Why a site redesign should be the last resort

By Jon MacDonald | September 23, 2016
Why a site redesign should be the last resort

Today's guest post comes from Jon MacDonald, Founder & President of The Good, conversion rate optimization experts. Enjoy!

Is overhauling your company’s website every few years getting tiresome and expensive? Most companies believe a complete redesign is the only answer to poor site performance and lackluster conversion rates. But it’s not. Don’t waste your marketing budget by starting over and over and over again. Your conversion problem could be centered on just a few key points where your visitors are getting stuck. In this article, I’ll describe how you can save thousands of dollars by taking advantage of a smart, scientific approach to conversion optimization.

Obey the law and get more conversions with less effort

We see this time and again at The Goodwhen a site frustrates visitors, traffic doesn’t convert into revenue, the system gets blamed, and the redesign process begins. Fortunately, a statistical concept known as Zipf’s Law says you can improve 90% of your site performance, usability, and conversion-related issues by improving the user experience of just the top 10% of site content. Finding those hidden conversion blockers will show you how to transform user experience and jumpstart conversions. Let’s outline the steps you can take to get started.

Want to know what’s wrong with your site? Just ask!

Find out what it’s like to buy from you by conducting user testing. Why user testing? No matter how many times you redesign your site, it’s never going to boost sales until you understand your customers and align with their goals. User testing will show you, from a real person’s point of view, what it’s like to use your website. An investment in user testing will pay for itself multiple times. It will allow you to see where people are getting confused, distracted, or otherwise losing their patience with what may feel to you like a slick, beautiful, and well-designed site.

If you don’t do this, you’re wasting time

You’d be surprised by the number of companies that collect site analytics, but don’t take sufficient time to review the data. Those who don’t learn from the present situation, can’t use it to make informed data-backed decisions to affect the future. At a minimum, you should be tracking and reviewing site traffic, top content, pageviews, heatmaps, clickmaps, online revenue, and conversion rate. Tools like Hotjar and Google Analytics are great places to start.

Opinions don’t make money; data does

Use tools like Optimizely or VWO to run multivariate tests on hypotheses formed by analyzing results from user testing,  then let the winning outcomes determine the changes you make to your site. Stop guessing. Start proving.

Iterating to online success

Improving your user experience with the goal of increasing online sales and sustaining that growth is a process, not a project. A proper plan for solving the conversion challenges found in user testing will take an iterative approach. While working with brands both large and small, we’ve found the initial reaction to an iterative approach is, “Won’t this cost more and take longer?” In our experience, no, it won’t cost more. But you should be prepared to take your original lump-sum budget you were going to spend on a redesign and spread it out over a longer period of time while you iterate. The resulting short and quick iteration sprints, each followed by additional user testing, will greatly decrease the time it takes to start seeing meaningful results over an alternative wholesale redesign. In addition, you’ll see greater return on investment from your spend. Your improvements will help keep visitors on your site longer, average order value will increase, and cart abandonment rates will decline. That means your budget will stretch further as results compound. Design and technology may be the pillars of a highly-performing site, but the true foundation is a process to constantly improve the user experience with both the way your site looks and the way it works.

Spend less and get better results—you don’t have to stop

Much of the time, resorting to a total site redesign is like stopping in the middle of a marathon and returning to the starting line. An iterative approach helps you power through to success by focusing on one mile at a time. Every time your website undergoes a redesign you lose an opportunity. By focusing on Zipf’s 10%, you can learn from the lessons of the past, and improve the site based on real evidence of where the site is killing conversions and why users are deserting. A site redesign should always be the last resort, never the first option. Don’t rely on the blind faith of an expensive redesign to magically deliver revenues. Use small data-driven design and user experience changes to arrive at an optimized site that delivers what customers want and contributes to your bottom line. Zipf’s scientific approach allows companies to get more results with less expense. That’s the essence of return on investment. Always look first to that small number of changes that can make the biggest difference.

Related reading: Launching your website redesign with the right rollout strategy

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About the author(s)
Jon MacDonald

Jon MacDonald is founder and President of The Good, conversion rate experts who deliver more revenues, customers, and leads. Jon and the team at The Good have made a practice of advising brands on how to see online revenue double through their conversion rate optimization services.