I have recently changed my website design and it is because I have felt that my design is not good enough. If you have been working on the same design you will felt that too you have to change the design. It might be because it does not fulfill the subject of your site or it not accessible enough to the users. This article would tell you the things you have to make sure before changing the design of your site.
Precautions to Be Taken Before Redesigning
1. You must have a good reason to change the design
Your audience does not like big changes because they are familiar with the previous design. They knew where to find the categories they are looking for. It might become alienate to your returning visitors if you would change the design too much and as it will be difficult to comprehend for them.
I am not saying that you should not be changing the design to give it a better look but you should not turn the whole design upside down and when you are changing the design you are doing for your visitors to make this more user friendly and give them the freedom what they are looking for. For example, take navigation bar. Almost all the website has them at the left column or at the top. There is no obligation where to place them but it would be good if you put them where they were before. You can change color and always make the background white or something light that does not cause irritation to eyes.
Some of the best reason you should change the design are:
To Make a Site More User-Friendly or Customer-Friendly
There is always a question what should you put on the homepage of the website. I have redirected my homepage as one of my inner pages where the user can access all of my content and jump to the section he wants. The design of the website should be search engine friendly. Search engine would rank your article on their first page if the SEO is done properly and if those pages have some backlinks.
If you are changing the design to make it user friendly and search engine friendly than definitely you should do that. It would increase your visitors and boost the time a visitor spends on your site.
To Make a Site More Accessible
I have already mentioned it above but it means that a user is able to look most of the part in the homepage and all the categories are displayed in the navigation menu. Do not make the navigation bar more focused on the drop down menus. It is advisable to display all the relevant categories in which user do not have to hover over them and look out for additional sub-categories (except to the fact if you really have long list and there is a need to sub-categorized it).
To Make a Site More Search-Engine Friendly
If a site is not search engine friendly it is hardly going to find its place in the first three pages of search engine. You can read the whole article on how to make a website search engine friendly.
2. Minimize Changes to URLs
It is going to be a blunder if you’re going to do it. Webmasters feel that they should make separate filenames so that it would better describe particular sections. It is good from the point of view of webmasters to make it organized but wait. Have you though what would happen to that previous URL. To that URL some websites were linking and as that URL is no more. It will not be indexed in the search engine as it is invalid as well as all the links are gone. You can change the design but cannot change the URL.
I was aware of this fact and did not change any of the URLs. While doing SEO it is advisable to that the URL should include all the keywords that are in the title of the article. I did not know that before and kept my URL and title tags a way different. The title must be within the 60 characters and it is regarded as the best if all those words are included in the search results with a hyphen or a dot separating them. You can see the URL and title of this article and it would be clearer.
If you have made up your mind that you will change the URL than you can minimize this affect. You have to redirect that old URL to the new one. Redirecting is a better option rather than putting a link of the new URL on that page. It is made official by Google that by redirecting would transfer the page rank of the old page to the new page. You can made the redirect by creating a .htaccess file.
Redirect permanent /the-complete-previous-url.php http://www.yourwebsite.com/the-new-folder/the-new-filename.php
You do not have to do this if your web server provides enough flexibility and have redirect software. All you have to do is choose redirect temporary or redirect permanent. Choose the redirect permanent and put the old URL to redirect to the new URL.
When I first design SEO MASHBLE I made a design putting all the articles in one single folder. As I wrote 8 or 9 articles I was unable to figure out what was happening and it took me more than 1 ½ hour just to posts a single article.
3. Make Site Appearance Changes by Modifying the CSS File Only
If you only have to change the color schemes or the design like making all the things floating to left and making proper boxes, give them fixed border radius, etc. than you can only change the CSS file. By changing the CSS you would be able to change the design without harming any other thing on the website if it already is user friendly.
4. Get a Proper Web Editor
You have redesigned your website and surely it is not the last time you have changed it. After some time you will again feel the need to change the design. Time changes, need changes and so do the design of the websites. As your site grows some changes have to be done so that they will not become obstacles.
You would need a web editor every time you are going to change the design and the best web editor is Dreamweaver. There are many free web editors available but none of them would have the functionality as in Dreamweaver. Dreamweaver is paid software that costs around $650 (at the time I wrote this article) but it is worth it. Free web editors like ConText or Notepad++ comes with the support and you can also use them if you do not want to spend that amount of money.
5.Understand and Test the Impact of the Site Design
If your website design is not minor then surely it will either boost or reduce the number of visitors. Your visitors want everything organized and if the new design buried the previous pages deeper in the site, people would have trouble finding them and they will not dawdle more in searching for the content. If you are not sure about the flexibility of the new design the simple experiment you can do is put that design in 4 or 5 pages and test the visitors flow and advertising income and then make decision whether the design would be compatible with the visitors or not.
6. Back Up Your Site Before Changing Its Design
This is the most important step that you have complete backup of your site. There are webmasters who like to keep backup of their websites daily. The backup should include all the URL’s that have indexed in the Google. You might be keeping the copy of articles but also keep backup of the Meta keywords, meta description, the article and the URL related with it.
If you are running a website than at some point you have to change the design so that to meet up the requirements of your visitors and earn more.