5 Essential Steps for a Successful Website Redesign

Last Edited August 25, 2016 by Garenne Bigby in Sitemap Generator

5 steps for successful website design

Productivity tools are an essential part of completing a successful website redesign. Some individuals might think that the task of redesigning their website means simply giving it a facelift—this is not the case. Doing this will cause an array of problems. It is essential for the webmaster to know the content that makes up the website and how it performs, as well as how to proceed with new content going forward. Visual sitemaps, content inventories, content audits, Google Analytics, and content planning tools are made to assist with discovering the meat of a website, and translating what you should do with it.

1. Create a Visual Sitemap

Site Mapping is the process of visually outlining a website's structure, higher level functionality, and navigation scheme. In the end, it can look like a sketch, and image, a PDF, or even presented as a tool like a sitemap generator. The sitemap for a website should be defined relatively early on in the planning or redesign process, as there are only a few activities that should come before this step, like user research and the like. Developing a sitemap is one of the most critical phases of a website redesign because it is representative of a critical deliverable of information architecture, which is another foundation for website redesign.

Prepare for the sitemap by looking into three areas: time, people, and research. Determine how much time you will need to invest in order to create a successful sitemap. Your key stakeholders will need to contribute to the sitemap—who are these people and are they the right ones? You will then need to research what your redesigned website's objectives will be, who these users are, what information they will need, and what do your analytics say?

After all of this has been considered, think about the types of content that you would like to offer. Are you marketing any goods or services? Are there testimonials? How much information about the company will be presented? Do you provide any helpful resources? One thing to remember, is that many advise on 80% valuable content with only 20% promotion.

Now you will need to define your primary navigation. This is the top level navigation and is usually found at the top of a website, horizontally. This top level navigation should be concise, use understandable language, communicate a top-down hierarchy, and allow your website to grow. There is no perfect number of elements to include, but if your site looks like it will have 10 or more elements, you should consider consolidating.

Then, flesh out your second and third level content and structure. For website with less than 50 pages, the second level of structure is mostly efficient. Very large websites will use a third level to maintain a sturdy hierarchy. Secondary levels are unlimited, for the most part but should still remain easy to scan and find.

Don't overlook your utility pages, like legal information, disclaimers, and privacy policies. Be careful not to overlook these, as they will need a home on the sitemap. Now, to discover the difference between a URL (HTML) and XML format.

An HTML sitemap is simply an overview of a website—only the pages and information that a user should be aware of. It is geared toward the user but it can aid in search engine ranking because the website then becomes user friendly and is catering to the visitor. In short, it promotes user orientation. It is what the public interacts with your website, and is as simple as a page with links on it. Privately on the back end, it communicates with search engines to help rank the website content. Basic authentication should be used for HTTP headers that are static. Website authentication should be used when you would opt to include a private front end page within the sitemap from a CMS system. Some sitemap generators allow you to integrate your preferred CMS into the sitemap.

XML sitemaps are created specifically for search engines and will never be seen by the end user. They essentially track the URLs of a website and boost the search through the location of information on a single page. An XML sitemap will also track how frequently a website is updated. Interestingly enough, these sitemaps are not a tool for SEO and has no effect on the website's ranking, though it does aid search engines in ranking websites accurately. XML protocol is the answer that web developers needed—there is no need to create various sitemaps for each search engine, as this one is recognized by all. It can be worked on and redesigned with very little hassle.

2. Perform a Content Inventory

A content inventory is a complete list of all content on a website. The inventory will include images, text, documents, and applications. Each piece of content on your website will need to be assessed—this will help you to understand what exactly is on the site, where it is located, and if it is up to date. Before doing the content inventory, you should outline what your goals are as well as what your scope is. Once this is determined, you will be able to determine what information to include. Typically, each piece of content will have its own unique content ID, title, URL, Author, file format, meta description, keywords, categories, and dates of creation, revision, and access. This information will go into a spreadsheet so that it can be sorted through and edited easily.

A content inventory needs to be performed in order to have a successful website redesign. Just in case the reasoning isn't obvious, a content inventory is an outline of all content contained on your site and the information about it.

3. Perform a Content Audit

Similar to a content inventory, a content audit gives information about each piece of content. With a content audit, you will discover the analytics of each piece of content—the quality of it. You will need to figure out what the content is all about: what is the subject and topics, is it balanced with addressing products, services, about us, and customer service.

