1. Goal: More visitors and leads.
The reason you are redesigning your website is to impact your business, not because you are bored with the design or because your CEO wants it to be blue not red. So, focus on the results you want. More visitors, leads and customers. Every decision you make should be focused on improving those goals. Keeping that in mind, you might spend a bit less time worrying about the exact shade of reddish-orange on the callout background, and more time worrying about things that will improve your marketing results.
2. Avoid pitfalls. Inventory your assets, then protect them.
There are countless ways a website redesign can actually negatively impact your results. In fact, I would say that more often than not, website redesigns do have a negative impact on marketing results. Your existing website has a lot of assets that you have built up. These assets help your prospects find your website and help you turn them into leads and customers. You need to find out what those assets are (great content, keywords you rank for, inbound links to individual pages, conversion tools) and protect them carefully during the redesign. PS - Many "web design experts" get this stuff wrong. They are design experts not Internet marketing experts.
3. Spend resources on remarkable content that attracts and converts. Not unique design.
There is a great article from Seth Godin about this. He says "I'm going to go out on a limb and beg you not to create an original design. There are more than a billion pages on the web. Surely there's one that you can start with? ...Your car isn't unique, and your house might not be either." I agree. Most people care about the content more than the design. The design should be good, but that does not mean unique and expensive.
4. Create an ongoing content building strategy.
If you have more content, on average you will have more website visitors and grow your business faster. A 100 page website will beat a 10 page website 90% of the time. And a 500 page website is even better. And if some of those web pages were written recently, that's even better. So, build a strategy to continue to add more and more content to your website over time. Hint: Blogging makes creating content easy, but you need to update the content regularly - daily, weekly, monthly, etc.
5. Enable conversion experiments.
The key to driving your conversion rate and the number of leads you get from your website over time is to constantly improve the effectiveness of your conversion tools - this usually means your landing pages. If you build a completely static website and have to go to a consultant or IT person each and every time you want to set up a new landing page or to change an existing page, you might be limiting your ability to quickly experiment and improve. I am a believer that some sort of system that allows you to securely login and change the content on your website instantly without having to know coding is a great idea.
6. Include a blog, RSS, landing pages, SEO - it's Web 2.0 Time.
Any website built today should include these basics. They are not expensive, and they work. A blog is a great way to create content on an ongoing basis, and to start to converse with your customers and prospects. RSS allows some content from your website to be automatically pushed out to other websites and people, increasing the reach of your content. Landing pages are critical to actually get value out of your traffic. And SEO is not hard, and it really works. It requires consistent updates, link building and research.
7. Metrics: Visitors and leads.
We have come full circle. Urchin is the full proof program we use to track all of your web visitors. If the goal was to increase visitors and conversions, then that is the metric we should track. What does this mean? It means if the CEO hates the new design, tell her to look at your improved lead conversion metrics. If our creative director says he loves the new design, ask him to explain why you are getting fewer leads and why you should not change the website back to the old one.
A business website is a business tool and should deliver business results. Leave the works of art to the galleries and museums. Your career and your company will thank you for it.