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What To Do Before You Redesign Your Website

Redesigning a website can be a large endeavour.

Between design, content, copy, development, APIs, plugins, Search Engine Optimization, keyword research, platforms, integrations, responsive design, accessibility checks, browser testing, content entry, approvals, and a million other things to keep track of, there are enough specialized “web things” to worry about in their own right.

But a website is ultimately just a set of pages containing the right information on your business combined with the right opportunities for your customers to buy, learn more, or otherwise convert.

A website’s success depends far more on your business strategy and what your audience needs than the pixels and code itself. As thorny and time intensive as programming and design can be, building a website is relatively straightforward compared to spelling out and committing to the business decisions that drive them.

A few years ago, we wrote A Website is Not Just a Website (, and the over-arching lessons we highlighted were to take the long view, recognize that it’s more than just design and development, and give it time to evolve and iterate.

While these all remain true, today we’re translating that into concrete steps you can and should take before engaging an agency or in-house team to rebuild your site.

The 3 Key Areas: Business, Customers, and Process

The Business: Taking a birds-eyes view on your sales and operations from an organization-wide perspective, with questions and answers around sales, goals, expansion plans, and other key areas.

  • Question: Has what you make and sell changed, or how you sell it or deliver it changed, since you last updated your website?
  • Action: Map out your product and service offerings in bullet-point format, along with a bullet-point step-by-step overview of how someone buys and receives your product or service. Do the same for the previous version, if it’s different.
  • Question: How has the organization changed since you last updated your website?
  • Action: Map out the key departments, key outside partners and vendors, future expansion plans, contractions, new sub-brands, and any other business-wide decisions and changes.

The Customers: Making sure that your target markets and audience personas and profiles are accurate to who you actually sell to (or who you’re trying to sell more to), and not based on wishful thinking — or worse yet, having no sense at all.

  • Question: Are your audience personas still true, fair, accurate?
  • Action: Update your audience personas to reflect your primary, secondary, and tertiary markets, whether they’re still the same or whether they’re changed — and be ruthlessly precise about what’s included.
  • Question: Have you talked to your customers lately?
  • Action: Analytics and sales data can only go so far — getting firsthand input from a sprinkling of customers or clients can provide you with so much more nuanced insight. Connect with a few select old and new customers about how your product or service fits into their lives to bring insight to raw data.

The Process: Making sure that what you promise, who you promise it to, and what you deliver are as tight as can be.

  • Question: What is our sales process from the top to the bottom of the funnel?
  • Action: List out, in detail, every step that’s taken through your entire sales cycle — including steps they take, steps you take, software, check-ins, and more.
  • Question: What role does the website play within that?
  • Action: Assess the role for your website within that sales journey. Is it more about top-of-funnel info and content? Mid-funnel capabilities and credentials? End-of-funnel purchases and conversions? An e-commerce site that blends all of the above?
  • Question: What do we need people to do on our website — and how does that connect to the business?
  • Action: Map possible conversions (e.g. a form submission) and interactions to your existing software, and try to identify any gaps. Designing a Shopify store or setting up an email newsletter signup form isn’t rocket science. Setting your organization up to accept online payments or properly keeping your lists and email content up to date, though, might be.

But Wait. All I Need is a New Website!?

Diving into the hot new web framework or trying to rush a project only ever ends up costing more, in the short, medium, and long run. There are many parts of marketing — e.g. social media or paid digital advertising — where flexibility is the name of the game, but your website doesn’t work with the same approach.

Look at it like you’re investing in your physical store: the interior design won’t necessarily last 30 years, but if you’re redoing it 3 years from opening, either you’ve wildly changed your business — or something has gone wrong.

Asking these core questions as you start engaging a third party will only make your life and their lives easier, and in turn, lead to more smoothly-run projects that get you to where you’re trying to go more effectively — for launch, and beyond.

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