When a business looks at changing their online strategy, we find that they often turn to look at their website. Subsequently the words ‘redesign’, ‘revamp’ and ‘rebuild’ start flying through the air. They’re not wrong either. A business website is an online hub that all other digital marketing should point towards. Online advertising, videos, social media; these should all push viewers towards the website. From there, it’s up to the website to convert visitors into customers. An effective website therefore, is the most important part of an online business strategy.
A business will look at website redesign for one reason: their current website isn’t achieving the desired result. Depending on your setup, and the options available, you may find yourself wanting/having to switch website platforms. This is where it gets complicated.
Every website is built on a specific platform. You may have heard of a few popular ones like WordPress, Drupal, Magento, Shopify, or even Zeald’s own product: Zest. The main differences between these platforms are behind the scenes in the source code. When moving from one to another, it’s not a simple as copy and paste. Think of it like moving house. From an observer's perspective it may look like it’s as easy as picking up everything you own and putting it in your new home. But anyone who has done this knows that it’s not that simple. You may have to switch your gas stove out for an electric one. Your California King bed might not fit through the new bedroom door. Your double door fridge might not fit in the new kitchen space. The same goes for switching website platforms; certain features or customisations will have to be completely reprogrammed to integrate correctly with the new systems.
There are multiple things that could potentially go wrong when changing website platforms, depending on the complexity of your current website. Not all of these can be predicted either. The purpose of this post therefore, is to ensure that you are aware of certain areas that need special attention when changing website platforms. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but hopefully it can point you in the right direction.
This is the main concern when businesses go through a major website redesign or platform change. You’ve probably spent time and money already on optimising your SEO. Businesses don’t want to lose their hard earned spot in search results when switching to what is essentially a brand new website. There are a number of tools available to help you with this, but the thing to remember is to let Google know what you are doing. You can do this through your Google Webmaster account if you have one (which you should).
While we’re talking about Google, we should mention AdWords at the same time. If you are serving links to your current website via AdWords, you’ll have to check if these are working for the new website. If the URL has changed at all, it will break. Things like remarketing tags will also need to be looked at during the transition.
As you know, your website contains internal links to help visitors navigate your website. You’ll need to make sure they’re all working correctly on the new site as well. An easy way to keep track of this is to build a sitemap of your current website (another thing you should have already) to compare to the new one. There are also web crawlers available that you can use on your own site to build a list of current links. Go through each link on the new website and make sure they work as intended.
After you’ve made sure all the internal links on your website work correctly, you’ll also need to make sure external websites linking back to your site are also functioning. Perform an inbound link analysis to see a list of other websites linking to your content, and set up redirects if necessary to make sure people aren’t going to get error messages when trying to access your website. Using 301 redirects during this process will ensure visitors are landing on the correct page and may help individual web pages maintain their rankings.
We’ve covered the importance of responsive design in a previous blog post, so all we’ll say here is: make sure your new website is working correctly on all devices!
Check your website analytics before switching over to the new website and note down your pages that see the most traffic. If you aren’t planning on copying the old website identically, this will tell you which areas of your website are most important. Analytics will tell you which pages are visited most often, which landing pages are most effective, and which pages are externally linked most often.
Remember the analogy about moving house? If you have a piece of furniture custom built for your current house, it may be difficult finding a place for it in your new house. The same applies to websites. Anything custom made for your website most likely won’t work properly on a new platform. It’s important to factor in the time (and cost) this will take to move across.
The general rule when it comes to major changes to your website is that the more complex your website, the more complicated it becomes to change things. If you’re looking at switching website platforms, or redesigning your website in general, our Google certified experts can give you an idea of what’s involved through a free website audit.