The first in a series for inexperienced Web design companies and clients
There are times when a prospective client is looking for more than just a quote for building a website. When the conversation starts with “I need to know if you can help me…” its a sure bet that there is a web designer out there somewhere who just got fired, and another sure bet, that the reason is one of five common Web design company Fails!
Today we’re starting a series of short posts about the mistakes that web designers (and web design companies) can make with a client’s web site. The uncomfortable truth is that most of these mistakes are excruciatingly simple and more often occur through pure oversight than ignorance. This in itself should make it easy to avoid them happening to you.
Web Design Company Fail #1 – Deleting the old site when asked to build a new one
When a client asks you to build them a better web site, you get a little rush. Whether you’ve hooked up hundreds of new clients in the past, or are just getting started on your web design business, its always nice to be chosen for the job. Web designers should enjoy that feeling, but never let it convince them that the new site they build is the center of the universe!
The fact is, any existing site will have some pages that are already indexed in search engines. Whether there are hundreds or just a few, you should never delete them from their current location without doing three critical things:
1) create a complete back-up of the existing site;
2) analyze and categorize the content of each page and;
3) create a 301 (permanent) redirect to a relevant page on the new site for each.
Why keep a back-up of files that will not be seen on the new site?
This should be fairly obvious. The dictionary definition of the word delete is “Remove or obliterate”. To put it plainly, once its gone, its gone! Well of course you knew that, but why should it matter? Obviously a back-up will allow you to recover any previous text and other page elements at any time in the future. While the need for this may seem unlikely, remember that clients can (and do) change their mind about the content they want on their site. After all, they are the site owner and have the right to do so. If you build websites, you don’t ever want to be in the position of explaining to your client that you deleted the content they really want to put back into the site. If you are a site owner working toward launching a brand new site, you should check with your designer that all of the old content can be retrieved if you need it.
Why do I need to analyze and categorize the content of pages that will not be seen in future?
You should always assume that every existing page has been linked to. Every external link to a website is of course, a potential source of visitors or “traffic”. Maintaining these traffic sources is critical when launching the new web site.
There are three obvious sources of external links:
1) Search Engines and Directories. If a page has been “indexed” by a search engine or added to a directory, a link has been created.
2) Other websites. Other webmasters may have created links from their site to any page.
3) Bookmarks or Favorites. Any previous website visitor may have created a link to a page by saving the location in a web browser.
The visitors who follow existing links to a site are expecting to find content that is related to the link that they clicked. If the page that they land on doesn’t seem relevant, they are unlikely to continue browsing the site. So, pages that will no longer exist in the new site must be permanently redirected to the new page which contains the most relevant information.
If you are designing the new website, it is your job to know what was contained on the pages you will remove, and to know which new pages match them best for content.
If there are a lot of pages to be removed from a site, clients should expect their quote to include the cost of analyzing and redirecting each one.
Why not just redirect everything to the home page?
Unfortunately, this is easy, quick and occurs way too often! Web designers who use the “catch-all” approach will likely have to deal with a disappointed client. A drop in the number of contacts or conversions is likely if visitors don’t find relevant content when they arrive on the site. The last thing a web designer wants is to disappoint an enthusiastic new client. The last thing a client wants is to realize that potential customers have slipped through their fingers! As with most things in life, the quickest and easiest method is not the best.
If you pay careful attention to all of these potential problems you can achieve a painless and successful transition from the old site to the new. If you are the project manager, keep a simple checklist to ensure that no-one in your company drops the ball. Clients should ask a few questions of the person responsible for the project. Don’t leave it ’til launch day. It is always a hundred times easier to prevent a problem than to clean up the mess afterwards!
Put simply, whether you are a website designer or a client, don’t be caught by Web Design Company Fail #1!