Oct
06

How to Reinvent Your Online Wheel

By

Interesting to note that this time of season seems to be filled with web sites where the powers that be have decided its a great time for a redesign. Unfortunately, it also seems to be a time where the users are screaming bloody murder and protesting the companies to change everything back the way it was.

The company at the forefront of this would have to be FaceBook.

Know the Why

Redesigns, on the whole, suck for the user. Therefore, the company needs to understand why they need to redesign. In FaceBook’s case the main problem was page clutter and the fact that the clutter would only get worse as more companies add widgets and such like for the use of the FaceBook clientele. Unless FaceBook wanted to have customer pages looking like MySpace they had to change up the scenery. Especially with more things to gum up the works to come.

This was not a problem that could work itself out. This can only be solved by a redesign.

The Build Up and Customer Support

FaceBook learned from their past mistakes. You can’t bring up radical change rapidly it must be gradual. For instance, FaceBook had released things such as targeted advertising and received a major backlash from a majority of users and in the end backed off.

Users were given the choice between the new and old versions. FaceBook developers tracked usage between how many users used the old version and how many used the new. As more and more people signed on with the new version, FaceBook began to make minor fixes based on customer feedback.

When the target user level on the new site was reached, FaceBook launched the new design in full. They had now past the point of no return and the inevitable backlash would soon follow.

There will be Wailing an Gnashing of Teeth

Let’s face it, some people are not going to like your new design. Those people might be extremely vocal and can possibly make their complaints public in very harsh sentiments. These complaints need to be addressed.

If the problem stems from things that are broken, by all means fix those problems. For your site this might be broken links or bugs in the code. These should be fixed ASAP and public announcements and messages of thanks be sent to all users who pointed these things out.

If the problem is simply, “I don’t like the new site.” Find out why. If it is a minor problem like some of your customers just don’t like change then address it the issue, but chances are time will heal these wounds. Those users just need to get use to the new design. It may take a while for the hate mail to die down, but it will. Just weather out the storm and make sure your are responsive. By the time the new site is out, you should already have a solid reason as to why the site needed a redesign. Make sure your customers know why you redesigned the site and keep them informed.

Keeping customers informed and making sure they understand that the redesign was not some rash decision. A Web site is a service no matter what it’s job is, so treat it like one. Interaction between customer and company should be promoted and criticism should be welcome. That criticism might end up aiding you build a better site.

Risk Assessment and You

If your site is a Web Hosting site where all you do is sell plans there really isn’t a whole lot of risk involved. However, if the site is the support site, there can be a lot of risk involved.

The higher the risk, the greater the possibility that you will make users unhappy or lose those users to competitors.

To reduce risk you should make sure the following holds true:

  1. The new design solves the intended problem
  2. The new design is easier to navigate
  3. The new design is SEO compliant
  4. The new design takes links to the site into account (bad links from others to you can reduce your search engine rankings and can piss people off)
  5. The new design includes customer feedback
  6. You made sure you thank customers who gave feedback
  7. You highlight the features that were customer driven
  8. You continue to refine the new site for maximum user happiness
  9. You slowly integrate major changes
  10. You make sure your community is involved from start to finish and beyond

Site redesigns are a necessity to growth and continued customer satisfaction. However there is a right way and a wrong way of handling. Although we are seeing a public outcry over FaceBook now, let’s put it into perspective. FaceBook has some 90 million members world wide, keeping them all happy just isn’t happening. Keeping about 85+ million of them happy is nothing short of a miracle.

Until next time happy hosting.

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