Why You Should Optimize Your Website Before Redesigning It

Picture your favorite grocery store. You walk in and realize that everything in it has been reorganized. Your quick errand has now become an aimless wander through the store, searching for those few items that are no longer where they were. Frustrating, right?

Now picture this same feeling entering a once-familiar website. Association members encounter this same issue when their association redesigns their website. While a new website design may be a refreshing, needed change, the process means that well-used resources, links or downloadable forms are relocated or renamed, leaving frequent site visitors unsure where to go to find information.

Sometimes a website redesign is necessary to keep up with design trends, to reflect new branding or to update the functionality in order to take advantage of new online capabilities. A website redesign in itself is a good idea. However, before embarking on a redesign, your association should thoroughly consider how members currently use your website and whether a redesign would improve their user experience.

How Do Members Currently Use Your Site?

If you don’t readily know the answer to that question, take the opportunity to ask. A survey about your website can be as simple as setting up a few questions through an online survey tool and soliciting responses or coming up with a short list of questions about how and why members use your website and having your staff ask members in person at your next event.

Some sample questions to ask:

  1. What do members like about your website’s design?
  2. What do they not like about the design?
  3. Which resources, forms, links and information hosted on your site do they use most frequently?
  4. Which resources do they not use?
  5. What capabilities do members wish your website had?
  6. What device do they most often use to visit your website?

Once you have several responses, you’ll likely see a pattern emerge regarding what members enjoy about your association’s website and what they think could be improved upon.

Your website traffic metrics are also a valuable data source to understand how visitors are using your site and which areas need improvement. Numbers don’t lie, and traffic statistics will give you a wealth of information.

Is a Redesign the Right Answer?

Now that you have member feedback and site analytics, ask yourself: Can we easily improve on any of the user complaints without a redesign? A change of colors, fonts or text sizes are superficial changes that can enhance the user experience without the need for a major overhaul. Are any links broken? Are photos or graphics not loading properly? Fix these issues before considering a redesign.

What are people searching for on your website? This is the one place where your visitors are telling you EXACTLY what they want! If it’s something you think is pretty visible, your members might disagree. Are people searching for something not included in your website content, expecting it to be available? Consider adding that content.

Are there online capabilities members are asking for that can be added to our existing website structure? For example, it’s easy to add commenting capabilities or polls through widgets in order to add more interactivity to your website.

Are there sections of your site that you believe should be highly trafficked, but aren’t? Changing the way to access those pages or adding more quick links to those pages can help by making the information more visible.

If redesigning your website is necessary to meet the needs of your members and site visitors, the timing of that design is important to ensure you keep disruptions to visitors and advertisers at a minimum. Website redesigns can become an expensive and lengthy process that also take up a lot of staff time. You should plan around events and other association responsibilities that already occupy a majority of your staff’s time during certain parts of the year.

Optimize Before Redesigning

An association website redesign is sometimes necessary. With changing technology and trends in desired online conveniences, redesigning your website can give you an opportunity to showcase those favorite resources in a better way and make them more easily accessible to the people who use them most. However, optimizing your current website is often a better use of your time and funds. Examine your metrics, encourage member feedback, and once you find what does or does not work well, you can know what to improve upon.

If you ran your favorite grocery store, this might equate to finding out that frequent shoppers like knowing where staples like bread and milk are located, and either keeping those items in their same location or placing them even closer to the checkouts than before (and letting everyone know about this convenient move). This would allow shoppers to zip in and out quickly, providing an overall pleasant customer experience and encouraging repeat visits.

Treat your website the way you want your grocer to treat your favorite grocery store. Make it easy to find needed items quickly, keep the appearance clean and unfettered and respond to your customers (members) with care. When your website is optimized for easy, enjoyable use, they’ll keep coming back!

Author Laura Taylor is the director of online solutions for Naylor Association Solutions. She can be reached at ltaylor@naylor.com.
Photo credit: gyn9037/Shutterstock.com

MORE WEBSITE METRICS TO EXPLORE

Landing pages: How do people enter your site? This metric is a good measure of what is the most popular, useful information on your site.

Exit pages: From which pages do people leave? If a certain page or group of pages have a high exit rate, it may be because information is not showing up correctly or is outdated.

Most-viewed pages: What sections of your website do people view the most? These should be the sections people can click to from your home page. Add them to your main navigation.

Most-used forms/resources/downloads: What do people take away from your website the most? Again, make these resources easily accessible from the home page of your website. When online, people want information fast and with as few clicks as possible.

Time spent on website: The amount of time people spend on any given website depends on how much information it contains, how integral the information is to users’ daily lives and how often it’s updated.

Search data: What terms or concepts are people searching for the most within your website? Is it something that is otherwise hard to find? Is it even available through your site?

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