Let me tell you a short story about an ecommerce team. Once upon a time they decided to breathe new life into their website. The action plan was all worked out: an amazing, brand new website was to be built in 6 months, for $80,000, with a 20% uplift in conversion rates. So they avidly went about with the redesign.
Probably some of you won’t be surprised to know that the whole project turned out to be a total flop. 10 months, $102,000 later they achieved what they didn’t expect: a 17% drop in the conversion rate.
There are a lot of these kinds of redesign stories. This scenario has played out thousands of times. Almost always a redesign turns into a marketer’s nightmare (if you have a strong stomach read Website Redesign Horror Stories The Top 9 Nightmares to Vanquish!).
Redesign projects are usually over-budget and late, and as a reward you mostly get nothing but drops in conversion rate. A real bum deal, I’m sure you would agree?
But I don’t want to unduly worry you. It’s a simple fact: radical website redesigns often backfire. You can put it down to customer psychology (people don’t like radical change) and project scope (website redesigns are in principle hard, risky, uncertain projects with many stakeholders).
There are at least 3 threats you should consider before your next redesign:
Do you have a lot of returning visitors? Expect your conversion rates to drop straightaway after the redesign. It’s simple: you have changed something they were familiar with and even (maybe) liked, and you have placed them drastically in a very new situation. Imagine you go to your favourite place to do a 5-minute shopping, and one day you discover it has totally changed. Now you need 15 minutes to even find your usual buys. Wouldn’t you be annoyed? Of course you would.
You have probably heard of digg.com didn’t you? But what you might have not heard about was their redesign story. After the redesign they experience a traffic drop of 26% from visitors in US and 36% from visitors in UK. Now you know what I mean by a really bad redesign experience!
Is your new Call to Action Color good or bad? Does the additional filter perform better? What about the videos, are they engaging people more than the copy did on the old website?
With classic redesigns, you will have no clue about the impact of particular changes. Maybe you have tested some of them separately and know that they work but how can you know that they will work just the same when they are all put together? So even if one of the new features scored a bull’s eye and skyrocketed your conversion rates, there’s a good chance you will never know because all of other changes missed the target completely.
Redesigns are risky, difficult projects to undertake. You need to engage a lot of people: the IT department, the conversion analysts, the designers, the copywriters, the digital analysts and so on. It can cost the company an arm and a leg, so you have to act according to the HiPPO (the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion), even if you know some things are wrong. There’s almost a zero chance that the project will run smoothly, because there are just too many pitfalls on the way. (Check out other challenges that ecommerce directors face)
Once, late in the September of 2017, one of my clients told me they were going to do a total redesign of their website. When were they aiming to finish by, I enquired. By the end of a year, she said. I told her it was impossible. She just thought I was being a naysayer.
Needless to say the new website is still in its infancy today.
So what should you do if you really feel your website is old and ugly, and needs a refreshment? Leave it or create for yourself a new redesign horror story?
Roger Dooley, marketing expert, says you should never redesign your website. I couldn’t agree more! But it doesn’t mean you can’t change your website.
Luckily there is an easier much more effective way, that will lead you smoothly through the whole redesign project. I’ll show you the perfect website redesign process, based on conversion rate optimization.
So, here comes a big question?
Before I answer this question, let’s have a look at Amazon’s website from 2010.
It doesn’t look much different, does it? Amazon is still Amazon-like. I mean at least you can see some kind of consistency, and you can easily identify that this is the same shop you bought your first Kindle from years ago.
Now, let’s look at this page in the checkout funnel – does it belong more to the 2010 version or 2018?
Definitely 2010, but if you look closely in the footer, you will find information that it was 2018 when the screenshot was taken. Amazon has test-changed only part of their website but not everything.
As you know, Amazon is one of the most lucrative on-line businesses on the globe. Their recipe for success is the ecommerce optimization – a completely different approach to ecommerce development that results in an ongoing website evolution instead of a one-time big redesign project.
This is the key: you should go for evolution rather than revolution.
Now you know you need to change your website in a smart way instead of throwing yourself in at the deep end, you can follow this action plan to avoid risky redesigns:
This is the most important thing. Find out (1) what is broken on your website that keeps your users away from converting (2) what to improve in order to get higher conversion rates. Use your analytics tools and qualitative data to run insightful analyses. Remember never test things randomly. If you want to change your website for the better (where better means more profitable), you have to base your testing hypothesis strongly on data.
Saying you want to improve conversions without testing or feedback is like trying to do blind archery. The research, the testing, and the data analysis is the heavy weightlifting that has to be done if you want optimal results in trying to improve conversions.
Use data to develop a series of recommendations for changes. There is always room for improvement: test logos, headlines, copy, landing pages, calls to action, images, ads, product page, filters & sorting? And everything in-between! Then, prioritize the changes to maximize returns. And after that – here comes the most important part – run tests.
Using reliable A/B testing, you can verify the changes made to the site. You will know whether a particular change was good or bad for your revenue. No guessing, and no risk: you apply only the best tweaks that will skyrocket your conversion rate.
You could say: ok, but a single test is not a redesign, it’s just a minor Call To Action tweak. That’s right. But if you focus on testing individual elements separately, with a little patience those small changes could result in a great, cutting-edge website, that has not only a nice, new “look and feel”, but also can create great profits.
If you can still find a few reasons why you should do a redesign: take a look at CrazyEgg “7 Bad Reasons to Redesign Your Website” list. If you find your argument on that list – hold back on your redesign and focus on an effective conversion rate optimization process.
There is, in fact, only one good reason for a redesign: and that is if you have reached the local maximum.
Mind you, always be careful about declaring that you are on your Local Maximum point. You can only know this when you have already tried tons of A/B tests to get there (testing random crap doesn’t count).
Another point is that, you do not have to conduct a redesign in a classic manner. By classic manner I mean a waterfall project, where only the end product – the whole website – is presented to your customers. What I would suggest is that you prepared the whole graphic design of the new website and then test particular templates step by step.
With this approach you will defend yourself against conversion rate and traffic drops. Coming up with a better design is not an easy job. I remember that with one of our clients we had to test 7 different product pages to end with one, that was at least a little bit better than the original one. Without a proper approach they could easily get themselves in trouble!
You know what the best thing is about evolutionary redesign using a ecommerce optimization? You will have already beaten your competitors, simply because you will have avoided costly and ineffective redesigns. You win using consistency and continuous improvement, just like Amazon.com, Booking.com or EA Sports.
Are you now ready to bring your website to the next level with ecommerce optimization? Contact Growcode today to learn more about our IT-free approach to delivering extraordinary user experience.