There are very few things in this world as stressful as a website re-design. Numerous things can go wrong, users can leave and in the end you may have to roll-back. Here are a few tips on how to sanely re-launch and re-design a website.
- Inform users of the upcoming change
One of the most important things about re-designing your website is to inform your users early on so they can get used to the change. Numerous websiteshave completed a re-design only to have their core user-base revolt.If you tell your users early you can use their comments and include them in your re-design. This will help you on launch day because your users will already have an idea of what to expect.
- Develop new site in parallel
The best thing you can do while re-designing is to do it in parallel with your current website. If you can afford a second server to handle this then you’re one step ahead and launching it will be much easier (I talk about this below). Developing in parallel lets you test everything as if it’s your main website, allowing you to more thoroughly test before you launch.
- Make sure all the content is there
If you’re writing a lot of new content or have a lot of new content make sure it’s all there before you launch. I know this may seem like common sense but I’ve seen a lot of people launch and release hours or days later that they’re missing lots of sections, images or articles.
- Check for broken links
There are a lot of tools you can use for broken links. Broken links can make your users not trust you and they’re extremely easy to fix. Here are just a few of the tools you can use to check for broken links: W3C, LinkChecker, LinkTiger
- URL Re-write old URLs to point to the new ones
By using Apache URL Rewrite or a WordPress pluginyou can easily re-direct your old articles, images and other content to your new URL’s. This can be extremely useful for keeping old search engine traffic and permalinks.Nothing can be more frustrating for old users (and new) than getting 404’s on your old content.
There are a number of ways you can do this. If you’ve developed your new site in parallel with your old this can be as simple as changing the DNS entries to point to your new web server.If you’ve been developing on a local machine you can copy over the new files to your current webserver, update the database and anything else that you need. This way is a lot more time-consuming and error prone so be sure to thoroughly test your application to make sure everything works properly.
- Check statistics (bounce rates, number of visitors)
- Listen to your visitors
I realize that I only listed off 9 tips so if you have any of your own feel free to post in the comments. Hopefully by following the above tips you’ll have an easier time re-designing your next site.