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Redesigns are very dangerous

I read once somewhere that a site redesign is one of the most dangerous things you can do in your business. Why? You run the risk of spending countless hours of work, costs can quickly spiral out of hand, you could alienate an existing customer base that was used to using your site a certain way, and you can cause a near riot of egos and opinions within your company.

I saw this firsthand back when I was working at ESPN. We were doing a refresh on the Fantasy Games website, and everyone had an opinion.

  • The VP was focused on making it very easy to buy our products so we can hit our revenue numbers.
  • The edit team wanted our content front and center, people were coming to the site for information.
  • Our lead producer wanted to focus on navigation for user’s actual teams… most people check on their fantasy teams every day, make it easy to get to them.
  • The engineering team just wanted to make sure all the back-end stuff kept working and the site loaded quickly and efficiently.
  • And the designer was taking this all in, trying to make the site balance aesthetics with functionality, speed with ease of use… without killing anyone.
  • My job was to make sure he didn’t kill anyone. Thankfully, I succeeded.

Redesigning your website. First things first.

As you may know, I love design. I love designers and secretly wish that I was one, so I have to do the next best thing and try to do my best to be one, while knowing when to step back and learn from them.

I’ve written about this a lot in the past:
– 3,700 words on How to build a revenue-generating website in 24 hours
– I walked you through How to create a personal website, showing the steps I went through to create JimHopkinson.com, including the Part 2 follow-up
– Now that I am obsessed with mobile access, I gave you 10 Responsive web design examples in action.

So with the launch of my new online salary negotiation course, it’s time to start thinking about an upgrade to my book site, SalaryTutor.com. The main reason is that it has evolved in its purpose.

Originally, it served to launch a book. The main goals were to sell the book, and have people sign up for my email list to hear about events. But now that the book has been out for some time and I am doing more business around it, it’s the perfect opportunity to refocus, make it mobile friendly, and give it a fresh coat of paint.


But before I even update the first pixel, here are:

10 important things to consider BEFORE you do a website redesign

1) Ask again. Do I NEED to redesign?

You’d thought I’d have learned my lesson with JimHopkinson.com. As soon as I became an entrepreneur, I rushed to hire a designer and build an entirely new website.

You want the honest truth? I should have first spent that money building my business for a few months, and then thought about creating the website. I don’t fully regret it, and I think it has helped, but it didn’t need to be the top priority.

So ask yourself, is now really the time to update your website? Would you be better off with just a few minor tweaks.

2) What is the goal?

The best way to start is to get really, really clear on your goal. It can be so simple, yet so many people don’t ask the #1 most basic question:

What do I want a person visiting this website to do?

If you don’t know the goal of your business, that you have a lot more to think about than your web presence. You must start with these goals.

For Salary Tutor, my goal at a high level is to transition from a website that showcases my book, to one that serves as a resource for job seekers looking to negotiate salary, and to direct them quickly and easily into the products and services that I offer.

I will then break it down to a specific goal, which will be to take my course, hire me to consult or speak, or buy the book.

3) What are my time and money resources?

Redesigns are a little like house renovations… they always take a little more time and cost a little more money than you first budgeted. You need to be aware of the impact of this project on your business.

For my project, I have two goals in mind:

a) I am going to look at this as a longer-term project, evolving over the next few months. I am leaving for the World Domination Summit conference around the 4th of July, and since putting the pressure to launch my other project before the SXSW conference worked as such a great motivator, I might do the same and plan on about 8 weeks as a time frame. I will allocating a certain amount of my week toward this, knowing that I have other projects to work on.

b) This is going to be a lower-budget design. At least right now, the goal is not to hire a designer at $500 to $3000 and let them have at it. Rather, I plan to buy a WordPress theme for under $100 and do most of the work myself.

Why? The first reason is to save money as I grow my business. The second is that I actually enjoy the nitty gritty production and bringing a project to life. And the third is that it will force me to learn some new skills.

Will I most likely pay some money or swap advice for beers to designers or consultants here or there when I get stuck? Sure. But I want to try and do a lot of it myself.


4) Should I update my logo?

This is a great question. If you’ve built up a lot of equity in your existing logo and it appears on books and websites and tshirts and other marketing materials, then no, maybe it’s not a good idea.

But just as pro sports teams and major corporations do a refresh over time, so should you. For me, the Salary Tutor logo is not directly tied into the book, and it feels a little bit plain. The graduation cap, while referring to Tutor, also makes it feel a bit like a book just for college students, which it is not. It needs to grow up a little.


