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Article 11: Re-vamping a website

By Marc Bissonnette

This month's article is on a few common items surrounding re-designing a website and how to go about it.

The very first thing you should do, before making a single change to your site, is take a look at your site's traffic logs. This will show you which part of your site is getting the most exposure, thus giving you an idea of what your visitors are most interested in. You may be surprised at the results, especially if the content getting the most visits isn't your strongest specialty. If the traffic to a specific section is high enough, it may even be worth thinking about a slight change in your firm's or your website's focus.

Once you know what section receives the most visitors, that will give you an idea on the content that is generating the most interest in your site. This should be kept in mind when updating the rest of the content on your site, as well as adding new content.

Next item should be the HTML itself. When you designed the site, where you relatively new? Did you use a WYSIWYG editor? If you've learned proper HTML by now, its worth going through you site and re-coding the pages by hand. You'll be amazed at how much you can shrink filesize just by getting rid of all the excess junk most WYSIWYG editors add to your code.

For those sites using graphical icons or buttons for navigational aides, here's a good test to determine whether your icons are helping or hindering your site navigation: Make a copy of your main page or nav bar. Remove any text or ALT tags from the images, or near them. Next, ask a friend or colleague who isn't a regular visitor to the site to find five of your most common documents on the site, using the changed nav-bar. If they can't figure out which icons link to which sections of your site, your graphical "aides" are more of a hindrance. It's amazing how many people choose imagery for their site just because they look cool, and not because they relate to the site or the content they are pointing to.

Next item should be dated content. If you have a news or what's new section, remove or archive all information that is older than six months. Not only does older content take up more space and cause more time to be spent finding information, but it looks a little silly to have content from 1996 in your "What's New" section. If you want the content available for viewing still, create a sub-section called "News Archives", or similar, and put the items there.

Next is your products and / or services list. Take a look through them, their descriptions and their pricing. Over the years, you've probably thought of better ways to describe and sell what you are offering than what was originally put up on your site. The last time I re-vamped my site, I was a little surprised at some of my descriptions of my programming services (And they could probably be better worded, still!)

Remember when you checked your stats page for your highest-traffic areas? Now is a good time to put a few discreet links from those sections to your lesser-visited sections to encourage more visibility. Even if you have a nav-bar in a frame or sidebar, put a link in the content somewhere. People tend to put the nav-bar to the back of their mind when reading content. Try to keep the links related to the high-traffic content, as well. (Ex. My highest-traffic areas in are two of my shareware scripts, multipass and membermanager, so the logical link from there is to my Perl programming services)

While you're in your code, take a look at your Meta tags for descriptions, keywords and titles. If they're not there, fix that! You may need to update keyword lists and descriptions, as well, especially if they're more than a year old. The search engines will be much friendlier to you for the effort!

As always, if you have questions or comments on this article, feel free to email me at . I've done a lot of work in re-vamping sites for content, as well as speed and navigability and am willing to lend a helpful comment here and there if need be.

Marc Bissonnette is the proprietor of CanadianISP, Canadas' largest Internet Service Provider search and comparison site.

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