Common Website Redesign Mistakes to Avoid: Part I
By Heidi Smith
May 10, 2018
More Articles by Heidi
As Google moves to a mobile-first index and the world’s web users continue to increase their mobile device obsession, organizations are taking on website redesigns and making major updates to make sure they are up-to-date with the latest best practices.
However, more often than not major mistakes are made that affect SEO and can negatively impact a website’s overall performance. Part I in this series will ensure you aren’t making these common website redesign mistakes by helping you focus on what needs to be done at the beginning to ensure the project is a success.
Not Making Page Speed a Priority
In addition to page speed being part of Google’s ranking algorithm (meaning it can affect where your pages rank on search engine result pages), peoples’ mobile mentality appears to be in a continuously upward moving trend, meaning the need for speed is incredibly important. 47% percent of users expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less and 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. User abandonment can lead to less visits, which results in less conversion / lead actions and less revenue for your organization’s bottom-line.
A lot of times during a website redesign or revamp, the team is focused on design aesthetics, visuals, and content. While this is all important, search engine optimization (SEO) and page speed can be afterthoughts in the process when they should be some of the driving forces. Consider each of the below points when you begin the redesign process:
- Learn from the old site by evaluating elements and resources slowing down load time. Use tools like http://www.webpagetest.org/ and Google’s Page Speed Insights to give you insights into what could use improvement.
- If certain elements or resources are slowing things down, see if there are alternatives or different versions you can use that don’t take so long to load.
- See what percentage of users you may be missing out on due to slow page loading times with tools like https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com/.
- Ensure all images are compressed and optimized before implementing on the new site.
- Research plugins or other third-party tools you can use to speed up your site that have proven to be effective for others.
Choosing Hosting and Server Wisely
A huge part of page speed that often gets overlooked is choosing the right web hosting and server. You can apply all the page speed optimizations the internet lays out for you but if you have bad web hosting or slow server, it can have a major impact on your site’s load time that you may have little control over. Determine whether you want to do shared or dedicated hosting, and talk extensively with your development team (and do your own research) to determine the best hosting and server choice for your website so you know it won’t hold you back from great page speed.
Picking the Right Design and Development Team
Make sure the development team you pick to redesign your site views page speed as a top priority, knows how to build a fast site for mobile and desktop, and is aligned with the other goals for your new site. Don’t pick a company because they are the cheapest, or their website examples showcase the “prettiest” designs – you will pay for it on the back-end if you don’t do your research beforehand to ensure they have their ducks in a row across the board.
Check out other sites they have recently worked on – do they have a good page speed score or is it lower than you’d accept for your own site? Correctly evaluating the design / development team upfront and knowing they can accomplish your goals for the front AND back-end of your site can save a lot of time, hassle, and money down the road.
Secure is Past Due
If you are designing a new site and not moving to a secure protocol (HTTPS), you are missing a major best practice that has been around for awhile. Google wants users to have a safe, secure website experience, and secure sites can even get a slight boost in rankings over a site that is not secure. There are a number of pitfalls that can trip you up if your site is moving from non-secure (HTTP) to secure (HTTPS), so make sure you are following best practices specific to the upgrade as well.
Not Upgrading Code Implementation
When you redesign a website, how Google Analytics code is currently implemented and how it should be applied to the new site needs to be carefully considered and planned. This includes other tags or systems you are using such as marketing automation software, and advertising platforms like Facebook, AdWords and LinkedIn. Ensure the team working on back-end development understands what should be tracked and how, including eCommerce data, so that you have no breaks in your traffic reporting when the new website is launched.
- If you have not upgraded to Universal Analytics, do so.
- If you are not using Google Tag Manager (GTM) to consolidate the majority of your third-party tags including Google Analytics and AdWords, I beg you to do so. GTM is very much the norm now, and if you are a member of the marketing team, I promise it will make your job easier as you will be able to control and implement many of your own tracking tags without relying on IT.
- Regardless of what analytics package you are using or what changes need to be made to your existing tags, upgrade to the latest version if you can and ensure the transition is smooth by testing thoroughly prior to launch.
Now… Get Started with Confidence
You’re already taking the right step in researching best practices as you begin your website redesign. Apply the above ideas and you’ll be off to a great start! Already started? It isn’t too late to make sure these items are taken care of and done correctly. Stay tuned for my Part II which will cover what you don’t want to miss when you are a bit farther along in the site redesign process.
If you would like some help with your website redesign or would simply like to optimize your existing website, check out our SEO audit services, as well as other SEO services we offer.