Nerissa — she writes.

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How to know when to rebrand + redesign your website.

A couple weeks ago, I attended a webinar for the Content Management Institute on website rebranding and redesign. It was an apt topic for me because I spent pretty much the whole Christmas break this past year on rebranding and redesigning my own site.

It’s strategy that wins wars… You have to have your website strategy clearly in mind before kicking off any redesign or rebrand project. Know what you want your new website to do.
– Lou Jordano (CMO, Ektron)

What my site looked like before I rebranded and rebuilt
Before: nerissamartin.com

Here’s some points on how I knew it my site needed to be redone. Hopefully something here can help you decide if you need to overhaul your own website, but if not, you’ll find four more reasons to rebrand your site below.

1. I knew I would still have to explain ‘what I do’ to anyone who visited.

While I was building the site, a part of me was getting mentally prepared to explain to people what I did. I knew that visiting the site wouldn’t explain everything right off the bat (hence the site I have now :)). I wanted my site to be all about my blog, so having it front and centre seemed to make sense. But my site wasn’t built to just be a blog, it’s basically the centre of everything I do, so it needed to be more than just a place I could list posts.

Being the core of my business, you would think the ‘About’ section (or information) would be essential. But on my old site it was literally a bunch of images that didn’t really say anything. Talk about a missed opportunity.

2. The bounce rate was ridiculously high, like 99.999%.

This is perhaps the biggest reason I know the redesign worked. After redo, the bounce rate dropped significantly. Granted, my site is more or less one page, but compared to other similar sites, the bounce rate is right where it should be.

Screenshot of my GA dashboard showing (YAY!) decline in bounce rate.

3. The site was inconsistent with who I was / what I did.

I wanted to include everything on the site – I’d gone to school a bunch of times, wrote a book and sang on the side. I wanted the site to have all that stuff in it but after a meeting with Heather, CEO @ HackerYou, I realized that in throwing everything on my site I had made a messaging-mess.

Rebranding gave me the opportunity to think of more creative ways to say what I wanted to. For example, using the typewriter image as the background for the first section. I also thought of blog post ideas and other ways I could use content to talk about music and writing.

4. I knew I would have to rebrand / redesign the site halfway through completing it.

This point speaks more to paying attention to your intuition. While I was building the site, I knew I would have to redo it. By the time this dawned on me I was halfway through, so throwing everything away didn’t even cross my mind.

I figured I would stay on track and that the finished product would be a kind of ‘holding page’ to just have ‘something up there’ until I got a real site. Except it wasn’t. I was spending hours on it, much more time than should have been if its purpose was really only temporary.

Sure I learned some new things and put my fresh HackerYou skills to use, but I was too far deep in building the site to get any perspective. This is where I learned the lesson of having a vision for your site.

A picture of my site on a blog post on my site. Very meta.
After: nerissamartin.com
Do You Need To Rebrand / Redesign Your Website?

I’m going to resist the urge to find every outdated / ugly site online and just post links with a full description of what they’re doing wrong. We’ve all seen a site that could use a refresh; doing that would be what the kids call “a read”. So here are four more reasons you may need to rebrand or redesign your site:

1. Your site was built more than three years ago and hasn’t been touched ever since.

A lot has happened in web development over the last few years. If you’re website is more than three years old and it hasn’t been updated, it’s time to look at how those developments can get you paid.

2. Your business has gone through some major changes.

Is there stuff on your site that is no longer relevant to you or your business? Do customers continually ask you for products or expect certain things because they ‘saw it online’? The solution is simple: update your site!

Use the opportunity to educate your current / potential customers and clients about your business. You’ll spend less time answering questions and more time making money.

3. You’re getting not-so-great feedback about the site, its features and / or functions.

If you’re getting unsolicited feedback on your site, consider it a gift. Most of the time visitors to your site will keep their [sometimes very valuable] opinions to themselves. But they’ve got insights, those silent witnesses. They have reactions to the way your site looks and how it works, and this information is probably exactly what you need to improve UI / UX.

Why not ask someone their opinion of your site, or send out a survey to a select group of customers / clients? Think of it as an opportunity to build a relationship and be prepared to offer them something in return.

