How to prepare for a platform and design change
Clean Design & URL Mapping
Redesigning a site is an exciting time for a business! The design that was “in” several years ago can be updated to a modern, easy-to-navigate design that incorporates new functionality, saving you time and money. But if you are also changing platforms in the process, there are some things you should keep in mind before you say goodbye to your old platform. If you don’t, you can end up with frustrated customers, and a significant drop in traffic that does not bounce back.
Generally speaking, customers do not like change. (Remember when Facebook forced their new layout on everyone? We sure do). Customers will have become accustomed to your site’s layout, and even if you have updated your design to a clean, professional and responsive theme, they are going to need to adapt to the new layout. If you are also moving platforms, this can be additionally confusing to customers, as old links will not take them to where they were expecting to go. So what can you do to ensure that the transition between the old and new site is seamless? Make sure you plan ahead!
Utilize social media to notify your customers that a new site is in the works. This will give them a heads up, and they will look forward to seeing your new store. When updating your site’s design, make sure you are showcasing your brand’s awesome and unique style, but try to stick to the norm as far as where buttons, links, and products are located on the page. There is nothing wrong with being creative, but if a customer who was ready to make a purchase is confused by the new layout, you might have just lost a sale. Keep things clean, simple, and placed in the same area as most sites, and your customers will begin to welcome and enjoy the updated layout.
What Else Can You do to Avoid Confused Customers & a Drop in Traffic?
Keep in mind that if you are moving platforms, you might see a slight drop in traffic. This is common. So what can you do to make the drop as small as possible, and help ease the transition for your customers? 301 Redirect! When a URL changes, a 301 redirect tells your server that all searches should be directed to the new URL. For example, if you have had a static site, but are looking to move over to Bigcommerce, you will need to make sure that your URLs are redirected to Bigcommerce’s servers. If one of your old pages is deleted, redirect this page to your home page, or a customized 404 page that includes helpful links. This should encourage a customer to continue shopping, rather than exit out of their browser.
The most SEO-friendly option is to redirect page by page, which will create a link between your old URL structure, and the new website. This will provide a smoother transition, as it is more precise for search engines. Not sure if a page has been crawled by Google? Search the link on both Google and Bing to see if the page comes up. If so, it should probably be redirected to a corresponding page on the new site, or at the very least, the home page.
301 Redirects are Not Necessary If:
The new URL structure will remain exactly the same as the old structure
You are creating new pages within the new URL structure that have not existed before
Your company is still relatively new, and has not built up a large amount of traffic
You are re-branding, and do not want to have old links directed to your new site
Ready to 301? Let’s Talk About Preparing Your List of URLs:
Whether you have decided to have a web development company assist you with your platform transition, or you have chosen to setup your store and map your links yourself, you are going to want to put together a list of links that need to be 301 redirected. Even if a web company has worked on your site before, or is familiar with your business, it is up to you to verify that the old and new links on the list look correct before proceeding.
Identify all current site URLs in one column
In a second column, list all new URLs
If you would like to include any notes, add an additional column between one and two
(Make sure you are using 301 codes, as these will transmit the important SEO information that other redirects will not).
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