What comes to mind when I ask you to envision the website of your dreams?
Did a certain color scheme come to mind? Did you picture the sleek look of a competitor’s website? Maybe one with a great image gallery?
Now, here’s the tough question: Did you imagine what the website looks like or what it can do for you?
Having a gorgeous website that will impress your customers is one of the benefits of a website redesign, but when evaluating your web redesign you need to look at more than just aesthetics to determine whether you truly got what you paid for.
And it all starts before you ever call a single agency.
In this blog post, we’ll look at the 4 steps to getting the website of your dreams and how evaluating your web redesign is the key to internet success.
1. Define “Success”
Before you ever make an appointment with a web expert, you need to make sure you’re prepped for success. After you’ve taken a good look at where your business is currently, set some goals for yourself.
Just as there are good websites and bad websites, there are also good and bad parameters of success.
Your goals should be focused.
Saying, “I want my website redesign to bring in more money” is a great goal (and—ultimately—it’s the only goal), but there are a ton of different paths you can take to get you to that goal.
Before you leave for vacation, you’ve made the decision of whether to drive, fly, or take the train. Well, your website’s journey is just like any other journey. It’s not enough to know where you want to go, you need to know how you plan to get there.
Do you want to try out a submission form to gather more email subscribers? Focus more on pay-per-click? Bulk up your blog? Are you targeting stay-at-home moms or business owners?
By narrowing down the focus of your redesigned website, we’ll be able to come up with more effective solutions for you. But don’t narrowing your focus down to just one thing, because…
Your goals should be varied.
If your website redesign is like a vacation, it’s best to think of it like a cruise.
On a cruise, you’re not just stuck in one place. You can see the entire Mediterranean in two weeks. You can visit five different Alaskan ports. You can bounce all over the Caribbean without repacking your suitcase. (Can you tell I like cruising?)
Many people hop on board their website redesign because they want it to look better, but websites are capable of so much more than that! Don’t forget to consider goals for reducing bounce rates, increasing clicks, and gathering subscribers.
Your goals should be specific.
I don’t know about you, but the first question I usually hear when I tell people where I’m going on my next trip is, “What do you plan to do there?”
Your website design should be for a good reason, too.
While it can be fun to visit a new city just to bop around and see what’s what, your website does not perform well under such vague parameters (“I want more customers” isn’t enough). Business is a numbers game, and math calls for specifics.
So if your goal is “get more customers,” you have to know your customer acquisition cost, the average sale amount, and your profit margins first. Otherwise, you’re turning a calculated risk into a gamble.
2. Create a Capable Team
Now that you’ve painted a picture of where you want to go, you need to hire an expert who is capable of getting you there. You can have the most well-defined goals in the world, but if your web developer or designer isn’t capable of meeting them, you might as well be flying blind.
When you meet with prospective web designers, ask them the right questions to make sure they can handle the job. What platform do they use? What services do they offer (or not offer)? Can they provide examples of their work? Do they just “okay” everything you say or do they have their own ideas?
After all, you can’t get a good website without hiring a true expert. And when it comes to hiring a web expert, you have a lot of options.
Do it yourself
If you’re a small business or just starting out, you probably don’t have the need (or the budget) to hire a marketing company. That’s fine; you’ll get there. There’s a time and a place for DIY website builders like Wix, and if your website is hosted on a user-friendly platform, you should be able to do much of the updating yourself.
You’ll know that you’ve really “made it” as a business when you’re able to start hiring whole departments (rather than just employees). Having IT and Marketing departments who know your business from the inside out can be a great way to represent your business on the web. And—because they’re in-house—you can have hourly contact with them, if need be.
Outsourcing your website
For the majority of you that fall somewhere in the middle, you have the option of outsourcing your website needs. Now, within this category, you can find even more options: freelancers, consultants, and agencies.
Freelancers are perfect for infrequent work within a single category. Sites like Upwork will let you find bloggers, coders, graphic designers, and more in any budget from all over the world.
