As we embark on wrapping up the first quarter of the new year, many eCommerce store owners are getting ready to start concentrating on getting their webstore ready for the holiday season. Yes, believe it or not, now is the time to start prepping.
Traditionally, this is the time when etailers start thinking about a website redesign. In the past, eCommerce store owners redesigned their website every 18 months or so. But changes in the economy have forced many to abandon plans for full-site redesigns and efforts were concentrated on adding features to an existing design or putting money into other marketing efforts.
I’m still a firm believer in keeping your online store fresh and recommend the every 18 month facelift. After all, your bricks-and-mortar competitors are constantly adding new displays, changing store layouts, improving traffic flow and working on efforts to drive the customer who came in for a $3 pack of batteries to drop at least a $20 at the checkout.
If it’s time to breathe new life into your old, tired design, here’s some things to consider:
Set Your Budget – The last thing any store owner wants to do is get involved in a project they can’t afford. Any great website design shop is going to charge you anywhere from $5,000 – $15,000 for a full site redesign. Yes, that’s a big range in numbers. The more “boutique” designers who tend to place a higher degree of detail in their designs are going to be on the high end of the scale. These are the guys who are going to sit down, analyze your current site’s performance and take a very methodical and detailed approach to the redesign process. Designers on the lower end of the scale tend to take a more standardized approach to design and rely upon more traditional site designs and layouts to give you a good looking site that caters to the masses. What you ultimately spend on your site design should be based on what you can afford. Go into the process knowing what your financial limits are going to be and stick to them to avoid being caught short later on.
Get Multiple Estimates – Just like shopping for a car, shopping for a website involves kicking the tires at several website design shops. Like I mentioned above, you’re going to see a wide range of prices from different developers, so make sure you compare apples to apples when reviewing each proposal. Before requesting a quote, make a list of all the features you think you must have for your website, which elements from your existing site you would like to see carried over to the new design as well as any other items you have on your redesign “wish list.” A good developer will come back and not only make his or her own recommendations, but look at your list and comment on whether the items you feel are important really are. When you’re presented with the estimate, schedule a time for a followup call to go over each item, have them walk you through their recommendations and don’t hang up until all your questions are answered.
It’s OK to Use Two – You don’t have to use the same company to design and program your new eCommerce store. I’ve been involved in many projects where a graphic design agency will provide the design for the new website and a different agency will do the site programming. This isn’t something that’s unique or unusual. Different companies all have different strengths and weaknesses. A great design firm may not offer programming services, or they are weak in that area. While a great website programming company offers design services, but those designs aren’t at the caliber you want your site to be. If you choose this type of arrangement, let both companies know that they will be working together during the implementation process and choose point people at both companies to act as liaisons.
Get References – Any good developer is happy to share a list of their satisfied clients with potential ones. Always request a list of recently designed websites and contact information so you can pick up the phone and call the business owner to learn about the experience he or she has had with the developer as well as how their site is doing post-redesign. Additionally, most developers put a “designed by” credit in the footer of the website’s they’ve worked on. Do a quick Google search and find websites developed by the particular design firm who don’t appear on the reference list and call them up as well. Remember, a company isn’t going to give you a list of reference who are going to give them a bad recommendation! You want to hear the good, bad and ugly about the firm you’re potentially going to be working with, so dial ’em up and listen to what they have to say. If you hear some negatives, address those concerns with the developer in question and ask how or if they’ve improved on those fronts.
Too Many Cooks – Once you’ve settled on a firm to design your website, you need to assign one point person in your company to be the go-to-guy for everything involving the redesign process. I’ve seen my share of “too many cooks in the kitchen” over the years. Having multiple people involved in the design process, each with a different opinion, not only frustrates you and the designer, it leads to unnecessary delays, cost overruns and an unsatisfactory experience for everyone involved. It’s fine to share design mock-ups internally with others for opinions, but only one person should be communicating with the designer and programmer. One thing to remember, eCommerce store designers have built hundreds, if not thousands, of online stores. They tend to know what works and what doesn’t. Take the pro’s advice seriously when you’re in disagreement with something and trust their judgement.
Don’t Rush It – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Syracuse. Redesigning your eCommerce store is an exciting process. With each piece that’s built you want to launch the new look sooner and sooner. But hold your horses Harry, let’s not rush it. Once the contract is signed, your designer should provide you with a schedule as to when each part of the project will be completed. Everyone wants to stay within that timeframe, so work with your designer to turn around mock-ups and provide answers to questions in a timely fashion to avoid unnecessary delays. On the other hand, don’t push your designer and programmer to get it done faster. Haste makes waste! The timeline that was established was set with realistic work goals and project time factored in. It’s everyone’s responsibility to stay within that timeframe to ensure that a well designed, programmed and quality tested website is launched.
Analyze This – Once your new site is launched, you’re going to want to monitor it carefully to ensure that it’s meeting its goals. You should watch your site metrics very closely to ensure that abandon rates remain low and conversion rates stay high. Monitor your analytics, watch customer click-trails and keep a sharp eye out for any stumbling blocks your customers may be encountering on the new site and work with your developer to get those barriers removed. You will receive feedback from your customers about your new site, don’t overreact to them and start making changes just because you got an email saying your add-to-cart button is ugly. Take each comment into consideration, add them to a list, and after a full-month schedule a call with your developer to go over issues, customer concerns and talk about how your site is doing. If changes need to be made in certain areas, now is the time to discuss.
Create A Partnership – Your designer is your partner. They want to see you succeed as much as you do! After all, they’re the architect who built your model for success. The two of you should communicate regularly on the performance of your store and constantly toss ideas around for how to improve your store and your overall business. Use this partnership to your advantage!
The redesign process should be exciting, fun and a great way to jump start your business once the new site is launched. Be prepared to promote your new site to your customers via email marketing, a traditional post card mailing, on your social networking sites and other avenues you use for promotion.
If you’ve recently gone through the redesign process and have additional tips to share with my readers, feel free to share your comments below, or use the contact form on the right to send me a quick email with your thoughts.