13 of the biggest redesign mistakes.

The 13 Biggest Redesign Mistakes

Since we’re redesigning our website (promise, it’s coming soon!) we’ve been doing quite a bit of research about the best way to redesign.

But often, like in many things, sometimes the best way to do the right things is to avoid doing the wrong things.

13 of the biggest website redesign mistakes.

1. Changing domain names.

Often I get questions from clients about changing domain names. Unless you have virtually no traffic to your website, changing domain names means you are ‘starting over’ – as in starting Internet marketing over again. Let’s say that again: you change your domain name, much of the trust you have built up with search engines (and visitors, too!) is gone. Read this article on the Google Sandbox to see why.

2. Not doing your redirects.

If you’re not techno-savvy, this means nothing to you, so let’s see if there’s a simple way to explain it.

Google has your website, and PAGES, ranked. If you change the address of your pages (which is what happens when you redesign), Google has to reindex your pages. But if you do a 301 redirect, you’re golden.

Doing a 301 redirect (which is a ‘permanent redirect’, meaning “Hey Google, use THIS page instead of the OLD page, forevermore) means you’ll preserve that ranking goodness. You can also use a ‘temporary’ redirect (a 302 redirect) as an intermediary step, and when the old pages are no longer ranked (and your new ones are), you switch the 302 to a 301 and you’re done.

3. Designing in Flash.

Well, we’ve waited, and waited, but it seems the Flash problem is just not going to go away. Using Flash means not being able to be easily ranked. Search engines look at text as ‘Google Food’, so if you use Flash, engines can’t read the text, and you’ve kinda defeated the whole purpose of Internet marketing.

4. Having duplicate content.

No-no! Having duplicate content is a big no-no. Duplicate content means you’re either a spammer, a copyright infringer, or lazy (even if you aren’t). The bottom line is at the very least, duplicate content will only be ranked on ONE page, and it might not be yours (if you’re getting the content from another website).

5. Dropping old articles or page content.

Sometimes you can take spring cleaning too far. If you have an old article that you ‘no longer need’, do yourself a favor: keep the page, 301 redirect it to the new page that has that information.

Why is this important? Well, older pages are often ranked better, they’re ‘established’ in the rankings. That means traffic. So if you drop the page, there goes the traffic! Much better to redirect visitors to the new, improved related content, don’t you think?

But what if you took a page and distributed the text amongst 5 various pages? Take the old page, put 5 links into the old content page (in the appropriate places) and drive the visitors to those 5 pages. Much more effective than redirecting to just one page that has only 1/5th of the correct content.

6. CMS – great for design and updates, lousy for URL rewrites.

CMS means Content Management System. This means they’re easy to setup, update, expand, and get running. But often, that also means ugly URLs. That means this:

  • www.yoursite.com/category/section/topic.html

Is much easier to read than this:

  • www.yoursite.com/sources?id=21709418&pdr=20100416-20100516&cmp=average#lts=1274108662449

It’s not only easier for engines to read (and therefore rank) but also easier for humans. Remember, you’re trying to please both camps, here.

7. CMS – inability to change <Title> tags.

With the most important facet of your page + easiest to modify and correct (in terms of Internet marketing), if your CMS system doesn’t allow you to change your <title> tag, perhaps you should look for another CMS system – they’re not in it to win it, as it were.

Confused about what a title tag is? Well, do you know all those blue TITLES that you get when you do a Google search? That’s the Title tag.

Try something: right click on this page and say ‘show view source’ (or whatever the equivalent is in your browser). Look for this:

  • <title>13 of the biggest redesign mistakes. | Think Around Corners</title>

8. Designing too fast.

We’ve learned from experience (every time, it seems) that if you go too fast, you’re not working efficiently. This goes both for how MUCH you redesign as well as how FAST you redesign.

Our rule is that if more than 5 significant things need to be fixed, then you can fix them.