Lorem ipsum stock image website.
Still got that lorem ipsum text and stock images up on your site? Then it might be time to redesign.

4. You want to, or are getting ready to, rebrand your business.

You’re lucky if you’re getting ready to make some changes to your business. Your website hasn’t been re-touched yet so in some ways you and your business are “starting fresh”.

While you’re considering rebranding your business, think about ways you could potentially update your website. You might want to reach out to a content marketing or development expert to ask about potential opportunities to update your site in a way that will be consistent with your new brand.

Conclusion

Websites are never finished only abandoned. You and your developer could spend the rest of your lives redesigning, rebranding, retooling, rewriting.

Having some guidelines can help you and your team decide how updates should be made, if they should be made. On a basic level, the changes to your site should follow the flow of your business. Rebrand your site if and when your business changes or people important to your business are telling you a redo is needed.

Five Steps to Building a Vision for your Website.

A recent conversation I had with a client about their website really sums up this post nicely.

They said: “I’d like something simple, just a page with my name and contact information.”

I nodded. More information almost always follows that sentence, so I waited for it.

“Then I want to be able to take orders online, maybe in the next six months or so.”

How will your website grow with your business?

Having a website is kind of like building a house. Maybe at first you just need the basics: a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. But what do you do if you decide to have a family? And how will that house change as your family grows?

Most people would just buy a new house, which is where this analogy kind of fails, but your website should grow with your business. Just like you could build additions and new features on to your house, you could add pages, features and functions to your website.

Before you hire a developer or buy a template to fill in keep in mind what you want for your business, your website and how you’re going to talk to customers and clients online.

Maybe eventually you’ll want to take orders online like my client. Or maybe you want to build a community or sub-community within your industry, or have a huge list of subscribers.

If you’ve got big dreams for your business, that “basic” page might not cut it in a year or two.

The point is this: Have a vision for your website, one that matches the vision you have for your business.

Even if you already have a site, there’s no harm in reviewing it against your vision for your business.

Once you have that vision, you or your developer can start to plan the actual site (or the changes). Your vision will impact everything that goes into development.

As promised, here are the five steps:

1. Think about yourself + your business. First.

  • Where do you see your business in five / 10 / 15 years?
  • Will the website need to “do” anything to support your business vision? Like take orders, track return visitors or take subscriber information?
  • How much time do you have to devote to a website? Will you make all updates or will you need some help?
  • Should the website look, feel and sound like you?

2. Think about your current + potential clients.

  • How long does it take between initial contact to a client making a purchase? Or is this even a thought?
  • Are you already connected with some clients and customers online?
  • How tech-savvy are they?
  • Can you sell products online or is your business local?
  • How much time will your audience spend on your site?
  • After they purchase your product or service, do you want clients to come back to your site? Or will they do this anyway?

3. Hunt for inspiration.

  • Look online for sites that you think are cool and imagine your website looking like theirs.
  • Bookmark anything you find that you like or think you might want for your own site. The sky is the limit (for now*)!
  • Taking a look at what your competition is doing will tell you what your potential clients expect when it comes to their experience.
  • For inspiration I usually start at awwwards and themeforest.

4. Explore all your options.

  • Talk to your friendly, neighbourhood web developer.
  • Take a quick look at what goes into build a site.
  • Explore your options, including services like Wix.
  • Think about your vision before paying a deposit or entering credit card information. You don’t want to buy something that might not work for you in the future.

5. Get on social media.

  • This post by Onboardly outlines some of the most popular platforms and can help you figure out where your audience is right now.
  • Not only will connecting over social media help build your audience when your site goes live, it will also give you ideas on topics to cover for your content.

*Don’t get attached to anything you see online and that you think will work for you. Once you start learning about web development and talking to developers you’ll soon find out there’s a lot more behind all that cool stuff you see online. While the world (wide web – sorry, it was right there!) is your oyster, you do want to be discerning when it comes to what will work FOR YOU and your business.

Ok, go! Build your vision and watch this space: my next blog post will cover what to do once your site is live.