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?


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.

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.

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 Brill Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products

January 17th, 2016

Reckon it depends on your goal and the importance of the restaurant content in achieving that. If your goal is to get the user to book a room and the restaurant isn't really highly-differentiated, then maybe it's a good thing that they're *not* clicking on the restaurant link... if you're seeing higher conversion on your CTA.

This seems very easy to test.

Elise Connors Full-Stack Digital Marketer and Customer Acquisition Specialist

January 17th, 2016

Has traffic completely disappeared or just dropped? Are you looking at clicks only or are you tracking your menu visits in Analytics? Are the menus in PDF?

Lee Guertin Editorial Research Manager, Online Analytics

January 17th, 2016

When the site changed did the number of page views or visits to that new dining info page replace the menu page views? If so, people were likely checking out the menu pages to learn more about the restaurant and gauge their interest. That need may have been met by the new page instead. Did visits to the restaurant itself or revenue increase or decrease during that period? If so there may be a direct correlation based on referrals. If not then the pages may not be having as much impact as you think. Number of views alone may be misleading without more of the picture during the time period. Making menu pages easily available is a good thing, so my recommendation would be to make them easily accessible again, like from a Dining header in your site's navigation with links to both the info page and the menus. And don't forget about making your restaurant and menu accessible from sites like Yelp too, with links to your website with the menus and more info. Hope this helps! Sent from my iPhone

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.

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. 

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