The majority of website redesigns are treated like an aesthetic upgrade. The client is going through rebranding, or the site “looks” outdated, so they need a new website reflecting their trendy new logo and updated color schemes.

This approach — if left unchecked by their digital agency partners — can lead to unhappy clients whose website becomes just the digital version of a brochure.

This kind of mistake is common. However, there are several other issues an agency and their clients run into during the process of redesigning and relaunching a website. The process is complicated and there are many moving parts, so it can be easy to miss the small and major issues.

Top Website Redesign Mistakes

1) Failure to identify your goals.

Redesigning a site because you want a new look and feel, or because your last redesign was four years ago are not goals. Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

Begin by uncovering how your website is failing and what you would like to accomplish, like:

  • Increasing visits by X% over the next quarter.
  • Increased leads by X% during the next month.
  • Increase customers by X% over the next year.

These goals need to be realistic and attainable based on the numbers for your current visitors, leads, and customer numbers. And these goals should be taken into consideration during each stage of the redesign – from wireframes to design to adding functions and features.

2) Not setting benchmarks from existing website analytics and data

An agency should start by auditing the current website, KPIs, and analytics data to uncover missed opportunities, the problems, and what is really working. You’ll want to keep this stuff in mind while recreating the design or a new structure. These benchmarks should be monitored after the relaunch, so you can quickly identify and fix any new issues. This data is also important for understanding exactly how the redesign has lead to improvements.

Record these data points below:

  • Monthly pageviews/visitors and average month-over-month increase
  • Bounce rate
  • Number of pages viewed per session
  • Time on site
  • SERPs rankings for keywords
  • Traffic Sources
  • Most Popular Pages
  • Page Load Times
  • Inbound Links
  • Call-to-action click-through rate
  • Landing page conversion rates

Once you have collected this data, you can benchmark your site and set secondary goals relating to these specific metrics.

3) Failing to identify the full scope and technical requirements necessary for the website.

Website redesigns can turn into a nightmare if the project isn’t properly scoped from the start. This leads to disappointing results for the client, and a loss of revenue for the agency.

To prevent this, I suggest asking questions. Lots of questions. You have to fully understand the goals, audience, functionality, content needs, and marketing plan for the website before you start wireframing the site. Deliverables should be outlined in a document approved by both the client and the agency, and this should be reviewed during every stage of the redesign process. You might even include negative scope items highlighting what was discussed and ended up being ruled out.

4) Setting a timeline that isn’t realistic.

Redesigning a website takes time. Typically, there are many phases: discovery and research, wire-framing, content writing and review, development, design, site testing, and review. Most website redesigns take 8 – 12 weeks — a timeline that usually doesn’t match up with clients who want it done yesterday.

You obviously want to win the client contract or retain your current clients, so the temptation is there to speed up this process. But this can create problems for many different reasons. Most importantly, when you shorten the timeline for a website redesign, that means somewhere you will have to cut corners. In the end, does creating subpar work win you loyal clients? The other problem is that a shorter timeline means stricter and quicker turnaround on content and approvals for the client. Can the clients meet this realistically? Or will you end up in a situation where your agency missed a deadline because they pushed ahead too fast?

5) Too much focus on how the website looks.

Your website — how it functions, how it looks, and which content you include — should serve your prospective and current customers. It should all lead people through the three stages of the buyers’ journey, which include:

  • Awareness Stage: Highlight the common problems of prospective customers and provide them with research and resources on how to solve these issues.
  • Consideration Stage: Provide links to on-demand, in-depth webinars, samples of the product, client testimonials, and other content that will show the brand is a top contender for his business.
  • Decision Stage: Feature content on your differentiating factors, how you compare to other providers, and case studies and success stories. These will help viewers make their final decision.

Evaluate this information during your design and work out how these people will navigate through the website. Your website should lead your audience through the buyers journey — both in terms of functionality and content.

6) Ignoring consideration for mobile users.

Google announced in May 2015 that there are more searches taking place on mobile than on desktop in 10 countries, including the United States. Additionally, Google updated its ranking algorithms to use mobile friendliness as a ranking signal.

If the design for mobile isn’t your #1 priority, then you should reconsider. Building a great mobile experience that loads quickly should be your top recommendation for clients. Responsive web design, which serves the same content to users from one URL across all devices, is Google’s recommended design pattern for websites.

Need some convincing statistics?

Mobile email opens have grown 180% in the past three years. [Source] 90% of smartphone shoppers use their phones for pre-purchasing activities, such as comparison shopping. [Source] In 2014, 42% of all mobile sales generated by the leading 500 merchants came from mobile apps. [Source] Mobile coupons are redeemed 10x more than print coupons. [Source]

7) Not testing the website before it’s launched.

There’s a ton of things that can go wrong on launch day, and when you’re handling this for a client, your relationship is on the line.

Use a staging site during development and perform in-depth testing before you launch. It may be helpful to create a website launch checklist to ensure you have everything taken care of.

Some things to check before you “go live” are:

  • Install Google Analytics and exclude relevant IP addresses.
  • Evaluate page load times.
  • Check for broken links.
  • Identify orphan pages.
  • Test that forms are working and information is being sent to the correct email addresses.
  • Create 404 redirect pages that lead users to helpful content.
  • Make sure 301 redirects are working.
  • Test social sharing links.
  • Validate CSS/HTML

8) Thinking the website is finished upon launch.

Typically the website redesign process is that every two or three years clients decide they need a new website. They select an agency, and three months later, they’ve relaunched their website. The site stays stagnant, save for blog content updates, for two or three more years. Then they begin that same process over again.

The problem with this process is that it ignores the goals the client has for the website: generating leads, customers, and sales. By simply building a website and leaving it there, the client is missing out on the opportunity to increase their conversion rate, their engagement levels, and sales.

A website should evolve with the business and clients it serves — and this requires ongoing improvement, a more sophisticated level of personalization, and a more tailored and specific content creation process