It’s a good idea to have a rethink of your website at least every six months. Ask yourself what’s working? Are you making your people aware of all you offer? Is your website still current and up-to-date? For example, we build websites but did you know we also design logos? That’s something we probably don't promote enough. Your business probably offers more than one service or product, so make sure your website shows this in the best possible light in a way that people can easily access.
Rebuild, redesign, or just change a few bits?
You may not need to rebuild your website from scratch, it’s a lot of work and should only be undertaken if you need to.
You might just need to rethink the design and add or remove some features. Like adding an online shop or removing something that’s no longer used or slowing down the website.
If there’s something new your offering you’ll want to give it more prominence, like a new section devoted to it, put something big and bold on your home page and make sure you promote that on social media too!
If you’re changing who you’re selling to, perhaps to an older or younger, or for a higher-end audience, then you may want to redesign the look of your website to appeal to those people. Think about fonts, colours and how complex or simple the design needs to be changed to.
Now, redesigning a website doesn’t mean it has to be rebuilt. If your website is in Drupal or WordPress then all you should need to do is edit or change the theme (this is the group of files that make your website look the way it does) and update the elements within the pages. You may need to get a website designer to help you with this.
Before you start, do some research, how do websites aimed at your new audience look and work? You don’t want to copy exactly and DO NOT COPY THE TEXT because you’ll be sent off Google like a bat out of hell for plagiarism!
But you can emulate them, and develop an idea for the look and feel that you want for the site.
When to rebuild completely
There are only a few reasons you need to completely rebuild your website.
The first is you want your site on a new platform. For example, if your site is in Wix and you now want more control over where your site is hosted on various features you need, so you go to WordPress. There are plugins you can use to export the site to WordPress but this isn’t as reliable as creating the site from scratch and going through creating each page in WordPress individually and checking it all looks and works as it should. It’s tedious but worth it if you don’t want an error somewhere or the layout to be very odd. Unpredictable things happen when websites get converted, so be meticulous with each page!
The second reason you might need to rebuild your website is if there’s an issue with it. Maybe you inherited an unreliable website, it’s been badly hacked and you don’t have access to a backup to restore it from. Sometimes you just want a fresh start which helps you redefine what your website is all about. It’s a drastic thing to do and shouldn't be undertaken lightly.
Lastly, if your website was built in Drupal 7 some years ago you will want to think about either updating to Drupal 9 or converting to WordPress as Drupal 7 stops being supported on the 22nd November and no future updates will be applied. Meaning your Drupal 7 site could become vulnerable and unstable after this date. Rebuilding in Drupal 9 could cost £1,000s and £100s a month to host these days, which will be understandably too expensive for some. As WordPress has moved on a lot in the last few years you might consider rebuilding and redesigning your site into this platform. We can help with this, so if you hear of someone in this situation let us know.
Before you launch your shiny new website
Whether you rebuild or redesign your site, make sure you add redirects where sections and pages are removed or the URLs to those pages (the website address to them: polyspiral.com/this-is-a-url) are changed.
This can be a bit technical, there is a WordPress plugin called Redirects but often this is done in the .htaccess file which we’ll write about in a later article, do contact us if you need any help or advice on this.
The reason this is very important is your site’s pages will be listed in Google, if those URLs change, then those pages that are listed will go nowhere, this is called a 404 error and it will affect your website’s rankings in Google, though they will recover in time.
Get those new pages listed in Google quickly
You should have a sitemap.xml and added to Google Search Console, so that your pages are listed in Google (and Bing too) more about how to do this on another blog.
Remember to reregister your site’s sitemap GSC so that any new pages are quickly listed, although they will be crawled by Google within a few days anyway, if you want to get a headstart it takes 5 minutes to do so worth it.
What to do with your old site while the new one is being built?
Do create a backup of your site and work on it in a development area (sometimes called a Staging area by us website designers) so that any changes you make are not visible to the public or found by Google. You don’t want anything that doesn't yet look or sound right being listed in Google, as bad grammar or obvious errors can cost in search so working on the live site can is a really bad idea! Beware, duplicate content can cost you too, make sure your development site can’t be listed in Google, one way to do this is to add a disallow clause in robots.txt, this might be a bit too technical for some, you can add a maintenance mode plugin to WordPress which will do the same job, but do block any access by Google or the public to protect your brand’s reputation.
Your current (soon-to-be-old-site) needs to stay up! If you take it down or put a holding page up, all those pages that used to go somewhere in Google will vanish and as we mention above when pages disappear or the URLs change this can flag up errors in Google and the listing of your site will drop, any links from other websites including from social media will also go nowhere, which will be disconcerting to people clicking on those links and may lose you enquiries. It’s best to keep your current site running before you launch your new one.
Making your updated website live
Do a soft launch, or in other words a secret launch. You always see errors when you print something out or send an email, annoying, isn’t it? Websites are no different, have the website live for about a week to iron out any issues. Send a few links to friends and people you trust to make sure the site is all tickety-boo then put the word out on social media!