One of the biggest challenges facing e-commerce small business owners is keeping up with technology. A big part of that challenge includes finding a website platform and design that will work to suit their needs. Unfortunately it is common for a re-design not to go well and too many online businesses have been jeopardized. Sites can lose their search engine rankings, visitors, usability, and ultimately the whole business. Entrepreneurs are resilient and some quick thinking can help you recover from a problematic website redesign.
Our focus today is to prevent these problems from occurring in the first place. The main way to avoid a redesign disaster from happening is through careful planning and not implementing the new design prematurely. In fact, when scheduling your re-design process, be prepared not to switch to the new site until it is completely finished and optimized. Follow these tips to help you resolve your redesign disaster and save the website business.
301 Redirect File
When a website’s design changes the URL addresses usually change as well. It is imperative to let the search engines know that the pages have moved and where they moved to. This is accomplished with a 301 redirect file. This is a spreadsheet that is coded into your new site that basically tells the search engines that visit the old page where the new page is. Once this redirect file is in place, it means that when someone visits an old URL from the site, the page will auto redirect to the new page on the new design platform. This will prevent not only the search engines from missing your site, but visitors will not get lost either. If you are unsure about a redirect file, make sure to consult your web development team before implementing the new design. A 301 redirect file ensures a smooth transition from the old pages to the new ones and can be the most important component of the redesign.
Change Inbound Links You Have Control Over
Even though the 301 redirect file will take care of auto redirecting visitors to the new pages on your site, it is a good idea to change any old links that you do have control over. This includes links on your blog or other sources in your network. In addition to taking care of the redirect, you will start to build new links to the pages on your new platform. Just telling the search engines about your pages moving is not enough. Be sure to take other measures to advertise and take control of the changes so they do not take over you.
Meta Tags and Site Content
Many of the problems that can occur when a site is redesigned can be avoided with some careful planning ahead of time and getting the new design aspects completed and in place before flipping the switch. Make sure that all the meta tags and meta data such as the title, keywords and description are in place on each page. Then each page on the new site needs to have enough content on each page to let both the search engines and site visitors know what each page is about. Just as with the 301 redirect file, the meta tags and on page site content should be in place before proceeding with the new site design switch.
Communicate with Your Customers and Site Visitors
Although the redesign and platform change process might be a stressful time behind the scenes, do not let your customers or site visitors know. Borrow the saying “Never Let Them See You Sweat". Instead instill a level of excitement about the changes and new features to your customers. Send out an email announcement before the website switch letting them know that big changes are coming and how much better your website will be in the near future. Echo the same sentiments and announcements on your social media channels as well. Broadcast the exciting new changes on your website (before and after the change) and send out a press release or two about it. If it is appropriate for your type of business, you can even hold a “moving sale" or similar innovative type of promotion to alert customers that the website of your business is about to go through a change. The key here is to try to increase business and possibly even more importantly in this case, increase their interest in your brand and your company to keep them coming back after your transformation is complete.
Once the re-launch of your new design is complete, repeat this process of communicating the change with your customers and new visitors too. Impart excitement to them about the newness and exciting features of your new website. Outline the changes, or even make a video of a guided tour of the new website and how it works.
Look for Feedback on Your New Design
No matter how successful the other elements of the redesign are, it will not achieve the results you desire if your customers do not “get it". The voice of the customer is such an important element with any business, and especially when you make changes. Look for feedback from your customers in the form of surveys or by conducting some testing to see how visitors react to your site’s new design and the platform. Make sure that the usability of your new site is up to par and that visitors are taking the path on the site you intended with the design and that the site is optimized for conversions. The most important part here is to make sure that your customers and site visitors are with you and the changes you have made.