Your 2019 Website Redesign Checklist

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Certain work often gets pushed aside during the busy year.

For a lot of business owners, that work often includes redesigning your website.

The website that was bright and shiny and looked just how you wanted it to a few years ago probably isn’t pulling its full weight anymore. Every website owner should periodically revisit their website’s design to look for opportunities to improve.

How to Tell When It’s Time for a Website Redesign

Taking on a website redesign project requires a commitment in time and money, which makes it easy to find excuses not to do it.

But there are few compelling reasons that are good enough to squash those excuses and move forward in 2019 with a website redesign.

It’s been years

Web design best practices change. Just because your website was intuitive to visitors five years ago doesn’t mean it is now. And if you haven’t done a thorough update in a few years, you’re likely missing opportunities to get more out of your website based on current trends in SEO (search engine optimization), UX (user experience), and new technology.

If your last website design project was years ago, at the very least you should do a thorough review to figure out if your website is currently meeting your needs or could use a makeover.

You’re not getting as many visitors as you’d like

If you’re not seeing much traffic, you should both step up your online marketing and look for ways to strengthen your website. A website redesign presents the opportunity to analyze any weaknesses in your current website and spot missed SEO opportunities, so you can create a version that will perform better in search and bring in more visitors. 

Your visitors aren’t sticking around or returning

Getting visitors to your website doesn’t matter much if they immediately click away and never come back. A good website is designed to get visitors to stick around, click through to additional pages, and keep coming back for more.

If your visitors aren’t doing that now, you’ll want to reconsider your website strategy and look for ways to redesign your pages to encourage longer and repeat visits with useful content and compelling CTAs (calls to action).

It doesn’t work on mobile

One of the top sins of web design in 2019 is having a website that’s awkward or difficult to use on mobile. Too many people do their web browsing on mobile devices now for you to get away with providing a bad mobile experience. If your website is hard to use on a small screen, visitors will click away and the search engines will punish you in the rankings.

This is probably more urgent than any other item on this list. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, a website redesign project is imperative.

Your business strategy has changed

For business websites, a New Year means revisiting your business plan and considering if your overall strategy and goals need to change. Anytime your business embarks on a new strategy—developing a new unique value proposition (UVP), introducing a new product, deciding to target a new demographic, etc.—your website needs an update to bring it in line with your new approach.

You’re tired of the website you have

Really, this is a good enough reason on its own. If you’re no longer happy with the website you have—maybe you want different colors, think the design looks outdated, or have recently come across a few websites with designs you like more—that’s a good enough reason to change your website so it better matches what you really want.

10 Steps to Include on Your Website Redesign Checklist

When launching a website redesign, you can cut down on a lot of guesswork and risk by spending time on research and planning. Here’s a ten-step checklist to help you get your website redesign right.

1. Clarify your goals.

Before you start working out the details of your website redesign, define what you want to accomplish. Every website will have some main overarching goals, such as making sales or developing an engaged community. In addition, you may have a number of smaller goals that help you achieve your main ones, like increasing traffic or getting people to sign up for your email list.

Write out a list of the main goals your website ought to achieve, and determine the priority levels of each so you know what to focus on in your website redesign. Where possible, assign specific metrics to track to each goal so you can better measure your success once your new website is up.

2. Analyze your website metrics.

Dig into your website analytics to gain a clear understanding of what about your current website is working, and what isn’t. Your analytics will reveal insights about who your audience is, how they find your website, and what they do once there.

 Look for trends in the data that suggest the types of topics, CTAs, and design elements your audience responds to. And confirm that the audience you’re attracting now is the one you want to reach—otherwise, your website and marketing may need to take a different approach to get in front of the right people.

3. Develop a persona.

While you definitely want your website redesign to produce a website you like, that’s actually less important than making sure your website appeals to your target audience. For your website to work for the people it’s really for, every decision about the website’s design needs to put them top of mind.
A buyer persona is a basic sketch of the type of person you most want to reach. It typically includes demographic details, a description of their interests and online behavior, and notes on their common questions and problems. A persona lets you picture the person you’re building your website for, so it’s easier to get inside their head and make sure you center their experience in your approach to the design.

4. Do keyword research.

Keyword research is both a crucial step in optimizing your website for the search engines, and a useful way to gain knowledge about what your audience is looking for and the language they most commonly use. Using the terminology your customers use is a helpful way to make the website more user friendly for them, and increases the chance that your site will show up in the search engines for the terms they’re looking for.

