You and your customers are too busy for your business website to be too busy.
Between fast moving social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and emerging mobile smartphones and tablets, it has never been more critical to keep it simple online. The good news: A flock of new third-party tools make redesigning your site for speed and simplicity easier than ever.
Here are five basic steps to a clean, simple and stress-free website redesign.
1. Focus on your website’s data to refine your features. Thoroughly review the data showing how people use your current site. The trick to keeping it simple is figuring out which elements you absolutely need.
What to use: Basic tools such as website traffic logs and free services such as Yahoo Web Analytics or Google Analytics offer insights into your site’s performance. But sophisticated data analysis tools can also prove helpful. La Mirada, Calif.-based CrazyEgg (starts at $9 per month) creates a visual heat map showing the most frequently clicked parts of your site. Such sites as FiveSecondTest and UserTesting.com can provide qualitative analysis from actual users on what is working and not working with your site. Fees start at $20 a month and $39 per tester.
The goal: Create a list of must-have functions based on your user data.
2. Break out what your site should and shouldn’t do. With the right data in hand, businesses should be able eliminate many unused features. After that, rank the remaining functions by their importance to accomplishing your goals and begin the process of laying out pages.
What to use: Web-based brainstorming and outlining tools can create rough page designs that match your new plan. San Francisco-based WorkFlowy (free for up to 500 stored ideas) and Germany’s MindMeister (starts at $4.99 per month) are tools to plan content flow, feature sets and basic layouts.
The goal: Create a set of page layouts that are as exact as possible and include the most important functions. Don’t worry if it’s nothing more at this point than basic contact information, links to social networks and a simple brand statement.
3. Match the right website solution to your needs. Most essential business content can usually fit in a small amount of website space. Therefore, a deep pool of hosted website services are now possible. These hosted services require no coding experience and manage everything from security to upgrades, and creating mobile-friendly features that work well on tablets and other devices.
What to use: Simpler is almost always better with hosted sites. For an easy landing page — with links to social media — New York-based Flavors.me or Spain’s Dooid offer basic, easy-to-build sites.
For more features, such as online forms or product photo galleries, more sophisticated web options are necessary. Manhattan-based Squarespace (starts at $8 per month), London-based Moonfruit (starts at $6 per month), and Estonia-based Edicy (starts at about $7.50 per month) offer a balance of design features, ease of use and performance.