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January 25, 2016

Cindy Penchina, President

Secret to Successful Web Redesign

If you’ve visited the Hudson Fusion website lately – and you clearly have because it’s the only place you could be reading this – you may have noticed that things look different. The colors are brighter, the images more vibrant, the copy far superior. We’ve taken our website and rebuilt it from the ground up.

And while there are some people who just want to watch the world burn, we razed our website to the ground so we could build something better on top of it. Something cleaner. Clearer. More effective.

You see, one of the things that’s happened at Hudson Fusion in the last few years is our transformation from a web design agency that happened to do some marketing into a web marketing agency that understands the proper role of web design. And we’ve gotten a lot of practice building marketing-optimized websites for our clients, from Process Stream to KellyIP to Global Scenic Services. And the more we worked, the more we saw our own website falling behind.

We knew something had to be done – and so we did it. We torched the old site and made something better. Take a look.

Old & New

Hudson Fusion has changed a lot in the last year. Our staff has nearly tripled and we’ve expanded our service offerings – but the existing website didn’t really communicate our value in the right way. It was concerned with stuff; we can do X, we can do Y, we can do Z. And while our capabilities are important, they aren’t the core message.

It’s best to think about our process in three steps:

  1. Clarify
  2. Focus
  3. Design

Clarify

So, what is the core message?

This is a question any company in the process of nailing down its positioning needs to be able to answer, because your message can’t be the same as your services. Lots of people do marketing and web design, so our core message couldn’t be “we do marketing and web design.” It couldn’t be that we do it better than everyone else – because everyone else is saying that, too.

But we knew there was something unique about our agency: we don’t sell pre-packaged plans. Never have. Our entire approach has always been to develop dynamic strategies that are tailored to meet your goals rather than to simply provide a menu of service bundles that include, say 3 blogs a month and 50 social media posts. That’s what everyone else is doing. Our approach is what sets us apart.

Focus

So there it was: the core message. We needed to make sure we built a website that successfully communicated “We develop custom strategies that are designed to help you achieve your business goals instead of trying to cram your business into a cookie-cutter plan.” That’s how we ended up on our headline: “We didn’t reinvent the wheel. We just figured out how to market it better. A customized approach to get your business rolling.”

Once we knew what the message we wanted to get across was, it was a matter of planning out what was essential to that, and keeping the website focused. That meant two things: A) designing a homepage that could communicate that message quickly and effectively, and B) planning the rest of the website to support the homepage.

Design

So let’s talk about homepage design for a second. See, a homepage isn’t an introduction to your website. For most people who visit your site, it’s the whole shebang. The complete kit’n’kaboodle. The whole ball of wax. It’s all they ever see. And you’ve got between 10-20 seconds to convince them it’s worth their time, so that means you need to be clear, concise, and focused on how your services help them.

Our new homepage was intricately engineered to accomplish these goals. We went through nine wildly-different designs, most of which were radical departures from the classic site. They included new color schemes, an illustration of a boulder about to be pushed down a hill, and a really fun circus theme alongside more conservative approaches. And there, hidden among the flashier designs, was the one we ended up going with.

We used a version of the Web Marketing Score Sheet to analyze each of these designs against criteria of clarity, simplicity, how well it aligned with our messaging, and whether it would reach our core audience. Imagine our surprise when this unassuming design, so clearly connected to our old styling, rated far and above the most effective.

And the more we thought about it, the more we understood it.

The other designs were prettier. They were more fun. They were daring, and clever, and cool. But what they weren’t was what we needed. Each of them had some critical flaw which made them, however beautiful they might have been, the wrong direction to go in. The boulder, for instance? We were talking about wheels! And even though it could have worked, some people might have read it as a disaster about to happen. The circus? Beautiful and clever – but not really relevant.

So we landed on the plain, simple, and above all, clear design you can now see on our homepage.

As you move down the homepage, you’ll see it’s full of short, easy-to-digest messaging that emphasizes how the customer benefits from our services instead of listing what we can do. Even when we talk about our process, what we’re really talking about is how the client meets their goals. We don’t get to a list of capabilities until the bottom of the page – when the reader is interested in specifics.

See, that’s the readership path. We start with the big picture, focus on the reader’s needs, and move downward toward specifics. We don’t really talk about ourselves much at all.

The rest of the site simply builds out the message from the homepage, all while keeping the text itself short and to the point. We deliberately restricted how many pages the site would have to keep it focused.

The key principle we’re following here (write this down, it will be on the test) is that your visitors shouldn’t have to spend a ton of time clicking around to find what they’re looking for. Your website isn’t an art project; it’s a selling tool, and you should restrict the content to what prospects need in order to get interested in you.

Our old website featured four main navigational buttons, each linked to as many as six subpages. They went into extensive detail about how we work, what we can do, and why you might want that – but it didn’t put it into a useful context that told a story or reinforced a core message. It was, essentially, a list of services that one might be shopping for. A visitor had to comb through twenty-one individual pages to find what they needed.

In contrast, our new website is comprised, at heart, four pages: our homepage, our “about us” page, our process page, and our portfolio. Everything you need to make the decision to do business with us is right there.

The Secret to Successful Design

So in short, the secret to a successful redesign is to be focused on your customer, not yourself. Your website needs to be easy to follow, easy to digest, and with the benefit to your client brought to the forefront. By making that your priority, you give your website a level of focus and clarity that ensures your value is clearly communicated and nothing is left to chance.

Optimize Your Website Redesign