I love the website redesign process. It’s an electric experience and an optimistic sign of good times. Failing digital businesses, I’ve learned, generally do not undertake ambitious redesigns.
Unfortunately, not nearly enough companies take their customers’ point-of-views into account when it comes to design. The most common reason I hear: “We’ll bring in customer experience after the redesign.”
This approach makes perfect sense, until you think about it. Of course you need to intensively examine your new site for customer experience issues. However, unless you’re a brand new digital business with no previous customer interactions, that old website that you’re so eager to chuck in the bin is a literal gold mine of customer experience data.
I often want to yell, “Don’t forget your customers!” when I hear the above contention. Why would you not want to leverage what you already know to ensure a smoother, more effective redesign?
Mitigating Redesign Risk
Redesigning and relaunching a website is time consuming, costly and risky. Furthermore, one of the biggest risks of redesign is breaking parts of your site that work. This can translate into negative impact on conversions both today and, even worse, tomorrow.
Any web professional will tell you that even on the worst-performing site, there are hundreds of elements and flows that are worth preserving. The questions are which ones, why do they work and how can you leverage them in your new site. How can your new site can make the most of everything you know about your customers’ digital behaviors?
To answer these questions, today’s smart digital businesses are choosing to integrate advanced customer experience solutions as an organic part of the redesign process. Why?
1. They respect their customers: Customer experience insights from your existing site can dramatically increase the success of your redesign and rollout. When you know exactly how customers interact with each element in every flow of your legacy site, you can better focus development of your new site, reduce testing and development expense, speed rollout, and lower overall redesign risk.
2. They live by their key performance indicators (KPIs): It’s natural to focus your redesign on aesthetics, yet KPIs are your bread and butter. Before you make redesign recommendations, use customer experience insights to correlate in-page behavior to KPIs. Understand which content interactions lead to conversions, and what exactly engages consumers on each page. This way, you can integrate proven functionality into your new site design, and rethink elements that underperformed.
3. Slow and steady wins the race: Changing an entire site at once can leave you wondering why overall KPIs haven't budged after launch, or have even changed for the worse. User experience insights help you evaluate each step in your existing site’s funnel. Ultimately, for example, you may choose to give the entire site a cosmetic facelift while leaving underlying functions intact. Then you can redesign one funnel step at a time, measuring and checking success each step of the way.
4. Buy-in for change is important: No one runs a redesign in a budgetary or management vacuum. You always need to quantify the need for change. By calculating what elements or functionality actually drive conversions on your existing site — or what doesn't — it’s easier to show the return on investment of change. User experience insights let you back up recommendations with actual numbers, and then confirm they were right.
The Bottom Line
I know that no one really forgets their customers in the redesign process. And I understand the value of human nature, which pushes us to look constantly forward — to new concepts in design, to new functionality. Yet keep in mind that every current business success rests on a past success. By bringing customer experience to play before and during the redesign process, you can leverage — not abandon — these successes.
Michal Harel is vice president of consulting services at Clicktale, where she leads a group of customer experience analysts and consultants who help Fortune 500 companies optimize their digital interactive strategies and gain unique insights across various digital channels.