.
Another critical KPI to follow during a redesign is “conversion rate.” The conversion rate can be influenced by several factors that go beyond the “lead form” or “shopping cart” experience. Any changes to your website during a redesign can disrupt or boost these activities.
Other usability metrics you should closely monitor during a redesign include “visits,” “average time on site,” and “pages viewed per session.”
With regards to “visits” or user “sessions,” you should pay close attention to the various traffic sources to your website. For example, if “organic” traffic sees a steady decline after your redesign, this could be a signal that something is negatively affecting your visibility in search engines. This is a common issue; many organizations will either move or remove content from their websites during a redesign, which can have a direct impact on keyword relevance and other SEO factors.
This might be a no-brainer for a lot of readers, but its importance cannot be overstated. A website redesign can lead to a host of new technical issues. New, higher-resolution images could impact site performance (speed). Improper redirects to new page URLs could cause significant drops in search engine visibility. You may even discover SEO issues stemming from the consolidation or removal of old content from your website during a transition. To be on the safe side, you should perform multiple technical SEO audits before, during, and after a website redesign.
There are several indicators to help you gauge the SEO ramifications of a website redesign. Here are two examples:
As mentioned previously, you should perform multiple SEO audits of your website before taking it to production. This will mitigate any potential risks and ensure the success of your redesign.
At the end of the day, the success of your redesign will be determined by how intuitive and usable it is for a visitor who lands on your website for the first time. Website usability is the measure of how quickly and easily visitors can find the information they’re seeking on your website, as well as the ease with which they can accomplish their intended goal. Whether it’s browsing your product inventory, scheduling an appointment, or making a purchase, the user experience of your website will either promote or hinder those activities.
There are many ways you can audit the user experience of your website, especially after a redesign. One of my favorite methods is asking people to navigate the website while instructing them to complete basic tasks that are essential to the success of your business. These tasks can include things like finding a specific product or service, initiating a checkout process, or filling out a lead form.
I recommend gathering UX insights from multiple testers. Tools like UserTesting make this process easy. With it, you can order videos of real volunteers navigating your site (on desktop or mobile) and hear their responses to a list of instructions that you provide.
You would be amazed by the things a typical visitor to your website might find challenging or confusing. It’s easy to develop tunnel vision when you spend a great deal of time managing or optimizing a website. Hearing the opinions of people outside your marketing organization can be incredibly eye-opening.
Just make sure you apply your learning to your SEO and content roadmap in a systematic way, so you don’t end up with a lot of great insights and nothing actionable to show for it.
Executing a successful website redesign doesn’t have to require blind faith. Following these guidelines and focusing on brand, web analytics, SEO, and user experience will fulfill the goals of your website redesign while offsetting any potential issues that could adversely impact your business.
No matter the project, approaching it with a clear vision and thorough understanding of the potential roadblocks is the simplest way to make it to the finish line on time, on budget, and without too much stress.