How to Prepare for a Website Redesign

November 30, 2018
By Pam Berg

This article was updated on August 6, 2021.

If your business is considering a fresh website this year, there are big decisions ahead of you. We’ve put together a to-do list to help you prepare for a website redesign.

A new website can do great things for your business, from improving your reputation to driving more leads and sales. Maybe your current website is too slow, or the content feels terribly outdated. Maybe you’re kicking off a total rebrand, and everything needs to change.

Whatever the reason, a website redesign is an exciting prospect. This article contains links to lots of resources and reading material, so get ready to nerd out!

Prepare for a Website Redesign: The Checklist

    1. Brand Assessment

Why does your website exist? What does your business do? How are you different or better than the competition? Who do you do this for? The creative elements on your website need to capture your brand’s personality and values, to create an emotional connection with visitors so they’ll want to convert – that’s brand strategy.

Every user experience (UX) design choice, from menus and buttons to content placement, also needs to be based on who needs to use your website – and what they need to accomplish.

Even if you’re planning a subtle redesign just to incorporate new technology, like shopping or email platforms, you’ll still need a clear direction for your brand. Identify and plan for the following:

  • Who is your audience, and what do they use your site to do?
  • Why do you exist as a business, what do you do, and how are you different from competitors?
  • Will your branding stay the same, or is it a rebrand?
  • Who will provide existing or create new content pieces: logos, photographs, images, copy
  • Do you have brand guidelines?

No branding documentation? No problem. Check out our full resource for creating brand identity guidelines to help with this stage. 

    2. Content Audit

One of the most time-consuming steps to prepare for a website redesign is evaluating all of your current content to decide what to keep — and what to let go.

At Forge and Smith, we use GatherContent to help clients repurpose existing content from their old websites into a new web design, while identifying gaps and adding new content prior to putting it all into the site.

You might have content strategy spreadsheets or other databases where your business tracks all of your content assets, or you can create them during this step. We’ve made a custom spreadsheet template, which you can open in Google Docs right here: Content Audit Template 

Assess every piece of content, from blogs and case studies to downloads and videos. Ask the following questions (and many more!) of each piece of content:

  • Is it current?
  • Is it accurate?
  • Is it useful or helpful?
  • Does it drive business goals?

Get a full list of recommended audit questions in our Content Strategy Checklist for Website Redesign Projects.

DYNO Mapper has put together a list of 33 Amazing Content Audit Tools you can use to check everything from SEO and site performance to domain authority.   

    3. Strategy

You’ve got your brand story and your content is in order. Now it’s time to talk strategy.

If your business has a solid digital strategy that encompasses all of your channels and assets, good job! That plan should be factored into every step of the website redesign process.

Maybe you’d like to review your current strategies and make tweaks before you kick off the new website. Or maybe your old site was designed without a strategy, and you’ve realized you need to unite your digital assets including your website around your goals.

Ask these strategic questions:

  • Which social networks are you on? Are they driving website traffic and business? Do you need to adjust your social media strategy? Don’t forget that social media goes hand-in-hand with SEO
  • Are you using paid search ads, display ads, social media campaigns, or another form of advertising? Are your campaigns working? How does the new website need to work with your current ads?
  • Does your business use email marketing? Do you have a strategy to attract and retain subscribers as leads? How will the new website drive email sign-ups?
  • How’s your content marketing? Do you have a concise plan to ideate, produce, and measure new content? Which types of media will be featured on the new website, and how and where will they be included?

If you’re unclear on your business’ content marketing goals, or if you aren’t sure how it’s relevant to your new website, read 7 Ways to Tell if Your Content Marketing is Working (and What to Do if It’s Not)

Kickstart your SEO with this up-to-date SEO strategy guide from ClickMinded, cleverly styled after Nintendo Power’s indispensable ’90s gaming bibles.

    4. SEO

Another huge step when you prepare for a website redesign is SEO. Your old website will have built up authority over the years, and each piece of content has been crawled and indexed and ranked for countless terms.

Failure to properly follow SEO best practices while migrating content to a new site can result in crawl errors, major red flags to search engines, and even penalties.

  • Who will handle technical SEO during content migration? Agencies often provide this service along with web design and development, but it’s important to know that there’s a definite plan in place.
  • Does your business have a keyword strategy? Is all of your content optimized? Do you need to update or adapt your SEO strategy? This information should be shared with anyone creating new content, even if it’s just headlines and CTA buttons. This is also a good time to optimize existing content that passed the content audit, before you start handing off assets.

Moz has this thorough Website Migration Guide: SEO Strategy, Process, & Checklist that covers everything you need to know about SEO during this step.

    5. Technical Requirements

If the purpose of your website redesign is to be able to integrate a new sales or email platform, this is a no-brainer. But it’s still important to know exactly what you — and your visitors — need to be able to accomplish with the new website.

  • Who uses the site? Just the public, or do you need gated content with login portals?
  • What marketing technology needs to be integrated?
  • Do you need custom integrations like geolocation filtering/maps or forms?
  • Do you need e-commerce functionality?

    6. Budget

Everyone wants a high quality website that’s also cheap and built quickly. That’s the unicorn we’re all chasing – and Forge and Smith has now developed an affordable version of our premium business websites. But whatever your budget, it’s extremely important to have that information up front as you search for an agency or contract designer.

You also need to ask the right questions, so you understand what could add costs to the project’s budget. That’s not the kind of surprise you want out of your website redesign!

  • Do you have a tight budget, or only want to change a few small things on your existing website? Read Website Redesign vs. Refresh: Which Do You Need to see if you could plan for a website refresh instead.  
  • Do you have a huge amount of content that might impact the scope?
  • Do you have an internal team that can assist, and only need help with design and development, or just one or the other?
  • What happens if your team inadvertently causes project delays by being late on communications and approvals, or needing multiple rounds of QA that add time onto the project? What if you ask for changes to the design or website structure at a later stage in the project? Ask about any fees associated with changes to project scope and timeline, so you’re prepared (and can deter your team from incurring these costs).

    7. Team

You’re almost ready! The last step to prepare for a website redesign is to figure out who you want to work with. This is a big investment for your business, and any hiccups in communication and process can cost time and money. Do as much research as you can before you commit.

  • Do you want to work with a web design agency or hire freelancers? This can depend on your budget, your deadline, who is available, and even where you are in the world. We highly recommend reading 9 Things to Consider Before Hiring a Web Design Agency for insights on possible options. 
  • Who on your internal team will be involved in approvals? The more eyes need to be on each step, the longer it can take. Identifying one point person to gather feedback and deliver it at once is a great way to tighten communication with multiple stakeholders.
  • Do you have an internal person or team that will be working with the designers and developers on content?

We hope you feel armed and ready to start your prep work, and move toward kicking off your new business website.

Pam Berg

Pam has backgrounds in journalism, computer forensics, and public libraries, which add up to the perfect mindset for digital strategy. She's been a professional content writer for over 20 years, and working with clients in SEO and analytics for 8 years. Her Instagram feed is equal parts horses, waffles, and drag performers.

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