For on-site optimization, choose a relevant, unique primary keyword for each page of your website, along with a couple of secondary keywords. Work them into the URL, title tag, headings, alt tag, and website copy—but always naturally, don’t try to force them in.

Lots of keyword research tools are available to help identify the best keywords for each of your website’s main pages, and many of them are free. If you do content marketing, keyword research is also a valuable resource for finding the topics your audience cares about.

5. Do a content and SEO audit.

A successful website redesign doesn’t require starting over from scratch—you can still use a lot of the pages you already have, but look for ways to make them better. A thorough SEO and content audit will reveal opportunities to make the content you already have on your website go further and get better results.

In particular, in reviewing your current website, look for:

  •  Web pages that aren’t well optimized for search now
  •  Web pages that lack a clear CTA, or have one that isn’t getting results
  •  Opportunities to improve your site structure so it’s more intuitive for users through more useful categories or a clearer menu
  •  Successful content that can be repurposed into different formats
  •  Successful content that can be updated to better drive visitors to take the actions you want
  •  Underperforming content that can be improved upon for better results
  •  Broken links or other issues contributing to high bounce rates
  •  Content that no longer supports your goals, that your website is better off dropping

While your content has little to do with your website’s visual design, incorporating it into your website redesign plan will ensure your new design supports your content—a crucial feature of a strong design.

6. Develop a style guide

A style guide is a helpful tool for clarifying the general look you want your website to have. If more than one person will be involved in your website redesign, it will keep everyone on the same page when it comes to the website’s primary design elements. Even if your website redesign will be completed by one person, it makes it easier to ensure each web page communicates a consistent visual brand.

Your style guide doesn’t have to be something complicated. It can be as simple as defining your color scheme, choosing your typography, and addressing formatting choices. You can also include choices about the images to use, the button colors and styles to go with, and the proper icons to use (and not use). Whatever you decide to include, a simple style guide will serve as a handy reference point as you work to helps you achieve visual consistency throughout the site.

7. Find the right designer and/or website builder

With your basic research and strategy in place, the next step is deciding how you’re going to create you new website design. Your main two options are hiring a web designer or choosing a website builder or both. Each option has its advantages. Most notably, a web designer can design advanced features and allows you more flexibility and control, a website web builder provides convenience and affordability, and hiring a designer to custom design using a content management system gives you the best of both worlds.

 Whichever you’re leaning toward, take some time in this step to research your options. Hiring a web designer that’s a good fit for what you want is crucial to the overall success of your website redesign process. And choosing the best website builder for your needs will make the designing process easier and ensure you have all the features and functionality you need.

8. Consider UX

UX is the term used to describe design that centers the user experience. In other words, thinking through how your visitors will interact with your website in order to spot issues that may be confusing or difficult for them.

For example, if a significant number of your visitors come to the site looking for kids’ products, then making sure you put a link to the Kids category of your website right in the menu makes it easier for people to find what you’re looking for. Other factors that influence UX include making sure your text and buttons are in colors that are easy to see, your fonts are easy to read, and your links are well sized for people on mobile.

Before you settle on your new website design, go through it looking for any factors that could make it difficult or confusing for your visitors to take the actions you want them to take.

9. Prioritize the mobile experience

A mobile friendly website is a requirement in 2019. When you’re considering your website builder options, take into account whether they offer responsive templates that make creating a mobile friendly website easy. Or, when you’re interviewing designers, ask about their experience creating responsive websites.

 Double check how all your design elements look and work on mobile devices. A too-small button or link can make a website that otherwise seems fine basically unusable on mobile. You can’t treat mobile as an afterthought any more, it ought to be top of your mind throughout the website redesign process.

10. Do user testing

When you’ve finally got everything else on this list checked off and your website seemingly finished—don’t publish just yet. You’re never going to be as good at seeing your website the way your visitors will as someone who comes to it with fresh eyes.

So find some customers or friends to help you test out your website. Ask them to complete a few main actions on the site, like making a purchase, filling out a form, or navigating to a particular product. Encourage them to do so on different types of devices and in different browsers. And make a note of anything they have trouble with, so you know what changes to make before you go live.

Launch Your New Website!

