July 21, 2009
How To

Efficient Website Redesigns: 6 Tactics to Guide Your Process

SUMMARY: A website redesign is a heavy load for a marketing team, especially if you don’t have much wiggle room in your budget and launch schedule. The solution is to make the process as efficient and effective as possible.

See how a marketer in charge of redesigning the websites of dozens of his company’s brands streamlined the process. He shares six tactics for:
o Researching potential improvements
o Prioritizing goals
o Avoiding problems that will slow down a launch

When Bert DuMars, VP E-Business, Newell Rubbermaid, joined the global consumer and commercial products manufacturer in July 2007, he was tasked with building an online platform for all the company’s brand websites. Since then, his team has helped Newell Rubbermaid’s approximately 35 brands -- including Sharpie, Paper Mate and Lenox -- redesign their websites and migrate to the new platform.

The process of creating a corporate Web platform and revamping the company’s websites has made DuMars a redesign expert. He’s developed a well-tested system to avoid wasting time and money, while identifying the most important potential improvements.

We asked DuMars to share the tactics he uses to expedite assessing, planning and redesigning Newell Rubbermaid’s websites. He also shared common snags his team encountered, and how they avoided them.

Tactic #1. Get user feedback from online surveys

The team uses an online exit survey to gather customer data for up to year before starting a redesign.

The survey software randomly selects which visitors receive a survey request, and which page triggers the request. Users can agree to take the survey or decline, and they are not asked to take it again for another 90 days.

The survey asks customers to grade the site’s key features:
o Navigation
o Search
o Content
o Graphics

The team also asks brand-specific questions to gauge whether the site is portraying the correct image to customers.

For example, a survey for Sharpie, a brand of permanent markers, asked visitors if they found the site fun, innovative or interesting. Those are key attributes that DuMars’ team needed to have associated with the brand.

They also gather data on why customers are coming to the site, what they’re expecting to see there, and if they’ve enjoyed their experience.

Additional survey tips:

- Always include this key qualitative question: "Would you recommend this site to others?"

"It is one of the truest forms of customer satisfaction," DuMars says. "If you’re willing to recommend the site to a friend or family member, then you’re probably feeling pretty strongly about the website and you probably had a good experience."

- Keep it simple

"We had one survey at Sharpie.com that had over 40 questions. And that’s a lot," DuMars says. "Typically, you want to keep it down to 15, 20, max, and make it as simple as possible for the customer to respond."

Tactic #2. Analyze click-stream data

Customers’ opinions are not always completely aligned with their actions. As a result, you want to make sure you use a web analytics package that lets you track:
o What customers are doing on the site
o What causes them to leave
o Whether they are completing tasks before leaving

But the two sources of data go hand-in-hand: Using only customer survey data or only click stream data to redesign a site is likely to provide less than optimal results. Click stream data is unable to gauge customers’ opinions, and surveys are less able to definitively identify a website’s architectural problems.

Save resources by gathering as much data as possible, which will help you get a redesign right the first time.

Tactic #3. Work from a well-defined brand strategy

Make sure the brand’s strategy is fully updated and agreed upon before starting a website redesign. Online surveys and click-stream data can reveal information about your customers that was not previously available, and might be tempting to incorporate into your brand’s strategic research.

However, resist the urge to simultaneously update your brand’s strategy and your website. That approach is a recipe for wasted time, DuMars says. A site feature may be added or adjusted, only require a readjustment after further brand tinkering.

Tactic #4. Assign at least one in-house person to oversee the project

A website overhaul is a lot of work, and you need an internal team member -- not just a project manager from an outside agency -- completely devoted to the task.

Having a point-person to serve as the intermediary between the marketing team, IT staff, and other participants makes the redesign go "so much smoother and faster," DuMars says.

This can be tough for marketing departments under additional strain this year, but it is the most efficient way to get the job done right.

Tactic #5. Focus redesign on improving common problems

Once you have data on your customers’ actions and opinions, you want to analyze the results to uncover specific areas that the redesign must address.

Two areas in which DuMars often sees room for improvement:

- Site search

"[Search] is one that will usually knock you out in terms of customer satisfaction," he says. "If your search doesn’t work well, the customer will have a bad experience."

One way to uncover the effectiveness of your site’s search tool is to monitor how often visitors click on the first search result. If they’re not clicking on the first link of a search results page, or if they’re doing several searches in a row for similar terms, then the tool is likely not doing its job well enough.

- Customer support

The team added more tools to their brands’ websites to help customers more quickly find the information they needed, and to decrease the volume of calls and emails to customer service. This, in turn, helps increase customer satisfaction.

In the past, the company’s customer support pages usually had a contact form, an email address, and an 800-number to reach customer service. Now, the team is adding what DuMars calls an "intelligent FAQ," which allows customers to type in questions and refine their results to get the answers they need.

"Typically, it helps a consumer find an answer faster than waiting on a phone line or sending an email and waiting for a response," he says.

Tactic #6. Aim to satisfy the majority of visitors

If you keep trying to please everyone, you’ll never finish. There will always be a group of people who do not like your new website.

The key is to please the large majority of your audience, even if there is a vocal minority that is somewhat dissatisfied.

- Focus on solving major problems vs. small aesthetic issues

Pages that fail to load, broken images, broken links, and misspelled words are problems that your team should fix -- especially if customers are complaining about them.

However, there is a difference between technical problems and issues of taste.

"If there is something [visitors] don’t like -- they don’t like the new colors, the new navigation, the new style -- there is often not a lot we can do at that point," DuMars says. "They have an opinion and we made a change and we’ve done the best to we can to make them happy, and if we can’t, we can’t."

- It takes time to overcome visitors’ conditioned navigation habits

Customers become used to old website designs, and some can be miffed that they have to follow a new process to access the same information.

"They probably had about five steps that they went through that navigated right to where they wanted to be," says DuMars. "Now you’ve changed that and there isn’t a lot you can do to change that other than to make the search as easy as possible to use."

Useful links related to this article:

ForeSee Results: Provides the team’s online survey tool

Omniture: Provides the team’s Web analytics package for click stream analysis

RightNow: Provides the team’s customer support tool


Newell Rubbermaid

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