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A website redesign can be unbelievably exciting, but it can also be dangerous to your traffic. If you don’t communicate well with them, designers and creative teams can accidentally throw out all your hard work on optimization in favor of purely visual aspects of the site. You can lose content, functionality, and all the other optimization that has won you the favor of search engines.

With a few considerations and regular contact with the design team, all of these problems can be prevented. Brad Miller pointed out seven factors you should consider when tackling a redesign. Just don’t get to eager to delve into changing how your site looks, and you can end up with a great looking site that works as well or better as your old design.

  1. Always start with research – Any design that is going to give you results is built on research. You need to know who you’re targeting, what the best functionality practices are, the current standards, and doing extensive market research. This shouldn’t come part of the way through the design or after the site is built. It should always be the very first move you make.
  2. A Redesign Changes Your Site Structure – A quality redesign can be much more than a new coat of paint on an old frame. It gives you the opportunity to change how your site is structured entirely, which should be used as an opportunity to optimize your site for visibility and conversions. Consider what pages are succeeding and what isn’t on your page and reassess how you can efficiently design your site.
  3. Redirects – Before redesigning begins, you should make an inventory of every page and incoming links on your site, including subdomains. As the structure of your site is changed, including the URLs, a strategy will need to be put into place for redirects to protect any SEO rankings. Audit where links are coming from and going to, then map out all your pages as well as their new redirects.
  4. Navigation – You need to consider how people will be finding your site from the start, and putting that information into your URL structure. Can you shorten URLs or make them more streamlined? As sites grow, URLs can become unweildly, and should be trimmed as much as possible. Once you have people on your site, however, you need to understand how they will navigate around the site. Where are they entering your site from? What do you want visitors to do? If you know how visitors navigate your site, you can design it to direct them where you want.
  5. How is the Content Going to Be Presented? – Content is the keystone to a successful online marketing campaign, but it is still an afterthought for many site designs. Content should be visible and worth the attention of your viewers. Decide before hand whether you will have a blog and how that blog is going to be used.
  6. Technical SEO – Way too many redesigns play with factors that need to be controlled for proper optimization. They build sites that look great, but take ages to load losing visitors and credibility with search engines. However, you can use the redesign to toy with some behind the scenes factors like ensuring your site is compliant with all the standard best practices of design and SEO and cleaning up your code to make sure search engine crawlers will be able to easily understand your site.
  7. Testing – Test everything you can afford to. Not only do you gain invaluable data about your consumers and how your site is actually being used, but you get the chance to actively connect with customers and mold your new site to their needs.

Everyone hopes their next website design work is going to be a big project. Steady income for months and a full website redesign are much more attractive than improving some small aspects for a company before looking for another client. But, sometimes pitching a full redesign could lose you a client rather than win you long-term work.

Companies today have tight budgets and fierce competition so many businesses in the current economic climate are much more interested in revamping what they have rather than building from the ground up. Sure, there are sometimes a full redesign is necessary, but often it isn’t the best choice for your prospective client.

Henry Waterfall-Allen suggests 9 reasons you may not want to pitch a full redesign when you are sitting down with a client you are hoping to work with. It may not be as fun to work with a previously existing design, but it may win you a long term client if you can spot their needs.

The most alluring aspect of not going with a redesign is the lowered development and promotion costs. Obviously tight budgets are a large reason companies are looking for the most bang for their buck, and it is entirely possible to increase conversions and revenue through a website without tearing out the existing page.

With lower costs comes less risk, but the opportunity for similar rewards. Instead of trying to revamp everything, you are just trying to achieve immediate results. Designing a page or tweaking elements of an existing design see results much faster than taking the time for a full redesign.

The smaller scale also allows you to target demographics more with a single page. You don’t have the weight of trying to draw in an entire audience. Instead, you are refining and targeting what already exists to create an instant boost to revenue.

More than anything, having the honesty to tell a possible client that they don’t need all of the work many other designers are trying to sell them on will go a long ways and make you stand out from the crowd. Showing clients a more focused way of spending their money and showing them the possibility for much sooner revenue increases will win over many, while being willing to lose the big redesign in favor of being the best fit for the job will keep clients coming back to you.

Of course, there will always be times when a redesign is the only option. You can’t tweak a bad website and hope to come out with a good page. Being able to spot the times when a redesign is needed and when a smaller project will benefit everyone will make you a valuable asset to clients, and will win you longer term jobs.