Freelancers tend to be experts in their field, but not in every field; you might have a hard time finding a blogger that also knows how to perform SEO or a coder that does good graphic design work. If you need a lot of work, hiring a team composed only of freelancers can make it hard to coordinate a project.
Consultants, on the other hand, can take the bird’s-eye view of your business. The right consultant will be able to see how your blogging fits into your internet marketing and can advise you on the specifics for leveraging each post for the best online presence.
The one thing consultants don’t do? Any of the actual work.
So they’re great if you have plenty of time for DIY-ing your website but only need a bit of direction. If you want someone to step in and take over your work for you, there’s agencies.
Agencies (like Clarity Creative) are like a combination of a consultant and a freelancer. They not only know what LSI keywords are and how to use them, they’ll write the actual blog post for you. They can not only tell you what a pay-per-click campaign does, they’ll take over and do the whole thing for you.
This hands-off approach comes with a steeper price tag than freelancers or consultants, but—if you want maximum results—it’s worth it.
By the way, there’s nothing wrong with using multiple contractors (an agency for your digital marketing, a freelaner for your blogging), as long as you’re getting the best work for your project.
3. Evaluating the Results
Analyzing the results of your website redesign not only helps you figure out if you got your money’s worth, it allows your digital efforts to evolve.
Maybe your first pay-per-click campaign fell short, but now you know not to focus on those keywords next month. Perhaps your blog post went viral, so now you know that one freelance blogger has the magic touch.
At Clarity, we’re big believers in crunching the numbers, but all those numbers are worthless unless you know what to do with them.
Go back to your goals.
Remember the focused, varied, specific goals you came up with back in Step 1? Break those back out. These goals are the lens through which you’re going to look at your redesigned website.
It’s easy to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of your newly redesigned website, but don’t let all those animations and snazzy menu bars distract you from your original purpose. Having those goals in front of you will let you see whether your web designer really listened to you or if they just took your money and did things their way.
Keep in mind that most of your goals will take a while to achieve (nothing gets to the first page of Google overnight), so allow some time for the results to show up.
Legitimate SEO does provide excellent results for your website in terms of traffic, impressions, and overall income, but it can’t provide them instantly. When you think about it, this “drawback” is actually how you know it’s being done right. Snake oil salesmen and “get rich quick” schemes are so popular because they promise results after quick, easy work. But they’re also “schemes” for a reason: because nothing worth having ever comes quick, cheap, and easy.
When evaluating your web redesign, think “telescope,” not “microscope.”
You might balk at a $5,500 price tag, but keep in mind that a website update keeps you playing with the big dogs (a.k.a. “your competition”). And that extra business not only adds up, it leads to more business.
Never underestimate the power of word of mouth advertising.
4. Hold Your Team Accountable
Most web companies will toot their own horn when asked about the work they do. That’s expected. But evaluating your website redesign calls for a bit more authentication.
Treat your digital marketing agency like you would any other employee and ask for evidence of their work. Any agency worth their salt should be able to provide you with the numbers showing how they met your goal. (And if they aren’t tracking their work, that’s a red flag.)
Break out those goals you set at the beginning and have your web designer show you how they met or exceeded expectations for each one. Because you took the time to decide where you wanted to end up, you’ll now be able to determine whether your web designer got you there.
Getting the website of your dreams involves planning, research, and lots of patience but, when you do it right, the payoff is huge. But the payoff of evaluating your web redesign is even bigger.
We’ve seen plenty of businesses shell out funds from their marketing budget only to end up with a website that looks terrible, stays hidden, and brings in no additional business. Taking the time to evaluate your website redesign ensures that both you and your business stay happy.
(Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally written in May 2015 and has been updated for clarity and to expand on our initial ideas.)
Clarity Creative Group is a web design & internet marketing company located in beautiful Orlando, Florida. We can totally give you the Mac Daddy of website redesigns. And we have the numbers to prove it.