Follow up to Website Redesigns

Follow up to Website Redesigns

Poorly titled article yesterday

Ok, I apologize for yesterday’s article title. That was all about me. What about YOU though? Are you thinking of redesigning your website? Let’s take a look at what you should be thinking about, where to start, and being serious about what you are about to do.

Don’t just jump in!

Your first impulse when you are about to update your site is to just dive head first into the project without a second thought. Maybe you saw a cool photo that you want to use, or were inspired by 50 sites that were in some other blog’s list article (like me!). Or maybe you had no thoughts, but just decided it was time to do something about your site. I can tell you from experience that just noodling around in Photoshop will bring only a bunch of crap. I’ve tried that approach, and it doesn’t work. Expecting something awesome to come about from just playing around isn’t going to happen. What should you do? Absolutely NOTHING at first concerning the actual design. Get a notebook, or open Evernote, or even Paprika (love that little app), and start making lists.

First things first, go to your current site and look at it. Don’t just be all “Ya it *#Y@ing sucks.” I mean really look at it. Try to remember why you did the things you did. Write a list of what isn’t working, and another of what is. Be honest, because you will only hurt your future brilliant piece of interweb awesomeness. Is the navigation a well organized one? Do you have random things you put in just to show that you can do it? A careful study of what you did, will help you avoid what you shouldn’t do again. I found tons of things on mine, and it was a bit depressing that some items were so ill thought out.


One really important thing to do is write down all the things that are not doing anything for the site itself. Did you put a graphic or photo in just because it was cool? Think of all the crap that doesn’t add to the overall message of the site. Bits of flash, plugins and other bits that serve only to clutter need to go and not reappear in your new design.

What technology should YOU be looking at?

Well, that is a tough one, because I don’t know what your skill set is. One thing is for sure, you better start looking into incorporating HTML5. I know I have mentioned the Boilerplate a ton, but it is a great starting point. Its even better because you can ditch what you don’t need. We’ve all read about HTML5, so if you haven’t used it yet, start now. It will only help you in the long run.

Flash – I would say no, unless you are awesome at it. For one, if you are using it just to say you did, its the wrong option. After using it constantly at work, I can honestly say there is less and less call for using it. If you are not brilliant at it either, you just end up looking like a tool. I know I’m being harsh there, but its true. I only know one guy who is good at animating things in Flash, and he is the only one I would recommend using it. This isn’t to trash the program, its to make you think about what you should be using. Unless your design really calls for it, don’t.

Javascript – Yes. If you know a library well enough to do the simple but effective effects, then this is the way to go. Lighter, no downloading players, and more effective. It is a time saver even on the things people don’t see it doing.

LESS.js or Sass – For me, yes. I’m going to use the hell out of Sass. For you? I have no idea what your comfort level with this type of thing is, or your ability in regular CSS. If you are not a pro at CSS, then stay away. Learning CSS better is more important. You will just confuse yourself if you try to abstract something you are not great at.

There are tons of things to look at. Should you use PHP? WordPress? A CSS Framework? There are tons of options out there, that is your decision, but one you should think of carefully. Your redesign should be tight and clean, but easily adaptable. Again, write out the lists of pros and cons for each thing you think you might want to use.

Inspiration

I’m all for looking through list articles for something like a redesign. Not to steal anything or to copy what others are doing, but sometimes an idea will jump out at you. Look at a ton of sites you like, and think about the reasons YOU like them. You will find that while you like a certain site, what they did will not work for what you are trying to accomplish. Write down ideas of what you would like to incorporate, and then cull it down after a reread, and then do it again. Do the things you have written push you towards your goal and message you are trying to convey? If not, ditch it.

WHAT are you trying to acheive?

What is your main goal of the site? Too many times I have tried to do more than I should have. Making a crazy artsy site that is cool to look at, might not work for a goal of trying to get clients to choose you for their project. Do you want to come across more edgy or business like? Really think about what your site is going to be doing, and you will have an easier time of designing for that. If you don’t, you will just be disappointed later, with what you did. You can design and develop an awesome looking buisness site without sacrificing creativity.

So what should you take away from this?

Take the redesign seriously. Pretend you are designing it for a client, but one that has your goals. Do a lot of research, think about it, write lists, re-write lists, and only start when you have a clear idea. If you half-ass it, your new site will look it. Your site is the one place where you can really shine because you don’t have other people’s restrictions…but you do have to pay attention to your own.

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