Why Your Website Redesign Will Fail To Lift Sales Much (And What To Do Instead)

May 25, 2015

website redesign 2

Planning on a website redesign soon? Hoping it will finally get the sales or leads you’ve been hoping for?

I’ve got some disappointing news for you. Unfortunately, most website redesigns don’t work as well as planned and have barely any impact on sales or leads, and some even have negative effects.

In fact, a recent HubSpot.com study found 68 percent of marketers did a site redesign in the last 12 months – but 1/3 were unhappy with the results.

And you really don’t want to waste an average of $ 55,000 dollars on a failed website redesign do you? (as the same study also determined the average redesign cost to be).

If you are small business with limited internal expertise, this is particularly important for you.

Here are the most common reasons why website redesigns fail, and what to do instead to ensure greatest success for improving sales or leads.

Why your new site redesign will fail to lift sales or leads much

Regardless of the potential lost traffic impact from effect on search engine optimization (which can often be a nightmare when redesigning a website), there are many other reasons why your proposed redesign will fail to increase sales or leads very much.

1: The major reason is that too much is changed at once. Some of your redesign changes will be positive, but unfortunately some will be negative. So the impact of the better changes will be outweighed by your poor changes. And without A/B testing, you won’t know easily the exact things that caused a positive or negative impact on sales or leads generated. For example, your new signup flow might be much better, but your new homepage headline or call-to-action button might not be converting as well as before.

website redesign conversion impact

2: Too little feedback gathered from visitors. If you haven’t got enough feedback from your audience on your existing website and proposed design mockups, your visitors are going to leave in droves. This is what happened with a recent bad redesign of MarksAndSpencer.com – while the site looked fantastic, it was too modern and many visitors didn’t understand how to use it properly, causing a big drop online sales.

Ideally you need to initially spend several weeks getting in-depth feedback from visitors and usability sessions (UserTesting.com is excellent for this), and then involve them at every stage of the redesign process. A key part of this is creating major visitor use cases and making sure your proposed redesign can easily solve those main visitor needs.

3: Poor use of web analytics to gain performance insights. Many redesigns aren’t powered using web analytics insights, so in a sense, are essentially blinded by not knowing what’s performing badly and their current website performance. To prevent this, ensure you do a complete audit of your current site performance (using key success metrics like total conversion rate, and knowing your worst performing entry pages and your checkout flow abandonment rate). This benchmark is essential for determining the success of any content your are launching or redesigning.

And no, a lower homepage bounce rate doesn’t equate to redesign success – a higher website conversion rate is key (amount of visitors divided by sales/leads, times by 100).

4: Website designers aren’t experts in conversion. Website and UX designers are visual experts can create great looking websites, with gorgeous color schemes and sizzling imagery. But unfortunately very few of them also know how to design a website that ensures highest conversion rates (and why should they? its very hard for them to be trained and experts in web analytics, marketing and conversion rate optimization best practices).

While its really important to get a good designer to create a compelling and stylish website, you really need to also involve some conversion rate optimization experts – either internally if you are lucky enough to have them, or from experts in the industry (look no further than experts like myself, Brian Massey, Peep Laja, Chris Goward, Bryan Eisenberg, and Tim Ash).

5: Redesign processes often take much too long. Many website redesign projects don’t launch on time or never even get finished – the same report from HubSpot.com found that this was the case with 49 percent of website redesigns. And many take so long that by the time they are launched, it quickly will get out of date again. Using an incremental approach to evolve and improve your website over time is much better (as we will discuss shortly) – and remember your website is never truly finished!

6: Too many chefs in the redesign kitchen. Its really frustrating being in many redesign meetings, with too many people thinking they know what’s best for the redesign. Marketers often clash with designers, who often both clash with senior management (the HiPPOs), with often little being resolved/decided. Ultimately though, its only your visitors who know what will best convert them into sales or leads! That’s why it’s vital to involve them as early and often as possible.

7: You won’t be able to easily roll back to your old site if the new one performs badly. Sometimes website redesign will work so poorly, that sales or leads will actually DECREASE, even with the same amount of traffic. You may be tempted to quickly flip the switch and restore your old version – but this often much harder to do that it seems. And it will also confuse your visitors, making your business look a bit foolish. An incremental, A/B testing approach will make this much easier to manage and roll-back poor performing new pages or features.

Go for incremental, feedback, and analytics-based website improvements instead!

So those are the main reasons why your new website redesign won’t work that well. But what’s the solution? I have alluded to it above, but essentially you need to use an incremental, A/B testing, research and analytics-based website improvements instead of full website redesigns. Here are the main components of this, and why it works so well:

  • Instead of launching major website redesigns once every 2-3 years, go for more frequent but smaller highly-performing changes instead (2-5 changes per month). This allows for continual website improvement, rather than hedging your bets on the success of a full major redesign.
  • For these smaller incremental changes, using A/B testing is essential to find out which versions convert more of your visitors into sales or leads. Never just launch a new page or feature on your website without A/B testing it first to find the best variation. You can then use the learnings from your test results and apply them to future improvement tests.
  • By using your web analytics tool, figure out which pages/elements of your website need optimizing or redesigning first – rather than just trying to improve everything at once. For example, your product pages may already be converting well, but your homepage or your navigation menu may not be.
  • Involve your website visitors feedback early and continually while making these smaller improvements to your website. For every proposed change you want to make, get visitor feedback from a service like UserTesting.com or FeedbackArmy.com, or run your own usability studies. Make sure they can easily complete common tasks and your major use cases for all proposed new webpage changes.
  • Rather than do full page redesigns, first create some simple test landing pages to gather some insights and feedback from your visitors. This is particularly great for testing improving wording and headlines that you are considering launching with. You can also use them to test and gather feedback about proposed new color schemes too.
  • Get some other great insights for the small incremental changes by frequently checking what your competitor websites have recently launched. Not just design-wise, but also new content, and promotions and they have added.
  • And lastly, educate your internal teams and senior management on the benefits of this incremental approach, rather than doing big website redesigns. Doing this will mean less barriers to getting these changes done quickly – and make you look like a hero! In particular, mention the big saving on revenue and time, and the much greater efficiency of it.

Also, don’t forget about the potential big negative impact of search engine ranking changes for your redesign too (a whole other discussion) and this is a great guide on SEO redesign considerations. You obviously want to ensure that you keep your same traffic SEO traffic levels, as well as increase conversions!

Now over to you… what are your redesign success/horror stories?

Let’s hear and discuss some of your website redesign success stories…and horror stories! Please comment below so we can all learn and inspire each other. Thanks!

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