Skip the major redesign and use small tweaks to win.
Were you about to start on a brand new web design for your business or do you regularly sit back thinking you need to find the money to completely redo what you had built a few years ago? Have you been convincing your boss or yourself you need a new model?
Do you feel your site is holding you back but everyone says it’s the design that’s wrong, too old or not like your competitors?
Maybe you should wait just a little bit.
While there are many reasons for a redesign or complete overhaul of a website in many cases you are best served to make sure you have really tuned the performance from the existing site first.
- A new look won’t fix broken parts.
A new paint job won’t make a bomb of a car run any faster, and it will break down just as often. What you need to do is make sure your vehicle is regularly tuned and running at the best it can. We all know the difference between a car that gets serviced regularly and the one we ‘can’t afford to touch’ that eventually degrades into something that is lucky just to start.
- You need to know what to do when rebuilding.
You should only be investing in new when you have compelling reasons and data that support the decisions and goals for the new redevelopment. The best way to make sure your new site or app works better than before is to know you have stretched the current one way past it’s capabilities.
- It takes a lot of effort and resources to build new.
A complete rebuild costs a lot more money than small ongoing tweaks, it requires a lot more internal resources and takes up a lot of your work energy. It can be exhausting reaching the finish line on a new project and then suffering from fatigue it is easy to ignore the new site and just assume it is doing well. No one wants to tell their boss that after all that money they have nothing extra to show for it.
Think Evolution not Revolution.
Making a series of small changes that dramatically improve the existing site results by 1% every month will result in an overall net gain of 12% in a year, which depending on your volume and goals could be a massive improvement.
What would you do to improve your inquiries by 12% or more?
In a Formula 1 racing team a 1% improvement to them could mean the difference between winning and losing. They use all sorts of data and feedback mechanisms suited to their ‘race’ to help them adjust in real time how their vehicle is running and then between races what they can do better.
By the time you have tweaked your current site to death and have nothing more you can do then moving to that new site you are dreaming of will not be that big a jump from where you are and you will already know almost everything you want it to be.
The overall investment required to get it built will be significantly easier for all involved. Of course you might even find you don’t need a new site and that’s even more awesome!
So save yourself or your boss that big expense right now and see how you can give your site or application a bit of an overhaul, in some small steps and adjustments that are like taking it in for a regular service.
A well-managed maintenance plan for any online marketing asset is much more cost effective and profitable than periodic big spends that don’t get supported and often are built with the wrong motivations.
What sort of service can you give a website or application?
- Content fixes
- Fix flow blockages
- Basic site technical errors
- Customer Focus
- Conversions fixes
Firstly understand what you are trying to achieve clearly.
Rather than saying just “more” get very specific about what it is you want more of. If you are going to make change and are looking to have it work better you need to define quite clearly what ‘better’ is. When you car isn’t working right you don’t say to the mechanic “just make it better”, you state clearly “it won’t start in the wet, or it’s blowing a lot of smoke”.
Are you aiming to get more inquiries, more sales, more phone calls. Are you targeting a specific demographic rather than just any inquiry, for example do you want more results related to Hotel Bookings for Brisbane, than Travel Australia?
Having a clear understanding of what you want to achieve means you can then start looking at measuring what you do change and what a win will look like. Ideally you can make many wins along the way to improving your business results from your site or application.
What race are you in?
Think of your business (and it’s site or app) as being in a Motor Race Competition. There are a lot of races you have to run, and in those races you have to do a lot of laps before you get to the finish.
In each race, there is the ongoing diagnostic and feedback loop that helps the driver keep the car on the track and in theory win the race. There are pit stops and tweaks to the way the car is driven that help to get through this race.
After each race all the learning’s go into preparing for the next race.
A Formula 1 team doesn’t throw out this years model just because they came down the results in any one race.
They take all the information from their data computer, driver and overall observations to tweak their vehicle for the next race.
They sometimes get it very wrong, and the results mean complete failure in the next race, again they take that data and fix it for the next race.
After a season of results and data they get an opportunity to do a more major overhaul to their vehicles and look forward to the next set of races. They don’t make those decisions blind or based around what the other cars look like. They work with their data.
Yes of course they are influenced by the team that won, they think about what they need to do to beat them, what element in their team wasn’t good enough and they set to improving that area.
With your site you currently have this years model. Before you get caught up thinking about how good your competitors site or app is and what other things they might be doing you first need to make sure yours is running at it’s absolute best. Then and only then should you try to take a significant technical jump to the next level.
You might determine you are actually only in a Formula 3 race and a long way from playing in the F1 series. That’s ok, it’s much better to understand your own capabilities and work them to their maximum than enter the big race and just be out of your depth.
