Re-designing an existing website - what to be careful about

When a few years have passed since its implementation or last major update, there is a time for every website to have a complete redesign. In this article we won't talk about the design process behind this. This article is focused on how to keep as much as possible from the old website's data and make it accessible and consistent in the new one.

We will use the Geneva Summit website as an example of how this was achieved. The website was originally designed in 2008 for the first Geneva Summit in 2009, which was followed by three successful events, bringing up around 100 unique speakers. The website has generated more than 40 news entries, accompanied photo and video galleries with lots of participants registering on the website

The first task is to preserve as much of the original content as possible and we did just that - all news, speakers, registration entries, etc. were kept for the new website. With came the first major challenge - the data was formatted so it looked good on the old website, but had to be reformatted for the new one. This is a task that simply cannot be automated (at least not very efficiently) as the data varies a lot from one entry to another. So our simple note here is - account for this time in the process used for re-formatting old entries such as news and articles.

The second task is to enable all old URLs to work in the new website as well. For example this news entry in the new website has the following address: http://www.genevasummit.org/press/44/swissinfo_ch_the_fight_should_continue but in the old website it used to have the following address http://www.genevasummit.org/media/44. So we must ensure that old links will still be valid and not return an error 404 page (content not found). When this is done we can be certain that links from other websites made before the redesign will still work, very important for keeping users on our website.

The final task is to ensure all this was done correctly using Google Webmaster tools and Google Analytics. When we put our new website online and submit our sitemap (it should be dynamic adding every new entry to be directly visible for search engines) to Google Webmaster tools on the next day we will have results we can start working with. These include - how many pages from the sitemap are not accessible, which url's on our website returned an error 404 (maybe old links from partner websites), which websites link to our page the most and so on. Having this data we can start working on clearing most of the problems and assigning meaningful content behind old URLs. With Google Analytics we start monitoring our user's behavior and see what we can improve. This includes mainly monitoring which browsers are used and if we have a lot of mobile phone users which will lead us to implement a separate mobile view.


Avi Barouh

About Avi Barouh

Globetrotter, father, rollerblader, trying to fit too many things in a single day.

  • Writing from somewhere with wifi

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