Once you’ve checked off all ten steps, your new and improved website is ready for the public. Publish it to the web, but keep a close eye on your website analytics to see how it fares. You never want to assume a website redesign will accomplish everything you hoped. Track specific metrics based on your stated goals to see what’s working, and continue to make small tweaks to the design as you go based on what the data tells you.

Your redesign is a great way to make your website go further in 2019 and beyond, but when it comes to website maintenance, your work is never entirely done.

Ready to transform your website? Contact dotLaunch’s Web Design team today.

Kristen Hicks

Google is shutting down Google Plus. What does that mean for you?

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Google Plus Shutdown and SEO

Google sets April 2 closing date for Google+, download your photos and content before then.

Google has an official closing date for its troubled Google+ social network: April 2.

The search engine giant says on that date Google+ accounts and any pages created will be shut down and begin being deleted. Should you have any photos or other content you want to save, "just make sure to do so before April," the company said in a blog post.

Photos and videos also stored in Google Photos will not be affected. Google has posted directions on how to download an archive of your Google+ content. Any photos and videos backed up in Google Photos will not be deleted.

Google began accelerating its shutdown last year after announcing in October 2018 that a vulnerability found earlier in the year had potentially compromised up to 500,000 users' data. Google says that it found no evidence any profile data were misused.

Then two months later, Google said a software update in November had caused a security bug that leaked the data — such as name, email and occupation — of 52.5 million users.

Google said in the blog post the decision to shut down Google+ was made "due to low usage and challenges involved in maintaining a successful product that meets consumers’ expectations."
Even though the free consumer version of Google+ will cease, Google+ will continue on as part of Google's G Suite for enterprises.

What does it mean for your business SEO?

Google+ was owned by the search engine giant and any social signals sent out by Google+ were expected to deliver strong SEO benefits.

But that didn’t quite happen. Google+ could never quite become Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook. It was always an “also ran”, despite Google’s best efforts to leverage its pre-eminent position as a search engine behemoth.

Even if you were active on Google+, promoting your business or those of your clients, the exit of Google+ from the social media scene will have minimum impact on your SEO. Social media signals from other sites will easily make up for any perceived dip in SEO performance. Remember, social media signals have some SEO value but not in the same category has backlinks or a well-designed website with good internal structure.

How will the shutting of Google+ Affect My Social Media Strategy?

How frequently were you using Google+? Users were few and user engagement was low. Webmasters were getting multiple times better returns for their efforts on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. Nobody was really using Google+ in isolation. It was invariably a part of an overall social media strategy that included posting content and networking on other social media sites.

Simply remove the Google+ social media icon from wherever you’ve displayed it on your website. It’ll soon be a dead link and you don’t want dead links emanating from your website.

Will Google + shutting down affect my Google My Business Listing & Reviews?

No worries, your Google My Business page will be unaffected by the shutdown. Many people confused Google+ with GMB (another reason Google+ failed), but they are separate entities. For excellent search results keep posting on your GMB page. That should more than make up for any loss you sustain from losing Google+.

The 3 Best Ways Your Business Can Utilize Hyperlocal Marketing

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Small Business Marketing

In this globalized age, where internationally recognized brands’ marketing efforts spread far and wide, it can seem like the new industry buzzword ‘hyperlocal’ is a recent phenomenon. In fact, before the advent of the internet, TV, or radio — markets were very much hyperlocal in nature.

However, with today’s technology, marketing to micro areas can be done in a much more efficient and impactful way than merely shouting the loudest. With ‘Near me’ Google searches increasing by 500% from 2015 to 2017, this could be a strategy you can’t afford to miss out on. Not only this, but the recent change to the Facebook algorithm means generic blanket marketing campaigns are being trumped by hyperlocal, targeted efforts. Here are the top 3 ways your business can succeed in building local relationships through hyperlocal marketing: 

Hyperlocalize your social media strategy

The world has a staggering 3.03 billion active social media users as of April 2018, with 81% of all small and medium businesses using some kind of social platform. Marketing on social media has become a no-brainer for the vast majority of companies, but few of them are taking advantage of the benefits that adopting a hyperlocal strategy can bring.

Remind consumers of the rich value of their local communities by serving them hyperlocal content through social media channels. Digitalizing the daily smiles and friendly chats that consumers have in their local communities through a hyperlocal social media strategy can help you build relationships and brand trust.