Finding some strategy to get you an extra 10,000 unique visitors a month might sound attractive but if you site fails to convince and convert those visitors to take actions you want, or if your systems can’t handle the load then you will fail much more than taking a simpler approach.
In the workshop
So where do you start?
- Gather your baseline data.
Start with what you have. Learn everything you can about it. Start reviewing your Google Analytics regularly so you can see what is happening and you can start to ask better questions. Start looking at weekly or monthly data depending on how busy your site is. There are so many ways to gather data that it is important you start small and grow as you and your team become more experienced. You don’t have to do full Usability studies, Heat Maps, Conversion tracking on everything on Day 1. They of course become important along the way but start small.
- Don’t be afraid to ask about what you don’t know.
Use your developers, internal teams, an external agency or freelance expert to help you understand better what you don’t know. Never be afraid to pay for knowledge from an expert and not just for getting the actual work done. Smart people get the knowledge first before making their decisions and getting the work done.
- Formulate your basic metrics you want to improve.
Starting small is best. Create some ratios that make sense for you right now. For example for your restaurant site it might be as simple as visitors that viewed our restaurant information page (or menu page) and then went through and made a booking inquiry. These numbers are easily accessible and you can set them up so that you can quickly grab that data immediately and even automate emails to advise you of significant changes in the data.
- Start finding your broken or spluttering pages.
By using simple measurement methods you can start to see where in your site you are having issues. You can see pages that might be getting viewed a lot but aren’t getting any further interaction. This gives you important information and you can start to determine whether the people looking at that content aren’t your ideal targets or if there needs to be changes to the page to get them moving through the conversion steps you want.
- Use your site.
Funnily enough many people inside a business very rarely use (test) their website and when they do they do it with insider knowledge. Go to your website and have one question you need answered. See how you go about answering it. What would a site user do if they didn’t know you or your business. Use different computers, use your phone. When your blood pressure rises because you realise something doesn’t work that should, you are on the right track. You will be amazed how many little technical issues you can discover just from using the site.
This is where the tuning process starts.
A car that splutters from clogged up spark plugs gets attention very quickly. What about a page that has a bounce rate of 90%? Is that spluttering?
Immediately you have a page you can review as a one off and look at making adjustments.
Should the page go altogether? Can we rewrite the content? Is the content too long – too short? How are people getting to it? Is it targeted wrongly? Etc.
These are all the questions you can ask about how to make change.
Investing in quality content is one of the most important parts of any marketing tool you use. Online or offline. Using your analytics you can get a much better idea about what content gets read, what incentivises users to take action and where you are losing people. Engage a copywriter and get a great piece of copy as the first part of your test.
The Tune Up
You can run A/B tests if you have enough traffic to generate suitable results, or if traffic is very small and a niche space then make one set of changes and give the site time to show you if it worked or not. If your traffic is so small that effective A/B testing or other forms of testing are going to be hard to measure there are some great options in this article from Website Visual Optimizer about low volume test scenarios.
Examples like sequential testing versus A/B testing, Site wide tests and others are some good ways to use your smaller traffic volumes but still run useful tests.
Testing options is the only real way to know whether the tweaks you are making are ‘keeping you on the right track’.
Remember if it is a massive fail now there isn’t much you can do to harm it. Making an adjustment or a re-write really only has upside at this point.
Make your changes systematically and in such a way that you can measure exactly what made the impact.
In a formula one racing team a 1% improvement to them could mean the difference between winning and losing. They use all sorts of data and feedback mechanisms suited to their ‘race’ to help them adjust in real time how their vehicle is running and then between races what they can do better.
How often do you get your data signals back, and who is empowered to help interpret those signals and then relay their expertise back to the teams driving the car in the race scenario.
Do you have one person responsible for it all? Are they fully equipped and trained to interpret the signals and do they even have time to analyse and improvise from that data?
Don’t be afraid to try changes in small chunks, as long as you are monitoring the results and don’t over react to the initial change results a small blip / mistake is just another piece of feedback material you need on the pathway to getting the absolute most out of your existing site.
In summary these are the things you need to remember to improve any website you own:
- Make many small changes to improve results based on data from your site.
- Setup a realistic and focused baseline and set reasonable goals.
- Invest in small regular tweaks will most likely get you much more long term benefit than going for a major overhaul.
- Don’t be afraid to make some mistakes they are all part of learning to do it better.
- Most of all you must have your hand on your site data at all times.
You can make significant improvements to your business without having to reinvest in a new website.
Well that’s what ireckon. What do you reckon? I would love to get your feedback.