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Things to consider before redesigning or redeveloping a website

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Zuricka Azavedo
August 15, 2006

Zuricka Azavedo
Zuricka Azavedo has written 1 articles for JavaScriptSearch.
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It's 2006 and you have made a few resolutions. You need your website to perform so that you reap the rewards. This article will be more useful to companies who have a web based business or a portal.

Does this sound familiar:
1. We have a website and have spent a lot of money but it’s too clunky.
2. It served us well when we had a tight budget and needed to have a website but its not performing.
3. The development company that built the website for us told us they could do all these wonderful things but left the site incomplete.
4. Our competitors have mastered the web business even though we can out beat them with our marketing and reputation.
5. When ever we ask the developers to add new features or functionality they turn around and claim it cannot be achieved or that was not the scope of the project.

The list can go on and on but if the above are statements that you have said or heard and you need to break free then read this article and let me know if it was useful.

When a business on the web is built. It is built to serve a target audience. It is built to serve a need in the marketplace. If the website was formed out of an idea and you were not sure if the idea would be worthwhile then the reason you are reading this is because your website and idea were worth the effort. You built the website for your visitors and not for yourself.

The decision to do something with your website or web portal needs to be after a full in depth analysis from someone other than yourself. The reason for this is because it allows you to get an unbiased opinion. The first steps before approaching someone to analyze your website is to list the objectives of this exercise. To help you with this process I have tried to list the questions I would ask myself

1. What’s the purpose of this website?
2. Is this website an information site or a transactional site?
3. The visitors who would like visiting this website would be IT savvy or not?
4. Has the website in its current state received a lot of visitors?
5. Have I received feedback from my clients or visitors about the site?
6. Have I analyzed the behavior pattern of my web visitors?
7. Am I IT savvy?
8. What websites do I find usefull and user-friendly?
9. Are any of these websites close to being my competitors?
10. What features and aspects of my competitor’s site do I like?
11. What I want the website to achieve?
12. How much am I willing to spend?
13. Do I have time deadlines and if not make it a point to have a time deadline.

Deciding if the site needs to be redeveloped or tweaked

After having listed the answers to the above questions you should either request or appoint an expert to give you an unbiased opinion of your website or decide that you do not need to do much about your website. If you do go ahead to get an in-depth report check to see if their report points out any of the following:

1. The site has usability problems
2. Information or content on your site is hard to find
3. Actions that need to be performed on your site are not performed by visitors as they do not understand these actions or find it too difficult.
4. The design is too cluttered
5. Users are not following a certain navigation path that you wish them to take
6. Pages take too long to load
7. Search engine optimization has not been catered for
8. Navigation flow on the site is not planned out well. This is crucial not only for a human to navigate through your site but also from a search engine point of view.

It is important to realize that your present website may not need a complete rework if the business goals are to simply make the site design to look good. If however you want all aspects of your website to function and in it’s current state they do not function then you probably have answered your own question. Yes its time to have a budget and plan in place to move forward.

Once you have got your report you need to take time out to analyze the situation before making the final decision

Goals from a Visitor point of View:

You goal should be to have your visitors
1. Find what they want easily
2. Get what they want easily
3. Easily perform the appropriate actions that you want the visitors to perform.

To accomplish this, the website needs to have:
1. An excellent navigation system.
2. The website should be user friendly. For example, does the website have a natural flow while placing an order or does it make it difficult for a visitor to handle this process.
3. The most important actions should be accessible within one or two clicks.

Goals from a Search engine point of View: Please note the below points are a rough guidelines as this topic is vast.

Flash : If your website presently uses a lot of flash consider the following before making a decision to redesign or redevelop. Most search engines cannot read text inside a flash animation. If core elements of your site such as your navigation menus are in flash you need to rethink about this. Consider a site whose navigation menus are all in flash. A search engine would not effectively index the pages on the site as it cannot read the flash links to each page. That is unless you also provide a duplicate navigation system without flash.

Incorrect or poorly structured HTML: If you are not very IT savvy and do not understand HTML. It is wise to have the HTML code reviewed roughly to check if there is any incorrect HTML code or overlaps as this has a negative affect on your search engine ranking. This can also confuse search engines.

Java Script: Again while most search engine can read java script, they cannot cause the javascript functions to activate. This can have a negative impact if your site navigation system is javascript based with no alternative. It is safer to have text links then have buttons which depend on Java script as otherwise your navigation links may be hidden to a search engine.

There are many other important factors such as: The use of frames or IFrames; Cross browser compatibility, Huge blocks of encrypted viewstate text at the beginning of each page; etc…

Making a decision to have the complete website redone is a tough decision as you need to have the right developers who understand your needs and not theirs. I have noticed many companies after realizing that the first development cycle was not the best they go about redeveloping the website by what I consider patch work.

Patch work can be affordable if the site does not have major errors or shortcomings, but if it does it is advisable to have the application redone or implemented using other off the shelf packages. The rationale to this is that you have a website already which needs to be improved so a development company or a developer can have a better understanding of what you require and the dos and don’t for your business. It is important to remember that especially in the case of website re-development it is the quality of the work that matters and not the size of the development team. A development company with a good project manager and true geeks in the development team is one that will get you places.

I hope the information here was useful is some way. If you make up your mind to do something about your website spend your budget wisely by first listing the objectives the site needs to perform for the next 2 years and what functionality is the bare necessity and what functionality is a nice to have. Speak to your existing clients and do not waste too much time in planning that the cost of planning exceeds the actual cost of implementation.

Good luck and all the best for your mission.

Article Source: http://www.articledashboard.com

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