An active online presence is a necessity for most every company, but that presence must also be complimented with an eye-catching and user-friendly design. When you’ve decided that it’s time to give your website a face-lift, take a step back and answer a few questions before approaching web design firms.
You must first determine why you’ve chosen to redesign your website.  Is the design outdated?  Is it uninviting? Is it packed with Flash® (that hinders the viewing experience on an iPhone)? Would you like it to be more search engine friendly?

You might also make a list of what doesn’t work on your site.  Aside from 404 errors, you’ll need to look at what parts of your site aren’t getting visited.  An easy way to determine what is and is not receiving traffic from site visitors is to look at your content management system’s analytics.  The analytics will show you where the visitors are coming from, how long they’re staying on your site, which pages people are visiting the most, and which pages aren’t receiving much attention.

Make a list of the pages with low visits and determine why people aren’t staying on longer.  Do you need to re-write your marketing copy?  Is the approach too sales-y?  Is the content too long or too short?  Put yourself in a potential client’s shoes and ask yourself: “Is this effective?”

You may also want to seek the help of a professional to determine if your current copy will resonate with visitors and to give your company tips on approaching potential clients in a more effective way.
You’ll also need to take into account how soon you need your site designed.  For example, you’re heading to a tradeshow and want your homepage to look sleek as people explore your company after meeting you.  If your desired outcome requires an entire overhaul, they can take months.  If you simply need your homepage redesigned quickly, speak with the design firm about “re-skinning” your homepage.  This just means that your homepage will be redesigned and implemented while the rest of your site stays in the previous version until all of the pages are designed to match.  It’s a temporary fix but effective in inviting site visitors to explore the rest of your site.

Be aware of companies that promise to design your site quickly.  Sites with accurate meta information and robust usability are done so with a strategic approach and to be done correctly takes time to ensure all “i’s” are dotted and “t’s” are crossed throughout the site.

Compile a wish list to bring to your first meeting with the design firm; this will give you an opportunity to make sure both parties are on the same page.  The web design firm may also give you ideas to help enhance the site for optimal usability and search engine optimization.  The firm will also be able to walk you through the transition process from your old website to launching your new website.  It is imperative to work with a company that has both talented designers and SEO experts – without a search engine optimized website, you will lose a vast majority of potential clients who are searching online for the product or service you offer.

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