How to Approach a Website Design or Redesign

Alicia PavignanoOnce you have made the decision to design a new website or redesign your current website, there are a number of things you need to consider.  Perhaps,  the very first question you should ask is, why are you designing or redesigning your website? Is it because your goals are not being met?  Does your  current site look outdated or are you just entering the digital media arena?  Whatever the reason, you have taken the first step in the process and it’s  time to put together a strategy for your website design or redesign.  With a new website on the horizon, you need to determine what you hope it will help  you accomplish.  You should have  a clear outline of your goals and most importantly, these goals should be measurable.  In addition to having clearly defined goals, you’ll want to decide who your target audience is.  Are you looking to gain more leisure travelers, business travelers or do you want to go after group business and reach meeting and event planners?  When you understand who your audience is, it will help in the planning stage when you are working on the site map and content for the site.  When designing your website you will always want to take a look at your top competitors and what they are doing to attract customers.  You’ll also want to determine what sets you apart from your competition and capitalize on that feature.  What is it that you offer that they can’t or don’t.  Make that a focal point of your website.  If your competitors have websites, take a look at them.  You may find aspects of their designs that you’ll want to incorporate in your design.  Of course, you’ll probably find features that you don’t like as well.  It always helps to see what others in your marketplace are doing.

When you have answered these important questions and developed a strategy, you’ll want to begin the planning stage and then execute your plan in the design stage.  The first and most important piece of the planning puzzle is your budget.  Once you know what you have to spend, all of the other pieces fall into place.  If you currently have a website that you are redesigning then you’ll want to take a good look at it to determine what you like and dislike about the site.  There may be certain aspects that you want to keep, while eliminating others.  Perhaps you are missing certain features on your site, like a booking widget on all pages or certain content about your property.  For example, you may have certified wedding planners on-site, however you have not promoted that on your website.  When looking at your website, you’ll not only want to examine the visual appeal, but also any previous reports that show which of your web pages is receiving the most traffic.  Based on your traffic and revenue reports, you’ll also be able to see if your current site is meeting your goals.  At the planning stage it is important to answer these questions before deciding  the make up of your new site, which is your site map.  The site map includes what pages are going to make up the main navigation of the site, as well as the secondary navigation items.   Your navigation headings should be catchy, but also written with search engine optimization in mind.  You want them to convey the content of the page, but also be phrases that customers are most likely to search.  When choosing the navigation and sub navigation you can decide if there is certain content that needs to be added or removed from the current site that can be removed.  For a brand new site, you’re working with a clean slate, so you will need to determine what is important for your business and what message you want to convey to your customers.  Be sure your content is fresh, descriptive, concise and has an appealing format.  You don’t want to bore your customers.

Once your plan is in place, the design phase begins.  If there are designs you have seen that appeal to you then pull some ideas from them.  You can pull from different websites to create your own unique design.  Some key factors to look at are the navigation, the photography, the layout of the text and the placement of a booking widget.  In addition, you will have to decide on your color scheme and have logos and good photography available.  If your photography is not the best, and you are able to have new photos taken, it is highly recommended.  Many of today’s websites, focus on large visuals as a key element in the appeal of the site and that’s really what the customer wants to see.

It is very exciting to see your strategy and plans come to life when your new website goes live.  However, the work doesn’t stop once you go live.  If you want your site to have a positive impact on your business, then you must keep the site up to date with new content, monitor its performance and make changes and updates when necessary.