  • If you fix every time you seem something, you’ll spend a lot of time ‘patching’ things up and your site look and feel will suffer (your site might very well look ‘patchy’).
  • If you wait until there are more than 15 things, you’re going to change too fast, and if something goes wrong, you won’t know why. That means hours and hours of additional ‘fixing’, which will drive you mad.

You must be the judge.

9. No search function (or a bad one)

Every website must have a search function. Period. I don’t care if it’s a 10 page site. I want something, I search for it on your website. I rarely scroll anymore on pages even, I just hit Control-F and keep searching. Many people do this.

Make sure that your search function on your site is…

  • Simple to use – one text box to enter a search term, THEN a button that says, “Search” – not GO, or GET IT! or anything else. “Search”.
  • Displays results well – with each result bulleted or ‘parsed’ in some way, the Title of the page visible, and a smidge of description underneath the title. Basically, take Google’s hint at how they display THEIR results. It should be that easy.
  • Don’t have a search button? Here’s one for free!

10. Spelling mistakes – both words and sentence structure.

Text spelling mistakes. Nothing says you’re an idiot like “pselling” mistakes. It just pops out at you, like from the last sentence, right? I am, by the way, an idiot, so don’t feel too bad – I often am churning up so much content weekly that I don’t want to read back and see if the text flows.

  • Take the time to spell check your stuff. No one is going to invest in you if you can’t get that right.

Redesign often means splicing paragraphs and moving them around. When you do, don’t just copy/paste text from one paragraph into another. Read the new paragraphs and make sure the text flows. Spell checkers don’t catch that stuff, so you gotta do it by hand. The rule of idiot applies to this, too, so make sure you get it right. Again, no one is going to hire you if you can’t lay out paragraphs like a 5 year old.

  • Check for paragraph ‘grafting’ mistakes.

11. Visited links and hover principles.

My own site (as you’re reading this) has problems with this. It’s one of the things that we’re definitely approaching in our new redesign. Here’s our rules:

  • When you scan a ton of text, they should pop out at you.
  • Underline the link by default.
  • Change color, remove underline, or at least SOMETHING when you hover.
  • When you’ve visited a page, the color changes for the link.
  • Don’t get tricky. A steering wheel or blender should not be tricky – nor should navigation on websites.
  • Check 3 screens and make sure the contrast is good on all three.

That’s it. No so hard, is it?

12. Not doing user testing.

You'll notice how easy usability testing reveals problems.

We’ve talked a ton about user testing, and then some more, so we won’t regurgitate. But you should have real-live humans in a single-blind test to make sure people are getting your navigation and overall design. If you don’t, you’ll lose thousands of dollars each year. It takes 4 hours and 5 people, and will probably cost you nothing. So do it

13. Page clutter.

Page clutter is the most difficult thing to fix (at least it is for us). We’ve talked about keeping things simple before. Here are some good tips to follow.

  • Each page should convey one concept or principle. If you’re talking about too many things, break it up.
  • Each page should not have a solid block of text more than 7 lines across the page.
  • Break up the page with nice images.
  • Reduce the number of hyperlinks off that page.
  • Using H2, H3, and H4 tags are your friend. Here is an example page of quite a bit of text that’s fairly easy to digest.

Bonus mistake: Stock photos.

Don’t use stock photos. Nothing says “I don’t care” like not getting your own photos shot. Plus, stock photos often don’t convey the same impact. When you use REAL employees, under REAL situations, it builds trust. When you use stock photos, especially of people, it just looks lame.

In conclusion…

Redesign takes time, and a certain pacing. When you redesign, make sure that you don’t lose your rankings or visitors along the way!

Much of redesign is pretty intuitive, but remember: the goal of a redesign is to make the website more functional for both search engine robots AND humans. Both are important in the long-term view of profits!

Greg Cox

Analytics Geek. Gregory likes Motorcycles, Cooking, and Sciencey stuff.