When it comes to redesigning your ecommerce website, you definitely want to make sure you have a game plan well in advance. After all, you don’t want to create distance between your customers or affiliates, delay purchases or shipments, or hurt your search engine rankings. We don’t want to see that happen to you, so we’ve compiled a list of points to consider when you’re in the process of giving your page a makeover. Protect your company’s reputation and your site’s integrity with these smart tips.
- Choose a redesign timeline that makes sense for your business, as well as the needs and desires of your customers. If you’re going to change the way the user browses for products, for example, it’s wise to avoid planning the launch of your redesigned site on a frenetic shopping day like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Consider setting the date during a time that has historically been on the quiet side for your business.
- Test, test, test: don’t let your new site go live until you’re sure it’s fully functional and user-friendly on a variety of devices, including smartphones and tablets (and even smart TVs, if you think it’s necessary) as well as PCs. You might think about using a handy yet free online tool like Screenfly to test the appearance of your site at different screen resolutions when you don’t have access to the actual devices. Be sure everything loads quickly and properly—pages, images, and other files.
- It’s important that you keep on top of how users are interacting with your site, just as you always have. To that end, be sure to install and test all tracking and conversion pixels for any tracking software you have, such as Google Analytics, as well as any tracking pixels for Google Adwords, Bing, affiliate programs or other paid advertising.
- Install, optimize and verify your site’s data feeds for Google Product Listing Ads, your affiliate program, and any comparison-shopping engines and online malls where you maintain a presence, like Shopzilla or TheFind.
- There’s no bigger bummer than a “not found” message when you’re browsing your favorite online store. So be sure that your site doesn’t contain any dead URLs. If you change the URLs to any of your pages, it’s crucial that you set up 301 redirects from the old URLs to the new one. They tell Google and other search engines to drop the old pages and replace them with the new ones. While you’re at it, create a user-friendly 404 file not found page that provides some useful information about how to navigate your website to find the right content when a user lands on a dead page.
- You don’t want any communication hiccups, either within your company or externally, so be sure to migrate your email appropriately. We generally recommend Google Apps for businesses: you get all the convenience of Gmail, with which many of your employees are probably already familiar, and it’s very easy to maintain when you’re moving or redesigning your site. What’s not to love?
- Keep search engines in mind throughout the process. When you have a duplicate of your website under development, be sure it’s blocked from search engines using either the robots.txt file or password protection on your entire domain. (We recommend the latter.) Likewise, when you push to production, make sure your site is unblocked.
- Take advantage of this opportunity to reevaluate your content. Does it all serve your business as well as it should? Is it as well optimized as it could be? This is a great time to write fresh product descriptions, new biographies of your team leaders—anything that will give your site new energy and appeal and let users know how relevant you are. Be sure to proofread for grammar, style, and punctuation, and ask a trusted colleague or professional editorial consultant to verify that all content adheres to your brand identity. You should also be sure that all your typography and font colors are easily readable—don’t hurt your customers’ eyes!
- Finally: brag a little! Once your new site is looking beautiful and behaving perfectly, don’t hesitate to share the good news on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media platforms you use to communicate with your fans. Let them know that if they have any questions about browsing or purchasing, you and your team are there to help!
Does this list overwhelm you—or simply make clear to you that you need some help getting the job done? It may be that you need a web design consultant to really do justice to your site redesign. In a relationship like this, you can combine your inspiration and ideas with his or her expertise and experience to produce a site that really wows everyone who sees it. And isn’t that what your business deserves? We think so.