We recently partnered with a client whose website had undergone a redesign promising a better-looking layout, and ultimately, higher conversions.
The results did not match expectations.
Flightdeck Consulting, which offers online recruitment and coaching services for pilots and flight attendants, went from a consistently well-performing e-commerce site to one losing a significant proportion of sales from its books and courses section.
With reduced sales post-launch, Flightdeck partnered with us to (quickly) identify ways to move conversions rates back to the volume they once knew.
From this project and other similar experiences, here are some key rules of the road we would have given to Flightdeck and any other clients considering a redesign:
1. Get a second opinion
There are different ways to make changes to a site: small changes made over iteration, total overhauls and something in between. Before committing to one (potentially costly) strategy from which you cannot revert back, ask around and see if other experts in your field would recommend a different tack.
Flightdeck engaged an agency who proposed a fairly radical change. With 20/20 hindsight, a third-party opinion may have been worth considering, especially if it were to favour optimisation over total redesign.
2. Don’t throw out what’s working
For Flightdeck, a great thing about their old site was that it welcomed users to identify themselves first and foremost as either flight attendant or pilot. This feature was gone from the new site, and we believe it may have been a key entry point to the sales funnel.
The philosophy is to first recognise and preserve the revenue drivers already in play.
3. Establish a baseline of revenue drivers and detractors
Review your analytics, commission a third-party review and/or conduct a super-lean round of user testing to identify what customers like best and least about using your site. After that, design with a goal of eliminating the customer’s pain points while ensuring your keep the magic formula in tact.
That’s step 1 before even picking up the phone to your design agency or team.
Ensure design changes reflect an alignment between your business objectives and what actual customers want and do on your site.
For example, Flightdeck’s new design buried the “Shop” within a (long) list of top navigation items. A quick look at analytics shows that customers weren’t buying because they were not beelining to the “Shop” section. Also, some of those navigation items simply did not get trafficked by purchasing customers (if at all). With that evidence, we made a recommendation to cut down the number of navigation items to only those critical the customer’s purchase journey.
4. Pretty can hurt (the bottom line)
Redesigns often focus on making things look better. But its #1 goal should be conversion, not aethestics.
Upon first glance, the new Flightdeck looked great. Consistent use of font and colours, contemporary look and feel. In reality, the better-looking, more responsive site produced worse results than its predecessor.
Because the old site was ‘replaced’ without sufficient investigation of other revenue drivers in customer experience, Flightdeck realised a risk in changing too much – or not changing the right things.
5. Test as you go, don’t launch with baited breath
Imagine the opposite scenario to the classic ‘big reveal’ that typically accompanies redesigns.
Suppose your site could change one thing and then test the results—either with A/B testing (running two designs of a page concurrently and comparing results) or by a very lean round of user testing – before changing the next thing… then you’d get even more clarity about what changes to make, and what elements to keep.
That’s not practical for all sites, but many companies are moving more in that direction.
Amazon, for example — who remembers the last overhaul of their website? Likely no one because Amazon make incremental changes and test every day throughout the year. For them, optimisation doesn’t look like a revolution — it’s a series of changes that represent continual improvement.
Iterations of testing followed by design keeps you close to your customer’s needs and helps ensure your investments of time and money are well spent.
With the right tools to first run diagnostics and then test design changes iteratively, you’ll be able to get rid of pain points without harming the main drivers of conversion.