This can be done on Facebook through regularly posting image and video content centered around your store, local employees, happy customers, and points of interest in the area. Facebook is also a great place to get local customer feedback, which builds trust between you and the target audience, like the guys at Five Guys did.

With Instagram, you can post updates to an event on your story, tagging local influencers involved and the location where it’s being held — which extends your reach to other people browsing content in the same area. Instagram’s ads are highly visible, with the potential to receive a lot of interaction when targeted properly. 

Tell local stories

It’s no secret that people identify with stories that have real people behind them, rather than just blanketed, soulless marketing messages. The effect of this is intensified further when those stories are hyperlocal, and could easily have come from anyone in your community. Hyperlocal marketing allows the consumer to feel like they’re buying into the personal. Take a look at gym franchise Orangetheory, which does a great job of showcasing users’ fitness testimonials in local settings on their Instagram, which keeps people engaged and localizes their marketing strategy.

Instagram stories serve the storytelling purpose perfectly, along with Instagram and Facebook Live videos, which are watched 3x more than traditional videos. Tweetstorms also work great for longer stories — where the account posts a series of tweets that consumers can follow with anticipation, often aided by including the same hashtag.

Go out and engage

Active hyperlocal marketing strategies that add value to their communities by engaging with local people are a sure fire way to build meaningful relationships with your target consumers. Just think about how much more memorable a brand is once you engage with it in a real-life way, while it’s doing something memorable in your community. By activating your employees to reach out to the community, your business can get people more than just digitally engaged with your brand.

Just look at the success of Sensodyne’s London event where it offered the public dental checks, the chance to play games, and photo opportunities with Tower Bridge as a backdrop — 232 people participated in a world record attempt, 600 goody bags were distributed, and the brand received 150 mentions, giving them a reach on social media of over 4,000,000.

Run events, or sponsor those already going on, and make sure to market these on your social media accounts, keeping your omnichannel approach seamless. Furthermore, 65% of consumers say that live events and demonstrations help them understand a product better than a standard commercial method — ultimately promising more sales.

With all this in mind, the many benefits that hyperlocal marketing can bring — not least relationship building and brand engagement — make it a strategy for success that your business can’t afford to miss. By framing your brand image around its local impact and local people, a culture of trust and loyalty can evolve between you, your employees, and your consumers.

-by Andreas F├╝chsel
Courtesy of MarTechSeries

Want your new iPhone or iPad delivered tomorrow? Try Amazon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Amazon to start selling Apple products.

Amazon has made a deal with Apple that will see the Cupertino tech company sell its products — including iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches — directly on Amazon, according to a report from CNET.

Amazon has sold Apple products before, but those have been from third-party sellers, which means that the prices are often variable (and wildly different from the “official” Apple prices) and that sourcing isn’t as reputable.

Apple products will start rolling out on Amazon sites in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, and India over the next few weeks, including both Apple’s devices and those sold under the Apple-owned Beats brand. The deal doesn’t include every Apple product, though. For example, Apple’s Echo-competing HomePod is notably not going to be sold on Amazon.

In a statement released to The Verge, an Amazon spokesperson commented, “Amazon is constantly working to enhance the customer experience, and one of the ways we do this is by increasing selection of the products we know customers want. We look forward to expanding our assortment of Apple and Beats products globally.”

As part of the deal, only Apple or Apple-authorized resellers will now be allowed to sell Apple and Beats devices through Amazon’s site. Any companies that are currently selling Apple products on Amazon will see their listings taken down starting on January 4th, and they’ll need to apply to Apple to become official resellers before they’ll be allowed to sell them again on Amazon.

Alphabet Inc's Google pulled its video streaming app YouTube from two Amazon devices last year because of several complaints against the online retailer, including its decision not to sell some of Google's products. Amazon now carries the Apple TV, but only after it became compatible with Amazon's Prime Video.

"We’re working with Amazon to improve the experience for Apple customers on their site and we look forward to those customers having another great way to buy iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac and more," Apple said in a statement.

About 71% of Apple's sales in fiscal 2018, ended in September, were through indirect distribution channels like Amazon. – Reuters

Malware starting to appear in WordPress plugins

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A set of three popular WordPress plugins were discovered to have malicious code in recent updates. Eric Karkovack writes about this newer avenue for hackers and how the industry needs to respond to ensure designers and developers can safely use plugins in their designs.