Corporate Eye

Retail, redesign and lost visitors

Thinking of redesigning your site?

For major corporates with big websites, that is a huge task, and not something to be undertaken ‘lightly or wantonly’. This is a plea to those people who have to do that redesign …

Please don’t remove functionality. At least, not without replacing it with something that works just as well for the site visitor.

What’s true for the retail site …

Yet another online retailer lost me as a customer today because their site redesign made it too hard to find what I was looking for:

  • they stripped out the ‘order again’ functionality, which gave me the option of reordering from a list of all the products I’d previously ordered, and replaced it with a list of previous orders, which I could open one at a time, to look for the items I’d previously bought. Can I remember whether I chose this product in September or August? Of course not. Am I going to open every order looking for that item? Of course not.
  • so I tried the search box, which came up with one item. Yet I know they sell more than that, which was confirmed when I (eventually) found the right place in the navigation. If you’re going to offer a search feature, please make it comprehensive, and if I’ve spelled the search term wrong, or used the wrong phrase, offer me suggestions for what I might have meant …
  • … especially if your navigation is complex, and it isn’t obvious to the visitor which section to look in.

So I gave up. Shame really, since my visit was triggered by a marketing email from them. Will they measure that as a success, because they got a visit, or a failure because I didn’t make a purchase?

… is also true for the corporate site

Redesigning a corporate site can have a similar effect on the visitor. True, the immediate sale won’t be lost, since the corporate site usually doesn’t handle sales, but the visitor can be just as lost and discouraged as I was this morning.

If you’re going to redesign – which is great, I love a redesign – make sure you don’t lose anything in the process. Especially customers.

Think about all the stakeholders:

  • will job seekers still be able to filter the job listings by location, type of work or keywords? Do you still give them details of potential career paths and training programs?
  • will journalists be able to find decent images, or contact details, as easily, or will it require clicking across to another site and re-registering?
  • will investors still have access to the same charting functionality? How about the calculators?
  • what about accessibility – are all your old features still there?
  • what about csr analysts … will the CSR RSS feed still work, or have all the news items been bundled together now?

And so on – every group of stakeholders will have different features and functionality on your website which they find useful, and would hate to lose. If you’re not sure what are the most valued features, you could try asking your visitors – but your stats may reveal it.

A redesign should be done for the visitors, to make things better for them, just as much as for the company. Don’t make it more difficult for visitors to find what they need.

People will struggle a little with a redesign, at least until they’ve learnt their way around the new site – please give your lost visitors as much help as you can:

  • the 404 page – does that offer suggestions for where we might try next?
  • the search functionality – does that search everything on the site? Can it handle mis-spellings, synonyms and partial phrases? Do the results offer suggestions for what might have been meant?
  • the navigation should be as simple as possible, using visitor-oriented language. If the words, phrases and titles (job and division) you use in-house aren’t the ones in common currency, or are ambiguous, don’t use them on the site, particularly not in navigation. We won’t know what you mean.

Change brings discomfort, even if only a minor unease, though your visitors may eventually be persuaded that the change is for the better – if it is.

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