When was the last time you updated your website? Or went for a complete overhaul that changed the look and feel of your website? If your answer is anything more than a year, chances are the content on your website is sadly outdated. You might have new digs, or a new phone number. Or you might have tweaked your services or products a little bit. At least I hope you did!
With technology growing faster than your kid, new features are introduced every few months if not sooner. And keeping up with what’s new is definitely to your advantage as a business owner. You might have decided to finally leave HTML behind and embrace WordPress or any other CMS. Or you might be going in for a premium theme that offers you more than your basic one. Whatever your reason, once you decide to go in for redesign, it is imperative to do it correctly and in the right order. Without disrupting Business as Usual much.
As regular readers will know, we launched our RightMix Technologies website in June 2012. By October, we had already identified the need to go in for a new theme. The main stimulus for us was having a fully responsive website that could be accessed by any mobile device. And we wanted a cleaner look and feel compared to our older site. The whole website design was a big learning process and was thought provoking enough that we redesigned most of our products and the way we marketed them.
Our new website was finally ready in mid-January 2013. This checklist sums up a lot of analysis we went through, and can be a handy tool for anyone undertaking such a project.
The 15 point checklist for website redesign
1. Take complete website backup
I cannot stress this enough. This is your safety net if something goes wrong. Most hosting providers such as Hostgator provide a simple way to back up your website and data.
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2. Put website in maintenance mode
You will need to do this when you do the actual work on your live website. This is a user friendly way to let visitors know that you’re doing some work on your website. You can ask them to check back on a certain date or at a certain time.
You can easily enable maintenance mode using a WordPress plugin. WP Maintenance Mode plugin is a good choice.
3. Disable all plugins
The next step is to disable all the plugins that are currently running on your website. You don’t have to delete them – just deactivate. We can decide which ones we want to keep later on.
4. Upgrade WordPress version
This may not apply if you have kept up to date with all the versions. But if not, this is a good time to do it. Especially in the case of a major upgrade like WordPress 3.5.
5. Install New WordPress Theme
Install the new theme you want from your computer or any other location. Ideally, you should have tried using this theme on your local host and are satisfied with how it will work.
6. Activate New WordPress theme
Once the new theme is installed successfully, you need to activate it. This will automatically disable your old theme.
7. Add New Images
If your redesign includes new images as part of sliders, portfolios, pages etc., this can be a good time to upload them to the Media Gallery. You can also choose to upload them one at a time as needed from the particular page. But this is my preferred method.
Once I have all the images I need in the Media uploads, I can just assign it wherever needed with the minimum fuss.
8. Add New Pages
If you are adding any new pages as part of your redesigned website, you can add them now. You should already have the content written and formatted somewhere, so just pasting that data will help speed things up.
If your new pages contain any images, you can just insert them from the Media Gallery, or set them as featured images for that page.
9. Create Custom Menus
This is one reason we created the pages first in step 8 above. Your theme may allow you 1 or more custom menus. You now need to create them via the Menus interface. This will specify which links you want to show in your menus – you can assign labels that are different than the page names and choose nesting levels.
10. ePanel settings or New theme settings
If you use Elegant themes like us, you will have an ePanel that lets you specify the look and feel, navigation etc. for your website. Some free themes like Mantra also have a settings panel.
Use the settings panel to customize what you want to be visible on your website, and what you want to hide. One example is the number of images you want to show in your image slider, or the number of posts you want displayed under ‘Recent Posts’.
11. Widgets and sidebars
Once you finish theme settings, it is time to decide what you want displayed in your sidebar. Depending on your theme, you may be able to specify what you want in the homepage sidebar, or on your blog page sidebar. Some themes offer multiple areas to the sidebar, or ad units in different places on the page.
All you need to do is drag and drop your plugins in the widgetized area. Not sure how plugins are different from widgets? Our post offers a simple explanation.
12. Footer if applicable
13. Activate plugins – one at a time
It is now time to activate plugins. First, you need to decide which ones you actually need now. Your new theme may have features that make some plugins unnecessary. Some plugins may not be compatible with the new WordPress version you installed.
Activate each plugin one at a time. Test your website after you activate each plugin to make sure that it is working correctly.
14. Check page links
If you have finished all the tasks so far, your new website is ready to be unveiled. But it’s a good idea to check that all the links work well. This is just some due diligence on your part that will help your visitors. No one likes to see a ‘Page Not found’ error.
You may not have changed any content on your website, but adding new pages, new menus etc. might have changed page hierarchies causing some broken links.
15. Disable Maintenance mode
Last but certainly not the least, you need to disable the maintenance mode plugin we installed to take your site Live. This is just a click to deactivate the plugin. And your new improved redesigned website is available to all your visitors.
Before You Go
Does this mean that your website is now perfect? A website is always a work in progress that requires your constant attention. But a major redesign using the most current technology can set you up for a considerable period.
We learned a lot of lessons doing the redesign and came up with this checklist. This is worth considering if you decide to undergo such an exercise yourself. What helped us most was that we tried out everything first on a local machine – something I highly recommend. Having all the new content ready and already tested will allow you to keep your website inactive for the shortest time.
Are you tired of the way your website looks? What is stopping you from going in for a redesign? We want to know what you think. Please leave a comment or let us know if you have any questions.