Beware of the #1 Mistake When Planning A Website Rebuild

Beware of the #1 Mistake When Planning A Website Rebuild


Eventually, it will be time for your business to start thinking about rebuilding your web site. New design trends have made it start to look a bit stale. New technologies are available to help better display and categorize the message(s) you need to bring to your customers. Or maybe you are just sick of having a web site that doesn’t do anything for you.

In my 25 years of building web sites, there is one most common and most costly mistake that businesses make when developing their strategy. This is to develop a site in stages in order to spread out the costs over time. They start with the design and get it looking sexy. Then they bring in the SEO team to get the site ranking. Then maybe they bring in a marketing team to optimize conversions of the traffic that is coming in.

While this tactic may save you from coming up with a large sum of money up front, it will inevitably cost you a lot more in the long run and, quite often, it will leave you with what I call a Franken-site.

How To Make A Franken-Site

Your web site is a collection of moving parts – not in the physical sense, but in the sense that there are a lot of things going on that all need to work in harmony for it to be successful. It has a purpose for you and in order to generate the sales or leads it has to do a bunch of things.

By splitting the project in the way I described above, you end up with all the various pieces of the puzzle fighting against one another. You’ve got a great looking web site and then the SEO team comes in and says that this needs to go here, that you need a bunch more text on this page and that page, and that everything needs to move around a bit to build a proper information hierarchy. They’ll likely tell you that you need to add a bunch of things to the back end like Schema and semantic HTML elements to help Google understand and rank the site too – which means going back in and adding new code. From there, you’ve got to look at each page and get the proper elements on each page into those new back end things.

Now your designer and/or developer look bad. The SEO team is calling them hacks for not putting all this in there from the start. The design team is resentful toward the SEO team for calling them such. And the truth is that it’s not their fault. The design team was never given a strategy for this. You told them what you wanted and they gave it to you.

Several months later, the site has been built, reworked, and the traffic is coming in. It’s time to start analyzing everything to improve the UX (User Experience). The bounce rates need to be improved, the path to your goal needs to be looked at so that people can find their way to both what they are looking for, and hopefully convert to what you’re looking for them to do. The problem here, of course, is that a whole lot of UX considerations come from design and basic function. Design and function was something done in the first phase. And then, to make it so the site would rank well on the search engines, it was redone during that phase.

And now it needs to be done again.

To save money, of course, we’re not going to start over from scratch. You’ve already spent too much to turn back now. So the marketing team goes in and recommends a patch here, a new navigation element there, and a bunch of other things that get tacked onto the site to make it flow.

In Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, the doctor created life by piecing together parts from a bunch of different bodies. The result was a well meaning, but monstrous creation that was misunderstood, feared, and ultimately wasn’t what the mad doctor had intended to create at all. And, after running through your web site rebuilding plan you have a web site that is pieced together with parts from all sorts of different places with all sorts of different functions and purposes.

You now have a Franken-Site.

The Website Rebuild Process Rethought

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that things can’t be done in phases when you rebuild your web site. In fact, it can be a great idea to start with something simple and scaling it up over time. What I’m suggesting is that in order to be successful over the long run, the planning process needs to include all of the important elements from the start.

Marketing/Conversions/UX starts with the design. The design is affected by that and many of the SEO considerations. If the SEO team says, “We need a bunch of text here so that this section will rank,” that consideration needs to be included in the design, not shoved into the design where it was never expected to go.

If your budget means that you have to spread the process out over time and do your rebuild in phases, having everyone on board in the process helps with that, too. With all the pieces of the puzzle working together you can make well informed strategic choices. What does it NEED to do now, and what would we LIKE it to do later. Which things that we want the end product to do will give us the biggest reward for the least investment?

With everyone working together, you now have a team of experts to help you make the right choices here.

One Big Team or Separate Teams?

This article is just about complete. I’ve explained the problem, and offered a solution. There is one more question to look at though. It always comes up when I do consulting and explain this concept to my clients.

Should you go with a big full service house that offers design, development, SEO, marketing, UX, and accessibility? Or should you go for several smaller houses which focus on just one or two of the pieces?

In the end, it doesn’t really matter all that much. A big house is going to provide you with a team that has probably worked together before and that can do the job with less debate and discussion. Several smaller houses will need more oversight and coordination to make sure everyone is on the same page, but they can also sometimes be a bit better at what they do based upon the fact that they are specializing in that one aspect of it.

If you have, in-house, someone who can handle one or more of these aspects – that’s even better. Your in-house person not only knows about the part of the web rebuild process they will be working on, but they also know your business better than someone hired from outside. You absolutely want someone from your business involved in the planning and ongoing process and if they can also fill one of the other roles, great. Then you can fill the rest as needed.

I work for a small full service marketing and web development house which specializes in marketing and SEO aspects. If you hire us, you have access to experts in all the different areas – but you don’t have to hire them all. Most of the full service houses will be happy to put together a team that will fill out and complete your existing team. It isn’t so much about the size of the company or companies you’ll be working with, it’s more about the quality and finding the company one that will best fill your needs.


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