It’s just after the Holidays. You’re flopped across the couch, poking thoughtfully at the Google Pixel smartphone your tech-savvy friend managed to snag for you. You visit that website you set up for your business five years ago just because and—
—oh no. Oh dear. Surely that’s not what your website looks like on the latest and greatest smartphone?
But it is. Oh, it is.
Thus your 2017 New Year’s Resolution is born. Redesign your dated website!
Technology changes fast. Sites that looked great before the smartphone revolution are unwieldy and difficult to navigate on small screens. Sites that looked great even after the smartphone revolution may no longer look great now…hardware gets better, browser standards change, or maybe you simply added a lot of new content to your site without really adjusting the layout to cope with all the new articles or products.
This is all completely fixable. But as with any New Year’s resolution, it’s best to plan your course of action ahead of time.
Below, we’ll walk you through creating a plan of action for a website redesign.
Alternately, you can skip to the end and have us redesign your site for you.
The Website Platform: WordPress
In the old days, sites were just text files hyperlinked together. Formatting and design was done via markup language, functionality was handled by code. No drag-and-drop. No clever functionality with videos and image sliders and galleries unless you coded it yourself. It wasn’t very friendly for the non-geek, and truthfully even the geeks got tired of doing everything the hard way.
So a dozen different platforms were born to make things easier. One of them was WordPress, which started as a blogging platform and expanded from there.
We won’t lie: we love WordPress. It’s been around forever (“forever” in technology terms meaning “over ten years”…think of it like dog years!), it’s very easy to use, it’s regularly maintained, and has a robust community actively creating new plugins and new themes.
Other platforms also have large vibrant communities. Drupal, for example, comes to mind, but Drupal has a much higher learning curve for content authors and site developers alike and isn’t suitable for beginners, so we’ll talk about WordPress for now.
Plan Out Your Site
When you go into a WordPress-based website redesign, you need to define two things early on:
- What do you want your site to look like? (Generally speaking—leave details for later!)
- Do you want it to be mobile-friendly? (You do. Trust us.)
- What do you want your site to do on each page?
Because you will be doing most of the work through the WordPress UI without getting into code, it’s important that you select tools that work with you, instead of against you. So you need to decide what you want your site to do, and then check that the theme or plugin you choose can do that thing.
If you do it the other way around—select a theme or plugin, then decide what you want to do—you can end up reinventing the wheel because the tools you chose weren’t made with wheels in mind.
I don’t know what I want.
That’s fine. You can cheat.
Go visit other sites doing similar things as your site is and write down…
- What is common between these sites?
- What pages or features do you like?
- Rate your “liked” features. Trying to “have it all” on a page doesn’t always work due to size or style limitations. Be prepared to identify which features are “musts” and which are merely “nice to have”.
But you’re smart: you tell me what I need.
Sure, we can talk about common types of functionality you might want.
Do you sell things? You want an eCommerce cart. (We like WooCommerce, but there’s others.) If you sell digital items, double-check the cart you select can handle digital products.
Do you go to trade shows? Or host events? You’ll want a calendar plugin.
Do you make things? You might want a gallery plugin, a slider plugin, or a carousel plugin so you can display big, beautiful images of the things you create. Some plugins can fulfill all three roles.
Do you need to display videos? Check that any gallery, slider, or carousel plugins you already like can deal with video files.
Do you have fans or a userbase that likes to chat with each other? Consider a forum or message board plugin.
Do you blog? WordPress actually has that covered. It started as a blogging platform! But you can look for plugins that add additional features.
Do you Tweet or post on social media sites? Look for plugins that will allow you to add a stream of updates from Twitter, Pintrest, etc. to your site.
Do you want to offer downloads of documents, files, music, etc? If these are for sale, see eCommerce plugins. If you’re not selling them, other plugins devoted to file downloads will work fine.
Do you need people to input stuff into forms? WordPress has a default form feature (used most often for Contact forms) but you might need something that’s more powerful so you can fine-tune the fields, and decide what other actions the forms need to do.
Locate WordPress Themes and Plugins
Once you know what features and functionality you need for your redesigned site, it’s time to hunt for themes and plugins that meet your requirements. Visit https://wordpress.org/plugins/ to browse them. You’ll find some other sites with great plugins too, such as https://wpmudev.org.
Generally speaking—and this is true beyond WordPress, for any platform you might build your site on—you want to evaluate any themes or plugins based on:
- Number of installations/people using it (more is better)
- Frequency of updates (more is better!)
- How active a developer is when it comes to answering questions users have
A theme or plugin that’s widely used means bugs are more likely to be found and fixed. It also means if you have a question, it’s easier to find answers. Someone else might have had the same question as you!
A theme or plugin that is updated regularly is best. It doesn’t matter if a million people are using the plugin or theme if nobody is bothering to keep it updated.
In fact, an unmaintained theme or plugin is a security risk when a flaw is discovered and nobody’s around patch it.
Remember when you got that new Pixel phone? No? I suppose it’s true Google didn’t make enough of ‘em at first…
When selecting a theme for WordPress, make sure it says it’s “responsive” and works with mobile displays.
More and more people are browsing the internet on the go, using their phones and tablets. If your site doesn’t work for them, you’re losing visitors. And if you’re a business, those lost visitors might be lost sales.
HTML Global-Recommended WordPress Plugins
We’ve used a wide array of plugins. Here’s a few that we’re in love with!
Gravity Forms – http://www.gravityforms.com
Slider Revolution – https://revolution.themepunch.com/
Can You Redesign Our Site?
Certainly. Give us a call or contact us through the form and we’ll be happy to work with you.