Preparing for a website redesign
If you follow Spruce Rd. on instagram, you’ve seen a sneak peek at my website redesign over the past few months. Yes, months. This has been a HUGE process, and one that has stretched me in so many ways.
As I prepare for my new website launch — in just a few weeks! — I wanted to share my process in restructuring my current site. Maybe you are contemplating a complete overhaul as well, so hopefully this behind the scenes peek will help guide you in the next steps.
Today I’m sharing the process behind the redesign. Once my new website launches, I’ll provide even more insight into the decisions behind the site.
Consider your audience
First and foremost, I need to consider my audience. Initially when I launched my current Spruce Rd. site, my “audience” existed primarily of potential clients. I use quotes around audience, since as we know when you first launch your site you don’t actually have an audience to speak of, but more of an audience profile instead.
Now that I have a year and half under my belt, I’ve gained a much clearer picture of who my website is for, and who I’m building it for years to come. With this in mind, the focus of the entire site needs to shift. Currently the main call to action from the homepage is for potential clients to get in touch. Whelp… that is pretty weak!
The largest portion of my audience right now exists of freelancers and entrepreneurs looking to grow their brand. Whether they are looking for a quick read through branding articles, a complete educational e-course or class, or for professional help with their brand identity.
Through understanding my audience, I’m able to gain a clear picture of how to direct them through my site. Make things easier for them to navigate, and better highlight the services + classes we offer to help guide them.
Take action: Write a list of people who make up your audience. Once you have a thorough list, group them together through common interests. Are they interested in your services, products, articles, podcasts, courses or anything else? Narrow it down as best you can. Create a call to action for each of these audiences. Yes, there will be overlap, and that’s okay!
Determine pitfalls of current website
With my defined audience in mind, and a set of clear call to actions for each group, I needed to comb through my current site and pinpoint any pitfalls. How am I not serving them well? Where is my information getting lost? What alterations should be made?
Though I love the design of my site, and the custom development, I learned that it isn’t serving my audience well. Here are a few pitfalls I’ve pinpointed and plan to resolve with the relaunch.
The homepage is almost useless. The current call to action to get in touch is weak. Though the large sliding portfolio images are beautiful, they do little in the way of presenting the benefit Spruce Rd. offers in terms of branding. Instead, it says “here’s some pretty images. If you want pretty visuals, you can hire us.” The focus is on design, and not on branding. There is a key distinction, and one that isn’t clear currently.
The portfolio is outdated. I know this, and am waiting to re-launch the new site with completely new client work! Instead of focusing on the images, I’m providing a case study for each client branding project. This better shows the intentionality behind the brand design, and preps potential clients for the strategic side of branding.
The about page is incomplete. While there are elements I intend to keep with the new site, overall the current about page is an incomplete picture of Spruce Rd. We’ve shifted from just me, to a complete team, and that isn’t clear on the current site. I do make this clear with potential clients, so no worries there’s no deception there. I would have updated this sooner… but it’s difficult to make these updates on my current site (another struggle).
The new about page will give a clearer picture of who we are as a team, our values, and our process. And not the rinky-dink process that is shown currently — one that dives deep into why we approach brand identity design the way we do, and how it best serves our clients.
The blog articles are hard to sift through. Currently my blog has one primary post, and seemingly endless scrolling and pages to find additional articles. These articles are a HUGE part of my brand, and the current layout is a disservice to their content. I’ve made an effort to better present the articles in a way that is easy to navigate on the new site.
Classes are an afterthought. It is clear that when I initially designed my current site, I didn’t build it with flexibility in offerings. I plan to highlight my educational classes (and create additional mini classes!) on the new site. More on that in a few weeks…
Overall, there are loads of issues with my current site and how it isn’t functioning to serve my audience. When planning a website redesign, it is crucial to dissect the problem areas of your current site. It’s okay to admit you’ve outgrown your current design, and give it a critical eye.
Take action: Navigate through each of your main pages on your current site, and dissect how you’re not best serving your audience (as you’ve defined in the first step). Filter everything through your audience lense, and think of functionality in mind, not design.
As with any design, I find such beauty in tailored + edited solutions. Ones that leave distractions off the table, have a clear call to action, and an ease about them. When redesigning my website, I’m aiming to minimize distractions as much as possible. This is much easier said than done! With a growing spread of services, classes and articles, it can be tough to reduce my message down to the essentials.
For context, here are a few sites that achieve this balance in a successful way. Though most of these brands offer one clear service/product, they are still complex in nature. Check out how Squarespace, Evernote, The Quiet Creative, and Leader Bag have removed distractions, allowing them to clearly present their message.
The new Spruce Rd. site will have only two pages in the primary navigation: “let’s work together” and “learn.” This shows the clear divide in my audience between those seeking our professional brand identity services, and those looking for resources on growing their brand. Other pages will filter from these including how to get in touch, classes, articles, etc.
Take action: Evaluate how you can minimize your website. What pages or elements are providing distractions for your users? Prioritize your call to actions, and craft a plan on how to remove any distractions.
Content that drives design
Never underestimate your messaging. The overall message of your brand should drive the design, and not the other way around. Though I am a designer by trade, I am probably more math-brained than anything. Pre-cal was my jam! It only makes sense that the strategy and messaging of my brand is something that I don’t shy away from, and instead get fired up for.
Your website is no exception. When restructuring my current site, this strategy side of it is what has absorbed most of my time. How will I present the Spruce Rd. message in a clear yet approachable way?
Take action: Spend some time — months if you need to — crafting clear content for your brand. Don’t think in terms of design. Focus on your call to actions, your audience, and how your brand is different than others. Find a way to highlight these differences on your site.
What is the design communicating?
Finally… we get to the design! I wasn’t kidding when I said strategy comes first with any form of design, and I definitely practice what I preach.
With my new site design, I’m asking myself what the design is communicating. Design builds trust. It visually presents your messaging. Though it is the last step in this process, it certainly should not be overlooked.
Recently I was chatting with a potential client, and she mentioned that she did not want her brand to appear feminine, as mine does. For some reason this struck a chord with me. Am I leaning too far toward a feminine aesthetic? And if so, why?
My audience is comprised of both male and female, and I’ve never claimed to design solely for female entrepreneurs, or be a #girlboss. The Spruce Rd. brand isn’t narrowed in that way, and instead is geared toward anyone who values quality branding, business and design. No gender in mind. I’m not making a stance here, but it helped me recognize that my current branding needed to shift.
The new site will incorporate more gender-neutral photography and illustrations. The primary colors will shift. These subtle changes will make all the difference in how my messaging is communicated visually. I’m not pursuing a full re-brand, but instead a shift that better fits my vision.
Take action: Ask others what words they would use to describe your design. Is that the tone you are aiming for, and does that resonate with your audience? Be sure your personal design preference doesn’t overrule your target audience.
I hope this behind the scenes peek into the strategy behind the Spruce Rd. website redesign provides guidance for you in regards to your brand. It is definitely an iterative process, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Stay tuned in the next few weeks for the complete Spruce Rd. website redesign! I can’t wait to share what we’ve been up to.