Six Things I Learned When I Redesigned My Website

Web Site Design Over the YearsIf you’re a regular One Woman Marketing reader, you may have noticed that the site experienced a redesign a few weeks ago. This is the third time I’ve redesigned this particular website, and I’ve helped many friends design or redesign blogs or websites of their own.

Here’s what I learned about website redesign over the years.

1. Don’t just hire a graphic designer. Make sure the person you hire understands web design, too. A graphic designer can make your site look pretty, but can she create clear navigation? Does she understand the limitations of code, and how to work around them? If she can’t, she probably can’t create a good site.

I learned this the hard way when I recommended a design company to a friend who needed a web site. I was wowed by their ad design, and assumed their talent would translate to the digital realm. The new site looked fine, but had major problems with functionality.

2. Have clear objectives. The more you specify exactly what you want, the more likely you are to get it. Before I put my web designer to work, I gave thought to style, brand and layout. I sent him a color palette, a wireframe that I created in Word, and a list of sites with specifications on what I did – and didn’t – like. As a result, he brought my vision to life on the first try.

3. Trust your designer’s expertise, but also determine what you cannot live with. You’re paying your designer good money for his expertise. So weigh all suggestions carefully. Just because something doesn’t exactly fit the image in your head doesn’t mean it’s a bad design.

I originally pictured my new web design to have a white background or a simple drop shadow. When my designer came back with a blue-gray background, my first instinct was to shoot it down. But the more I sat with it, the more I started to like it.

Also see The Oatmeal’s How a Web Design Goes Straight To Hell.

4. Set clear parameters on cost and timing at the start. Before we started working together, I let my designer exactly how much I could afford to pay and when I wanted the website done. In the past, I didn’t discuss this beforehand. As a result, projects ran over time and budget.

Do projects run over time and budget anyway? Sure. It’s to be expected. But by setting clear expectations from the start and checking in with my designer frequently, I minimized surprises.

5. Pay attention to metadata and SEO. Your designer is going to be tinkering around in your code, anyway. While she’s there, why not have her update your metadata? (The code that tells search engines what keywords and definitions are relevant to your site. It’s what Google uses to create the little site descriptions below each search result.)

I already had metadata in place, but it was pretty outdated, so I used the new design as an excuse to freshen it up with new keywords. I also had my designer help me set up Google Webmaster Tools – something that, as a WordPress user, I had never been able to do on my own.

6. Take some risks. My web designer didn’t have a testing environment for the new site design, so I wasn’t able to see the final version before it went live. Normally, this would be a deal breaker. I stressed out over all the things that could potentially go wrong, but in the end, I decided to just trust my designer.

And you know what? The new design launch went just fine. We had no code breaks, no site down time, no browser incompatibility. I had stressed out over nothing.

What did you wish you knew when you designed – or redesigned – your website? Let me know in the comments section below.

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