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RISMEDIA, June 28, 2011—(eM+C)—Before you commit to redesigning your website, you should first understand why you’re doing it and if now is the right time. Budget, deadlines, resources, features, content, platform changes, brand perception and search engine optimization implications are just a few of the factors that will be part of the undertaking.

Your vision for the new site might meet your current needs, but there’s no ready-made formula for design longevity, especially since every website is different. However, there are some key steps you can take to prepare for the project ahead.

Give yourself room and flexibility
While your original website may have worked well when it was initially launched, updates to the functionality, navigation, products and content or integrated offerings from third-party vendors may have made the original site unwieldy. Your new site should be able to accommodate growth, evolve with your business and be easy to maintain. It should also be flexible enough to be viewed on mobile and tablet devices—meaning the underlying architecture needs to be simple and easy to manipulate.

Reinvigorate your brand
The visual design of your website is your public face. The goal is to develop a design that attracts users while simultaneously fulfilling your brand and business goals. Typography, readability, visual hierarchy and clarity are just a few of the visual elements you’ll want to consider when developing the look and feel of your site.

Focus on the consumer
Understanding your customer demographics is essential when redesigning your site. Is the new design direction in sync with their preferences and tastes? Does it offer the content they’ll be looking for in an easy, organized way? Does the navigation allow them to go where they want? Are there any areas where visitors will need additional help, instructions or a deeper explanation? By humanizing the web experience, you’ll develop a trusting relationship with your customers.

Be a good listener
Redesigning your site around customer feedback is essential. Are shoppers dropping out of the transaction process? If so, when? Let them tell you what’s working and what’s not via email or a free customer service line.

Use the latest technology advances
It’s important that your site be up to speed. Developments in web languages have opened up possibilities for websites that didn’t exist a couple years ago. Take advantage of the latest technologies and make it work for your customers. Recent updates in Java and HTML, along with the development of faster browsers like Internet Explorer 9 and Firefox 4 allow for a multitude of new features. For example, you can introduce new methods for browsing and finding products through the use of rich DHTML and AJAX technologies. You can also implement location-based functionality using Gowalla and third-party collective intelligence and collaborative filtering engines such as Baynote.

Embrace social media
People value others’ opinions, which is why social media sites like Facebook and Twitter play a powerful role in how we perceive a brand or company. While different businesses need different amounts of social exposure, integrating social sharing and interaction features into your site will help increase traffic and sales.

Redesigning your website is an exciting undertaking and the payoff can be immense. But it also demands close consideration of some important key factors. If now is the right time to make a change, remember these steps and put your plan in motion.

Josh Levine is chief experience officer at Alexander Interactive,

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