Dear Ditto,

We have a modern website with compelling content, beautiful visuals, and a responsive design. But our numbers aren’t good, and the feedback we’re getting shows that people are confused about who we are and what we do. We redesigned fairly recently and there’s no way we have the budget to do it again so soon. What can I do?

Advice from:
Sara Kaplow
Product Analyst & Experience Architect

Odds are that the last time you did a website redesign, a large percentage of your focus during UX and design was on the homepage. There’s a reason for that: even in this day and age of social sharing and coming into sites sideways, sooner or later, most users end up there.

Maybe you launched a gorgeous, bleeding-edge design that showcases your brand values and tone, but isn’t getting conversions. Or maybe what was working on your homepage a year ago isn’t working now, but the rest of your content is still strong, engaging, and accurate. You, my friend, may be an excellent candidate for a homepage refresh.

What else might signify that you might need to revamp your homepage? Glad you asked:

  1. You’ve done some testing, dived deep into your analytics, or performed usability testing. Perhaps you’ve noticed that users aren’t getting past the homepage. Maybe site search usage has increased. Or, nightmare scenario, conversions are flat or even down, and showing no signs of recovery. Whatever the case, you’ve learned more about your site and, more importantly, your users. That’s important to ingest and convert to improved strategy and messaging.
  2. External factors, like, say, a surprising election outcome might affect your site goals and your audience. Increased urgency and adjusted priorities — if the conditions are going to exist on a longer-term basis — can be excellent reasons to revamp your organization’s digital welcome mat. And, if you’re like our client NRDC, an influx of attention from media sources can expand your reach overnight, and you’ll want to capture that momentum and convert newer casual users to diehards.

  3. Sometimes things shift inside your organization, whether from a programmatic perspective or even personnel changes. New leadership or expanded (or contracted) goals should signal a shift in messaging and desired behavior from your users.

  4. It could be something subtle that manifests as just not working, sometimes known as “we didn’t get it right the first time.” Some of those that we’ve seen include having excellent content buried (sometimes a technical hurdle, usually more a strategy misunderstanding); staff spending time helping users navigate to what they need (indicates significant usability hurdles); it’s getting in the way of strategy (eg: no way to respond to urgent threats, not addressing the appropriate audience).

Having decided that a homepage (or any other section) isn’t working for you, there are steps that you can take to improve things that won’t necessarily lead to a full-redesign. Ideally, you can accomplish these changes in weeks or months at a reasonable cost.

First, check again to be sure that your site is aligned with your goals as an organization. Redesigns, especially lengthy, complex ones, sometimes develop a life of their own. A redesign undertaken to improve conversions may end up being about design, or may inadvertently target the wrong audience. Compare the outcome to the original vision/goal statements.

Second, use analytics and usability testing to pinpoint the problem. Hopefully, you can adjust the design by recreating or redesigning individual template components without changing the whole page. This is often the case when best practices in interaction design have been overlooked or your calls to action are not specific enough.

Third, consider the page hierarchy and content priorities. Is your content valuable to your audiences? If most of your visitors are trying to learn more about you, but you’re asking them to make a donation right away, you’re missing a crucial opportunity to provide more education and storytelling before your donation ask.

Finally, be aware that page “fixes” and site enhancements can be done most easily when you are not attempting to change your navigation or the basic information architecture of the site. If you determine that your main navigation is not right, then a redesign may be your only choice.

Enhancing your site can be done, and improvements made, without a full redesign. A website is not a static tool, and should evolve with your organizational goals, audience needs, and competitive context.

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