5) Should my site be mobile friendly?

Yes. Next question.

OK fine, I’ll explain. If you are just putting new touches on a massive, well-established website and it would take a huge effort to retroactively make it mobile friendly and your users don’t access it from their phones, then maybe you don’t need it.

But if you’re updating the code and doing a refresh of any kind anyway, then you’d be an idiot not to pick a design that is readable on any device. I won’t even share the stats with you again. Let’s move on.


6) What is the competition doing?

While you shouldn’t worry about looking over your shoulder and trying to mimic everything others in your space are doing, you’d be a fool not to take some time and see what your competitors are doing with their sites.

Are they also making updates and keeping current? Are they doing something you should be doing as well? Is there a way you can differentiate yourself from the competition? Watch and learn.

7) What are the big boys doing?

Next you should move beyond your competitive set. Huge brands like Starbucks, Nike, Apple, and Amazon have enormous budgets, massive research and design teams, and millions of dollars at stake for providing a clean, easy interface for their users on their websites.

Take a look at how they handle things like logos, taglines, navigation, text size, buttons, shopping carts, and more.

Where to get inspiration? Take a look at Fast Company’s 50 most innovative companies of 2013, which is also broken down by industry.


8) Don’t reinvent the wheel

The great thing about modern web design is that you can get a great looking site without a ton of work. Unless you have an incredibly specific kind of site or a huge budget, there is no reason to try and build a brand new website from the ground up. The alternative?

a) WordPress: Build a website built on WordPress. According to Wikipedia, WordPress is currently the most popular blogging system in use on the Web, powering over 60 million websites worldwide.

b) Themes: Let other designers do the heavy lifting! There are experienced designers that have put together WordPress themes that can greatly speed up the time it takes to build your site, for only about $35.

One of my favorite sites is Themeforest (affiliate link) and I find myself browsing through their options for hours on end.

What I might be using for my SalaryTutor.com update is the Genesis theme from Studiopress. A lot of popular bloggers are using this, so it makes sense to use a theme that has a large amount of support in the industry.

The specific theme I am looking at is the StudioPress Executive Theme on the Genesis Framework. What do you think? (Click the image to see the demo).


9) Eliminate the unnecessary

You know when you move apartments and you spend the first week throwing out or donating the stuff you don’t use anymore so you don’t have to pack it? The same should go for your website.

Go through your existing site and eliminate menu items, extra copy, ad banners, and anything else that is not useful toward your desired user reaching your goal.

10) Focus on usability

I can’t emphasize this enough, and I’m going to try extremely hard to make my new site unbelievably easy to use. It’s crazy how many websites make it frustrating for users to navigate and complete what they want to do.

Some action items:

  • Jakob Nielsen is considered one of the top usability experts, so you could do far worse than spend a few hours reading through his studies on everything from using OK/Cancel vs Cancel/OK to banner blindness.
  • A great book in the space is “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug. You can probably guess what it’s about… making web design so obvious that users aren’t confused. They don’t think, they just act.
  • Focus on user design first, graphic design second. Go out and talk to a user designer, someone whose job it is to make sure a task on a website gets done. They look at the big picture and how people interact with your site. Then you can look at things from a graphic design perspective, thinking about things like fonts and colors and layout. Ideally these people are on the same page. Often they are the same person.
  • Test test test. There is something incredibly easy and simple to do that will go miles toward creating a good website: Testing it. Sure it would be nice to rent out a usability studio in midtown Manhattan with a 2 way mirror and a video camera.But in reality, even if you just ask 5 close friends to complete a task on your website – sign up for your newsletter, search for an article, buy a product – and then patiently watch them try to do it, you’ll see with your own eyes just how easy your website really is. You’d be stunned at the results.Better yet, harness the power of the web. You can recruit people from a site such as Fiverr.com, or see more resources from this article, 5 Ways to Get Usability Testing on the Cheap. For example, the site usertesting.com can send you videos of someone using your site and giving their feedback out loud, and the site FeedbackArmy.com will give you 10 results for $20. Money well spent.

    So there you have it. Remember, redesigning is dangerous, but you can do your best to have a successful launch, delight your customers, and move your business forward if you think about these 10 steps before you dive in.


    Wish you had a little more money to put toward a redesign? Check out my free online salary negotiation course, “How to Negotiate Salary: The Negotiation Mindset.”

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