The role of content in a successful website redesign
Most website design projects focus heavily on the visual design. People are visual by nature and take mere seconds to form a first impression of a website. If they don’t like the design – for whatever reason – they may choose to leave quickly and not return. Inevitably, countless hours will be spent going back and forth between designer and client perfecting the design. However, there is an element to site design that often does not get the attention it deserves: content.
Content is what keeps people on a website. Content is what brings people back to a website. And content is what ultimately will position a website in the forefront of users’ minds as the place to go for thought leadership. (Google has all but ensured this to be the case.)
The first phase in any web design project should be nailing down the right content strategy. A good design team will lead you in the nitty-gritty tasks of developing the content strategy, but there are some important things to consider:
Age matters. Don’t automatically assume you need to scrap all the content on your existing site. Unless the content on your site discusses a product that you no longer support or manufacture – keep it. Older content acquires a lot of value over time as people and search engines bookmark the information and refer to it in articles and blogs.
Sometimes the right decision is to start with a completely clean slate and create all new content. Just be aware that the new website and content will take a good six months to a year – potentially even longer if you are operating in a mature market - to start generating similar traffic numbers of the old website.
Less is NOT always more. “Our current site is too cluttered. It’s not organized. We want the new site to be really clean and crisp with less content and more imagery … like Apple.” We hear this from every client, but clean and organized does not mean that the content on the site should be stripped down to a few sentences. This is particularly true in B2B where the sales cycles are much longer and websites serve as one of the main sources of valuable information for decision makers. It’s unlikely that one sentence on your product is going to give you the competitive advantage in the B2B market. By starting the redesign process by defining the website’s content strategy the amount of copy that will provide the most ROI for your site will become clear.
Produce (and plan) original content. There is a proliferation of content on the Internet these days and the content that offers readers something new or enlightening gets the most meaningful traction. Recent updates by Google have put even more emphasis on original content that positions a person or site as a thought leader. Blogs are strong platforms for producing and promoting original content, but they require planning and commitment to generate meaningful content. If producing regular content for a blog is not a commitment that can be made, work to optimize on-page content and provide additional resources to users such as whitepapers, datasheets and webinars.
Maintain existing URL structure. Once you know all the content that will migrate to the new site – take stock of the URLs. It may not seem like a large change, but switching from /contact-us to /contact can have a major impact on your new site’s performance – particularly when URL structures change site-wide. Keeping the URL structure also makes analytic comparisons from old to new much more manageable.
Once you have discussed and addressed these and other elements of content strategy then it’s time to turn it over to the designers. Knowing the content their design needs to accommodate, they will be able to create strong visuals that help further emphasize your valuable content.