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Did you know that there are more than 800 million websites listed on the world wide web? More than double the number of sites just a short 2 years ago. If yours is more than 3 years old that means about 400 million sites are newer than yours. Yours could be “old school” using outdated technologies and even “old content.” In the last 2 to 3 years alone, Video and Audio have been perfected online, pop-ups are considered outdated and the way sites are scored by search engines has changed considerably. And that’s just the tip of the WEBSITE iceberg!

I started my first website in 1997 – it was only four pages of an online brochure – not a particularly impressive sales tool either. But it was a presence and at the time, my main goal was to have an online presence. In 2000 we moved to a more expansive online brochure (some 40 pages of product offerings) and yet we didn’t go all the way. No eCommerce platform. People still had to call us to place an order. In 2003 we started adding content to our website. Things like testimonials, articles, tips, contests and a shopping cart system. In 2005 we added a media room and wedding area. Today we are working on adding video, audio and really looking at a whole new redesign. It’s time.

My second site was one I used to promote my professional speaking, training and coaching company – Speaking with Spirit. It is being redesigned because my customer base is mostly small businesses so and since most people remember my name and not the name of my business branded Heidi Richards by creating a whole new look at www.HeidiRichards.com.  We kept the other site live for a while to compare traffic results. Once we felt confident that traffic was migrating to our new site we deleted the other site. Remember, TEST, TEST, and TEST again.

My third site is a publishing company which will be redesigned sometime in the coming months, and the fourth site, Women’s eCommerce Association, also has a new name – Women in Ecommerce™ and although we started out with a redesign, when we found it was taking far too long and with the number of changes we were making (to the look, the content and the functionality) we opted to create a whole new site, which is what you see here.  To see one of the first renditions of Women in Ecommerce™ visit the Wayback Machine. We changed designers twice with this project, because the first one did not finish the project – left it after only creating a template – (which was not what we wanted) and did not follow our agreed upon timeline for completion of certain aspects of the site. Another tip: make sure you get good references when working with a designer. See her work, interview her clients. If you want your website done in 3 or 6 months, make sure the designer can meet YOUR deadline! And Get it in writing…

There is definitely a cost involved when you create or re-create one site however we have found it was worth graduating to a more sophisticated program when we started looking at the needs of each of our sites. Knowing that eventually each site would need to be redesigned, we wanted something that didn’t have a home-made look. We wanted them to be designed by a professional and yet still retain the ability to make most changes and additions ourselves.

How about you? What are your plans? If you have a brick and mortar presence, chances are you have given your business a facelift – maybe new furniture, new carpet, new phones, at the very least new technology. Think of your website like your brick and mortar – without the high rent.

Ask yourself if your site is keeping up with the changing times. Are you adding new features that enhance your site? Is your content fresh? How does your site look? Is it visually appealing? Do you think you are getting the most out of your site? Are you happy with the number of visitors/sales – or could you use more? Does your site have live chat, a forum or another way for clients to connect with you (or with one another)?

How is your checkout process? Compare yours with that of the competitions’. This will give you some idea of how up-to-date yours is, or not.

If you answered “yes” to a number of those questions, it may be time for a redesign. I’m not talking about just adding a few features, although that may be sufficient for now. However, you will face the same questions a year from now and then what?

Here are some other things to consider when thinking of redesigning your site:

a. Your business has changed and your site has not.

b. The competition has a much better, faster, more esthetically appealing site.

c. You know what your customers want and you want to give it to them.

d. Your website looks out of date or worse homemade.

e. Content is old or limited.

f. You have terrible page ranks with all the major search engines (which could be partly due to a poorly designed or outdated site.

g. Your site no longer reflects your brand.

h. You are just not happy with it anymore.

i. Your client base or audience has changed.

j. Your site is difficult to navigate.

k. You are getting feedback from users (visitors/guests/clients) about errors when they try to access certain pages (assuming these are supposed accessible to them).

l. Conversion rates (from browsers to buyers) are low.

m. The look of the site does not work with your other marketing materials.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when planning and implementing your redesign:

Identify key people in your organization to be involved with the redesign. It’s seldom (if ever) a one person job. Brainstorm with your redesign team. Look at your goals and the needs of your audience. Your site is your image; it can build on (or detract from) your organization’s good reputation. Make your website show your “best you.”

Create a plan. Know what your goals are for the new site. Put them in writing.

Always test. Ask your current customer base how well your site works. Ask visitors for feedback. Ask friends, other web experts too. Test your site on different computers. In different browsers, etc.

Never pick the designer based on price alone. You can get a great, professional site for a reasonable cost if you do your homework. Ask for references (look atsites built by the designers you are interviewing). Talk to the owners. Find out how long it will take then double it. As if the designer has worked with sites in your category before? Some of the things to include in your request for proposal could include: the purpose of the site, design requirements (the “look and feel,” navigation needs, etc.), project background, target audiences, budget, and of course the timeline. Ask for a timeline of when certain aspects will be completed and what concessions he or she will make if they don’t meet the deadlines.

Creating or redesigning a web site is no small task. It takes time, money and human effort. Your website will only continue to work if you continually review it for relevancy. Once you have re-created the site, establish a schedule to review the site every six months to ensure consistency and accuracy. Continue to gather feedback. Analyze stats to make sure your projections are on target. Fine tune and make changes as needed – its part of the ongoing maintenance of any website.

Some Website tools to help you plan your redesign:

MASTER.com – Not sure if your website is working properly? Master.com has a free search program to check your links and more.

Hitslink – Gives detailed real-time statistics like what keywords people use to get to my site, where all the traffic is coming from, what pages they leave from, and how many people are at your website at the precise moment you are reading the stats.

Link Popularity – Find out who is linking to your site

iStock photo – Great inexpensive site for graphics –

Find broken linksThis free tool from Microsoft’s bcentral detects the broken links on your site so you can fix them.

216 Color Safe Palette – Helps you pick colors that willwork with all browsers. Shows the Hex Code for each color.

Alexa Toolbar – Tool to show Pagerank, traffic, load speed and related links. Alexa also compares similar sites

Overture Keyword Tool – This free keyword suggestion tool gives you an idea of how popular a keyword or keyphrase is. Use it before you optimize and submit your pages to the search engines.

Find more great website tools listed in the Women in Ecommerce™ visit our FREE Resources section for women who do business on the web, web entrepreneurs and ewomen with an online presence.

Note: when I first wrote about website redesign in 2007 the number of websites thought to be on the web was about 156 million. Amazing how the numbers seem to double almost annually.