January 29th, 2019

Designing a new website can be an incredibly exciting time for a business. All those ideas that have been discussed internally since the last site went live, grand plans for global domination, a new lease of life for the marketing team. Opportunity awaits!

It does not matter whether you are using an external web design agency, an internal team or are designing the website yourself. Nor does it matter if you are designing your website on Adobe XD ready to be given to developers, or are utilising more templated drag and drop editors, to help you get the very best results out of your website (and avoid potential heartache) we have put together a list of common pitfalls:

Aesthetics vs Use

This can vary dramatically depending on the motivation behind your redesign, however, more often than not there will be a requirement for what you might diplomatically call a ‘more pleasing aesthetic’. As a web design agency we would never suggest that you ignore how your website looks! However, the desire for an awesome design can be really distracting, and ultimately it can detract, from the usability of the website. The end result can be a website that fails to deliver on conversions.

There are a number of key items that can help you avoid prioritising aesthetics over user flow, or at least ensure that the proper attention is afforded to use cases:

Objectives

Having clearly identified objectives is critical for any project to deliver success. Understanding what you are trying to achieve with your new website design gives you a target to aim for, these objectives should be easily understood (not just those involved in the project), quantifiable and measurable.

Simply having a list of objectives is great, but of little value if they do not influence the design and build of the website. It sounds very obvious but key project milestones such as website scoping, designs or user acceptance testing should always be reviewed in relation to the original objectives.

Analytics

Utilise any analytics data you have to help you make data driven decisions for your new website. This might translate into clearer call to actions to key conversion pages in order to improve conversion rates, or the deleting of pages that have attracted no traffic in order to streamline the user flow – be careful here though, these pages might not have received traffic due to a poor navigation structure!

Whichever way you interpret the data, it’s important that you use it. Everyone has their own preferences but one thing is for sure, as someone who might have looked at your site hundreds of times, you’ll use your website a lot differently to someone who has just landed on it. If your website is designed for that new user then how they use your site has to be important information for the redesign!

Marketing

If you are investing time or money into creating a new website, it’s likely that you are going to want it to perform a function. For a lot of businesses, this means more enquiries or direct sales through the website. You are therefore likely to be engaging with some form of marketing campaign either now or in the future.

include marketing goals as part of your website objectives so that the website can facilitate campaigns across multiple channels. All too often marketing has to make do with a website that is set up for a secondary purpose, thereby limiting the effectiveness of any campaign, or are delayed in order to make costly changes to the website.

As a digital marketing agency we’re going to be naturally rather biased. Although we do accept that marketing is not always the highest priority for businesses. All we’re saying is that you can save yourself a lot of time if you pay homage to marketing your site from the very beginning.

Over Designing

Have you ever seen a kid’s drawing of a plane with 10 guns, 50 missiles, 5 laser cannons and at least 6 rocket boosters? Okay, yes they are awesome (if you can’t guess – I was one of those kids), but disappointingly they would be highly impractical in real life.

You’ve guessed it. This is a very common pitfall when designing a website often stemming from trying to be all things to all people. Be discerning in the bells and whistles that you include on your site.

Pro tip: in order to decide whether a certain piece of functionality is warranted….ask yourself what value it has in contributing to the website’s objectives.

Trying to be all things to all people

Here’s another analogy for you. There will be memories that make you break out in a cold sweat out of embarrassment, even though the reality is that none of the people who were actually present can remember it.

Take everyone’s feedback with a pinch of salt. Focus on the feedback that is consistent amongst multiple people. These are your priorities and the items that are going to have the highest impact on your objectives. Trying to be all things to all people can result in a website that ends up trying to do too much – see aforementioned over designing.

Project Management

The unfortunate truth is that project management, whilst incredibly dull, is critical to the success of a website project. We don’t want to regurgitate the generic rules around project management (think open communication, centralised documents and stock imagery of suited people in a boardroom). Instead, here are specific pitfalls:

Include Stakeholders

Everyone has an opinion – especially when it comes to website designs. Make sure that you include key stakeholders at important milestones throughout the project. You definitely don’t want to get to the end of a website build only to find out that the CEO hates the designs!

Too many cooks

Whilst you need to include key stakeholders in the project, you also need to limit the amount of decision makers. The best way to do this is to gain buy in from the key stakeholders, clearly establishing who the decision makers are. Again you’ll find that this process is far easier if you have your objectives defined – it aligns everyone to the end result.

Understand your resources

Websites are not just created by designers. They require resources from multiple touch points including developers, content creators and hosting providers. Where possible, you want to have a clear understanding of the resources available to you for the project.
What development skillsets do you have at your disposal and how will this dictate what is possible in terms of design? What imagery or video is available for the site? What hosting will be used and does this have an effect on content distribution?

All of these questions can directly impact the design of the site and also the amount of time it takes to deliver the project.

Save some energy

Websites are constantly changing and in need of updating or maintenance. It’s going to require a lot of effort to get your website live but don’t burn yourself out. The site is highly unlikely to be perfect and your V1 will need tailoring.

Designing a website is often an immersive experience, you spend hours staring at the same website. You are at the digital coal face. Give it a few weeks after the project is complete and you’ll find that you’ll start to spot improvements that were previously invisible to you.

Celebrate what you’ve achieved!

Most people redesign their website every 3 to 5 years. It is an important asset to any organisation and takes a considerable amount of effort to get right. Celebrate the fact that you have (amongst many others) managed to identify objectives, draw up a plan, organise multiple stakeholders, inject fresh ideas into designs, develop these designs into a functioning website and get it live! It’s no mean feat and you should be celebrating.

Give yourself a big pat on the back, have a beer, and be ready to start your next sprint on Monday.

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