Web Development · E-Commerce

Website re-design -- how do you deal with unintended consequences?

michael madison founder, ceo and menu-guru at menumodo

January 17th, 2016

Imagine you change a website from a single page to one with new sections/pages to provide more detail about your product, rather than cramming everything onto the home page.
A concrete example would be the old "website" being a single page describing a hotel and its restaurant, with a link to the restaurant's menus.

After creating a separate page for the restaurant (or "dining at the hotel") visits to the menus drop away.

Does this mean that visitors are not all the interested after all, or should the link go back onto the home page?

Extrapolating from this, is it better to have more information on one page, rather than creating layered navigation?


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Lee Guertin Editorial Research Manager, Online Analytics

January 17th, 2016

Take this advice in context. A/B testing of content changes would only be helpful if you have enough page views to make it statistically significant and to test with minimal impact to your site. Without knowing what kind of traffic or changes in traffic you experienced or volume you have/had it is hard to recommend that. Study it first before going that route. But being mindful of releasing website changes that are drastic ant the potential to change expected behaviors on a site is a good practice in general. Sent from my iPhone

Anonymous

January 17th, 2016

michael,
This is exactly where control-testing (a.k.a. A/B testing) comes in handy. When it comes to critical sections of your user experience, you do not want to publish the new experience to the entire user population and roll with your fingers crossed, hoping that the new experience is no worse than what you got before. Rather, you want to only open it to a small fraction of users and collect some stats that can help you make an informed decision wrt relative performance of your new experience.

There's a number of products on the market that help you instrument this sort of experiment, including a brand new one, from my company, getvariant.com.

Sachin Naik

January 17th, 2016

Many great answers here. Almost all major points are already covered -  Goals, A/B testing, Navigation considerations on Mobile, Analytics, Heatmaps etc.

1. Define your primary goals? Menu? Directions? Specials? Promotions?
2. What data do you have on the existing site & how does it influence your goals?
3. Where is your traffic coming from? Platform, Browser, OS.
4. What are your competitors doing, especially successful ones?

I would recommend creating landing pages for each unique goal with clear CTAs. Also you could try splitting traffic between the old & new site to measure what people are doing.

Over time you can create different landing pages for each persona / user cohort and using analytics to figure out if your goals are being fulfilled.

Landing pages can be simple templates with different content - would help with consistency and keep costs fairly low.

Michael Barnathan

January 17th, 2016

As others say, do lots of testing to figure out what's driving traffic where you want it.

But think of it this way: user attention is a finite resource. You need to figure out where it's directed a-priori and then direct it towards whatever will simultaneously engage them with your brand, satisfy their initial intent in coming to your site, and leave them feeling good about the interaction. If you put too much extraneous content directly in the user's face (Yahoo!, I'm looking at you...), you'll end up with frustration and lost or misdirected traffic. On the other hand, that will also be the result if the user can't find what he or she is looking for because it's buried in layers of navigation.

Your whole site should be streamlined: traffic in -> accomplish goal -> leave with satisfaction. Whenever they want to accomplish that goal again, you want them to think of how easy it was on your site, then come back to do it again.

Amazon and GrubHub/Seamless appear to have mastered this.

Serge Jonnaert

January 17th, 2016

Create a heatmap and regularly review it. It'll give you the most valuable insights on how to optimize content and flow.

Craig Green

January 17th, 2016

As I understand your question - you had a one page website, in a few sections, that you then divided out to new pages with a menu system. I am of the opinion that you will off course see a drop down in visits through the depth of your menu. You were likely getting a somewhat similar drop off of people willing to scroll through your one homepage as well. 

It's your design teams job to make the rest of your site compelling, your navigation visible, with clear, non-gimmicky affords des to get visitors using them. Your assumption of "1 page is better," does not scale. It's great for a site with maybe 500 words of content, but once you get past that point, you have to break your content up and make it accessible. Your site should tell a story, and guide visitors to where you want them to go

Ken Thurlbeck Independent Photographer/Director/Creative Director/Art Adviser

January 17th, 2016

What about business, that is the main criteria if your decision was met with success?  Did your business increase or not from this change. If not, is the change clear, the navigation titled properly? In addition if you have been getting a lot of repeat business sometimes it take them a while to adjust. 

Mike Masello

January 17th, 2016

As many have stated using analytics should be able to answer your hypothetical about menu views.  In the one page scenario how can you tell people are reading that section unless you're measuring in-page clicks or perhaps inferring things from a heatmap.  Ultimately you're making an online to offline connection that’s often hard to capture.

From a design perspective it's subjective.  I'm of the opinion that you don't want to scroll forever, nor is it worth clicking through to a thinly built out page off the menu. Find the balance.  Have goals and measure if you want to make this objective.

One further point though on multi-page being better in the long run is it should help you move towards capturing more organic traffic.  If you can develop deep pages of content with specific seo targeting you may be able to rise up in the rankings for terms your one page site wouldn't register for.

Stan Podolski CEO at Nimble Aircraft.

January 17th, 2016

It is better to have an AB test so you don't have to guess

Lee Guertin Editorial Research Manager, Online Analytics

January 17th, 2016

Please learn more about A/B testing first. You need enough traffic volume to work with and statistical significance to prove results. It should be used as a part of an overall marketing and site management strategy. A one page site migrating to a multiple page site may be too small or have too few visitors to really benefit from true A/B testing. Start with basic site metrics and go from there. Look at more than just your site traffic counters with something free like Google Analytics (unless your publishing platform has metrics available for you.) Follow your site traffic trends and practice good web site management. (Like making changes gradually or accompanying them with other marketing efforts to improve customer experience and minimize impact to loyalty.) Use a site survey and/or engage with your in-person customers directly to learn how they found your restaurant, etc and gauge their interest in the site and recent changes too. These are all ways to get valuable feedback at the source - from your customers. A lot of advice here in this thread is more applicable to larger sites or online businesses. Small and medium size businesses and sites can benefit too but should be realistic about expectations and couple it with a marketing strategy. Here is a good place to start to learn more. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/A/B_testing Sent from my iPhone