Case study: Designing a new site to replace an existing site, Part 1

Let's design a useful website

My latest client came to me wanting a website that would be simpler than the one she had. We designed her a simple site, but we made it useful, too.

A website should serve the business it represents. With the right design, it can be a useful tool, helping its visitors get what they need.

Starting with a website that is not useful

My client was tired of the complex site she had, with its newsletter sign up, giant menu of links, and very little useful information.  Her clients didn't use it, and there was nothing there that could save her time.  Here's a mock up of her original site:

Original site mockup

The numbers in the original site mock up above are parts of the website that were not working:

  1.  Menu items - lots of them - with sub-menus and sub-sub-menus.  Confusing.
  2. Phone number is not clickable
  3. Broken link for remote assistance
  4. A busy home page with no clear links to items that are useful for her clients.

 

When she called me, she had decided she just needed a brochure website with her logo, phone number, and the standard  "about," "services," and "testimonials" pages.

She wanted a website because legitimate businesses have websites, but she didn't plan on actually using it.  She didn't see how her clients would use anything except her phone number.

I hated the thought of yet another pretty, useless website. I started asking her questions.

Who uses your website?

My client, an accountant, has a client base. Those clients need to access functioning links.  They need specific links to information, or they need to get in touch with her, either to get help or send her sensitive information as their accountant.

How do your visitors use your website?

"Is there anything we could put on your website that your current clients could use," I asked? We started going through her current site to see if we could salvage anything. There were a couple things there, just buried. Going through her site also helped us realize what wasn't there. Those were things her clients requested by email all the time. We could provide those things on the site and they would be useful client support.

We finally ended up with 5 support items her clients could use.

All of these items were deficient on her current website. They were missing from her site or buried where it took a zillion clicks to find them.

One useful item was on the site, in plain sight even, but the link had been broken for over a year. Not. Helpful.

So with these five items in mind, I started to design the site layout. We had already decided to keep the standard "about," "services," and testimonials" pages, but we added a "resources" page.

One click, and you can see the links that my client sends to her clients via email all the time. Now she can refer her clients straight to her new website in response to questions which saves her time.

The main support items for her clients were:

  • "Where's my refund?" links
  • payroll form links
  • a "Remote Assistance" button
  • a "send secure files" link, which her clients can use to send her their private information securely
  • her contact information, which is now clickable with active links

Finally, a useful website

Here's the screen capture of the new home page:

new website home page image

My client's new website looks fresh and clean and simple. More importantly, her clients have simple, one-click options to get right to the support they need.

The simple design makes it easy for my client to refer her clients to the site, knowing they can find what they need quickly and easily. The support resources we added to the site will save my client -- and her clients -- time and frustration.

The key to designing a website that fits your business - is to know your business.  Know your visitors, know what they are looking for on your site, and give it to them quickly and clearly.

You can check out her site, if you like - it is live!

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