It's Time for a Redesign: 6 Tips to Fix a Cluttered Website

Last Updated Oct 7, 2011 1:07 PM EDT

When you first built your company website you had a primary goal in mind. Maybe you hoped to better market your business. Maybe you hoped to enhance your professional credibility and standing in your industry. Maybe you just wanted a website because everyone else had one and you didn't want to get left behind.

Yes. It's the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
Regardless of the type of business you run, you built a website because you hoped it would help you sell stuff: products, services, or even just yourself. Clean, simple, to the point.

Then, over time, like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man your website took on a life of its own.

You added a blog because every business needs a blog, right? (Maybe not.) You added lots of images to make your design more dynamic. You expanded your About Us page without thinking about what potential customers want to know. You added videos because videos are cool and maybe if you create a video of an iPad in a blender it might go viral. You realized your home page gets more traffic than any other page so you started adding additional services, features, explanations, products... it's hard to attract eyeballs, so when you do why waste them, right?

Somewhere in the race to add fashion-forward design elements and features and applications your objectives got lost. While your intentions were good, the end result no longer meets your business goals.

Take a look at your website and tell me I'm wrong.

Don't feel bad. Most websites eventually go astray. Largely that happens because most of us run businesses; we're not designers or programmers or SEO experts. So we get input, think, "Well, that sounds good..." and have changes made. But unlike a direct-response ad that doesn't pull, our websites just sit there chugging along so we forget to evaluate their success in meeting our goals.

Websites become a weird existential tool that just "is": Out of sight, out of mind, no longer meeting goals.

So let's fix it. Here are some basic steps:
  1. Don't look at your website for a week. Creating a little "distance" will help you evaluate it more objectively. In the meantime...
  2. Re-establish your primary goals. Do you want to sell products or services? Book more speaking events? Provide information that reassures potential clients you are right for their needs? Provide helpful information or instructional material for current customers? Create your main marketing platform? Rank your goals in order of priority; a website that tries to accomplish everything does almost nothing well.
  3. Test your home page. Type in your home page address, click enter, close your eyes to let it load fully, and open your eyes. Is there a "first thing" you see, or is your design cluttered and unfocused? New visitors should almost instantly know exactly what you do and how they can benefit from what you do. (Don't expect them to linger and figure it out. They won't.) Does the first thing you see help you achieve your primary goal? If not, it's redesign time.
  4. Then look closely at your navigation structure. Pretend you're the typical client; is it easy to find what you want, or do you need to "know" the site to navigate it easily? As you added sections and pages it's likely your navigation structure suffered. Clean it up.
  5. Now check out sub-pages. Each should have its own primary goal: Explain a service, sell a product, provide information... make sure sub-pages are highly specific and focused. If a sub-page tries to achieve more than one overall objective, break it down into several sub-pages. Not only will that improve user satisfaction but SEO as well.
  6. Finally, check out your Contact and About Us pages. A large percentage of potential customers want to know about the people behind the business; make sure your About Us page establishes credibility and rapport. Then make sure your Contact page provides complete information and doesn't make contacting you difficult.
Once you're done... you're not really done. Evaluate the impact of your changes. Setting goals is great, but without a way to measure progress goals become meaningless. Your website should support and help you meet your goals -- otherwise, it just "is."

Related: Photo courtesy Columbia Pictures
  • Jeff Haden On Twitter»

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    Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business from managing a 250-employee book manufacturing plant. Everything else he picked up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest CEOs and leaders in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon's bestseller list. Follow him on Twitter at @Jeff_Haden.

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