Know What’s Working Before You Start a Website Redesign (Hint: Check the Data)

If you’ve been managing a site for years, you probably have a strong understanding of what’s working and what’s not… or do you?


Having been a web manager at a major nonprofit for many years, I know firsthand how easy it is to get wrapped up in individual feedback and internal discussions. Put together, these things can start to skew our sense of how a site is actually performing. It can lead us to believe there are major issues when goals are actually being met, or give us the misconception that something is fantastic when it isn’t achieving its objective. At the end of the day, both types of misconceptions hinder us from getting a true sense of site performance, and prevent us from creating the best site possible.

We can combat this phenomenon through data, or more specifically, reviewing the data collected in Google Analytics, social media, and email traffic. Conducting an analytics review at the outstart of a redesign project can put the site into perspective. It allows the team to uncover hidden gems and issues that we may not already be aware of. These findings can then be flagged for further exploration during project discovery. While data will never be a replacement for audience interviews or usability testing, it is an excellent place to start; helping us focus by building upon what works, and rethinking what doesn’t.

It doesn’t take any fancy programs to get valuable insights – a basic (and free) implementation of Google Analytics can collect volumes of valuable data. The key is to know what to look for, how to interpret it, and what the limitations are. The data can help us move beyond opinion and individual feedback to paint a fuller picture of how audiences are accessing, interacting and sharing a site. By conducting an analytics review early in your project, you can gain a wealth of knowledge before ever beginning the redesign process.