Some of you would remember that I did a simple blog redesign sometime in February. As a blogger-designer, I have this habit of changing things up a bit every now and then, just to get my creative juices flowing.
I knew, however, that this website needed a full-on makeover, and not just minor design tweaks. There was a need to restructure, to go back to the drawing board and reassess how I want to take this blog moving forward, and what its role is going to be in my life for the next 3-5 years.
And so a redesign and relaunch (not to mention an unanticipated 5-month hiatus) were necessary.
That said, I made quite a number mistakes in the course of this huge shift. Too many mistakes, in fact, it’s making me want to smack myself in the head. I mean, I have been in this blog business for years and I (of all people) should have known better. Because of these mistakes, the site was down for 5 long months, and for a while there I honestly didn’t know how to move forward.
But now I’m ready to talk about my mistakes so you won’t commit the same ones.
Launching a new site vs Relaunching an existing site, what’s the difference?
Although this may be a bit obvious, I think it’s necessary to explain why these tips are specific for redesigning or relaunching an existing site or brand. When you’re launching a completely new website, you want to come out strong and build hype leading to your launch, but you don’t need to worry about existing readers or traffic because well, you don’t have ones yet.
On the other hand, when you’re relaunching a website, chances are, you already have an existing readership and a steady flow of traffic coming into your pages. These are the things that can happen when you fail to have a smooth transition plan:
- Your website traffic decreases and might take a while to recover.
- You confuse your existing readers, who eventually get tired of checking your website for updates.
- You lose cached pages in Google, which might take you a couple of weeks to recover.
- You miss out on potential business and income.
- You waste a significant amount of time in the process.
Well well well, things just got serious there, huh? :)
You might be planning to redesign and relaunch your website in the next couple of months, so here are some totally avoidable mistakes you want to take note of before you take the leap.
Mistake 1: Skipping steps in the creative process.
I mentioned something about going back to the drawing board in the intro, and I mean it. Just because you already “figured out” your brand strategy before doesn’t mean you can skip that part of the process now. Just because you want to maintain your old logo and brand colors doesn’t mean you don’t need to review your branding board anymore.
The thing is, when there’s a need to relaunch a site, it usually means you need to address changes in your goals or strategy or target market. You want your website to be better than your old one, and you want it to evolve as your direction shifts. You just can’t take shortcuts on this one.
I made a mistake of thinking I already have things figured out and I could skip writing down my goals, creating an inspiration board, and establishing a brand board before I started designing. I was designing my own brand anyway, I don’t need to “present” these boards to myself right? Wrong. I ended up spending way too many hours changing color palettes and fonts, for one, an amount of time I could have saved if only I didn’t skip steps in the process.
Don’t make the same mistake. If you’re relaunching an existing brand or website, all the more you have to review these preliminary studies and see if your old web strategy still fits your new direction.
Mistake 2: Obsessing over other websites and getting yourself deep into the comparison game.
Doing a niche analysis is essential in creating a brand strategy. In the Branding & Web Design Questionnaire I give to my clients before the beginning of a project, I ask them to list down competitor sites so I have an idea how to position them in their niche. I also ask them to list down inspiration sites, which helps me understand their design preferences and desired functionalities.
As for me, I think I spent too much time overanalyzing other brands and websites it left me feeling paralyzed. For several days I couldn’t make up my mind anymore. The comparison struggle is real, and I had to discipline myself to stop comparing and focus on my own strengths and uniqueness instead.
When you look at other website “pegs” too much, there’s a tendency that their design aesthetics (heck, even messaging), would affect your own brand preferences.
Tip: Know when to stop studying other websites and other brands. It’s a good exercise to gather inspiration in the beginning of the creative process, but once you’ve come up with a brand strategy, you have to stop comparing! You need to carve your own unique path. That last thing you want to happen is to look or sound like someone else.
Mistake 3: Not having a proper “coming soon” splash page.
You can’t blame a mother who’s just too proud of her daughters. For a whole month, this site was inaccessible and every page in Chasingdreams.net leads to a maintenance page that showed a photo of my girls, and a vague “Come back later” message that didn’t really tell anyone anything except, “Hello! We’re Dawn and Rain! Ohh, look at us! Cuteness overload!”
In my defense, I honestly didn’t intend for the site to be down for over a month. (Bad anticipation, which is a process failure in itself.) If you know that relaunching your website would take longer than 2 days, you should set up a maintenance page that has the following details:
- An announcement on how soon your readers can expect the site to be back.
- A message that makes them excited to keep checking.
- A subscription form to encourage people to signup and be alerted when the site is up.
- Links to your social media pages, so you can keep in touch even while your site is down.
- (Optional) A countdown widget that counts the day leading to the relaunch date.
On the other hand, when you’re working with a web designer or a design agency, they usually have a staging site where the newly developed website is tested before launch. This means your current website should be up while you’re working behind the scenes on a private demo website. (And well, because I trusted my DIY capacities so much, I made a mistake of not setting up a staging site for myself. Face. Palm.)
Once you’re happy with how the demo site looks, it shouldn’t take longer than 24 hours to load that up. When your website is down for only a day, you shouldn’t need an elaborate maintenance page anymore.
Which leads me to my next point.
Mistake 4: Not setting a launch date.
This is a major failure on my part. I was acting as both the client and the designer (and strategist and content writer), and what can I say? I wasn’t actually paying myself so I was very lenient and forgiving. And mothers would know, when you’re a work-from-home mom of 4-year old twins, it’s inevitable that your personal projects get pushed down the bottom of the to-do list.
Tip: If you don’t have a deadline, don’t even begin the “relaunch” process yet. But if you decide to do it, then be disciplined enough to set yourself a deadline and stick to it. (And yes, this applies to other business-related endeavors and passion projects too.)
Mistake 5: Not taking your project timeline seriously.
As a freelancer and a service provider, it’s one of my pet peeves when paying clients don’t follow project timelines. Not only because delays in the project timeline means delay in payments, but also because it kills the momentum in the creative process.
When you’re working with a service provider, you have to respect the timeline they set because reality check, you’re not their only client. Chances are, they’ve plotted those dates with cash flow and client queues in mind, so when they ask you to complete requirements, you have to respect that. You can’t blame them if they moved on to other tasks in their queue just because they couldn’t wait for you forever.
Trust me on this—when you take your project timeline and your deadlines seriously, your service provider will take your project seriously also. ;) And if you want them to focus on your project, you have to give the project complete focus also.
In my case, I am my own client, so it was easy to push my personal projects aside when days were full. I hurriedly written down on my planner to-do items and corresponding dates, but never really took them seriously.
When you decide to launch a blog or a website, whether you’re DIY-ing your own site or you’re working with a web designer or developer, taking the process and the timeline seriously will keep the momentum up and will get you to launch date in no time.
On the other hand, mistakes are usually part of the journey.
I wouldn’t say the relaunch of my website was a complete and utter failure. Thankfully, it all came together well in spite of the mistakes I made along the way. In the end I learned that the prolonged period of blog hiatus was necessary, including the mistakes. The key is to take those mistakes and turn them into opportunities.
Don’t allow your mistakes to stop you from moving forward. Instead, see them as an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to make things right next time.
Are you thinking about relaunching your blog or website?
A good place to start is to re-assess your blog content and your strategy, and to think about what purpose your blog serves for you.
I’ve recently created a 7-day Blogging with a Purpose E-course, designed for bloggers in creative niches. At the end of the e-course, you will have more clarity and focus, which might result to a shift in direction. Then you’ll know if relaunching the site or redesigning your brand is necessary. ;)