  • Is the content up to date: is it topical and accurate? Any outdated information should be corrected, this could include employees, pricing, localities, and statistics about the industry. Outdated content should be marked as remove, update, or revise.
  • Does the content support the goals of a user as well as the business? Some stakeholders will feed into the digital presence of a company, aiming to achieve any number of goals within their portion of the website but at the core, all content should work to serve both the customer as well as the business. The call to action must be clear but not overwhelming.
  • Is the content useful to the audience? This is found in the analytics of the page—what type of content is getting the most traffic, where do users spend their time, and what actions are they taking on the page? It is not enough just to have the content, it needs to support what the user wants to do with it.
  • Is the content consistent in tone and intention? Is it following the style guide? Is the content organized in a logical manner; does the navigation make sense?
  • Do you have basic SEO elements in place? Look at the page title, metadata, keywords, image tags, and headings. All of these things should be optimized so that they are search-engine friendly and will conform to the best practices with searching.
  • Is there any content that is missing? Be mindful not to overlook content that may be missing. You should be able to identify any gaps, weaknesses, and content needs. As an example, your site could contain a lot of useful information on the ordering process, but does it completely skip over fulfillment and shipping? Is the media section pretty well filled out, but lacking in the photos and videos arena? You can tell a lot about a company simply by what is missing from their content.

4. Use Google Analytics to Guide Your Strategy

Google Analytics provides a simple way to collect and manage data through a, accurate view of the customer, and may be customized to your brand's needs and then shared throughout the organization.

  • With data consolidation, Google will provide integrated solutions that will preserve the integrity of data, reduce any friction, and smoothly connect any data sources that are not harmonious.
  • You can have Reports segmented and filtered in order to reflect the needs of your brand. You can view the reports in real time in order to discover what content is popular, how much traffic a new promotion is bringing in, and what kind of results your social media posts are bringing.
  • Google Analytics helps brands make smarter decisions with their marketing. You can activate your data seamlessly in order to improve your own marketing campaigns as well as experiment with new content and channels.


To get started with Google Analytics, you will need to create an account if you do not currently have one. Sign in and then follow the instructions on screen. Set up a property within the account, and then follow the instructions for setting up web tracking. You can then configure the account, property, and view. With this, you can:

  • Set up goals to see conversion rate in the reports.
  • Browse a gallery that contains dashboards, segments, and custom reports to be used in your account.
  • Allow other users to access the conversion rates within your reports.
  • Add reporting views that get rid of traffic from your own company, or only show traffic for certain parts of the site.


Google Analytics is a vast resource that is almost invaluable when undertaking the task of redesigning a website, and is necessary when aiming to complete it successfully.

5. Use Content Planning Tools

There is a wide variety of content planning tools currently available, and they all serve different purposes within the realm of planning content. You will find tools that will help to create content, some help with the distribution of content, and others will help to measure the effectiveness that your marketing has on your content.

  • Templates for editorial calendars. How does your editorial calendar need to be set up? Some organizations use something as simple as an Excel worksheet, while others use a Google Drive spreadsheet, Word, or SharePoint. You can find templates with a rudimentary design that will work well with beginners. You can use an editorial calendar to schedule blog posts, authors, topics, calls to action, and even keywords as well as additional notes and ideas.
  • If you use WordPress to manage your blog, there are a number of plugins to use with an editorial calendar to be integrated into this popular CMS. The plugin for WordPress is free and will provide a simple overview describing when a post should be published. Posts can be rearranged through a drag and drop method, and content that does not have a fixed date for publishing is grouped together. This is great for those who are beginners and blogs that only have one author.
  •  CoSchedule is a paid WordPress plugin that will primarily facilitate the sharing of content on a content planning calendar. This is a good option for large blogs that have multiple contributors and stakeholders. This plugin is appropriate for social media teasers that need to be released automatically. You can add as many social media channels as you would like, and various tasks can be assigned to different team members.
  • DYNO Mapper enables users to gather content and manage their workflow using their unique content planning features. You can plan, execute, and manage a new content strategy when redesigning a website. This content planning tool will also allow you to create plain text, rich text, links, videos, and images within a sitemap. Assign content assignments to members and ensure everyone meets deadlines and milestones.


Content planning tools help brands to achieve their content objectives while staying organized and on track. The type of tool a brand should use depends greatly on the nature of their content as well as the channels in which they release it. So, when completing a website redesign, content planning tools will ensure that content gets published in a streamlined fashion and all audiences are receiving the same or slight variations of all content.

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite: http://garennebigby.com
Founder @dynomapper
Garenne Bigby is freelance Chicago developer and founder of DYNO Mapper with over 10 years experience in both agency and freelance roles in design, development, user experience, SEO, and information architecture.

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