7 reasons why I redeveloped my website

If you’ve been following The Story Cave for a while, you’ll notice things look different around here. Whether you have or not, this article will hopefully give you some pointers for thinking about what you want to do with your website (and questions to ask your website designer). Here are 7 reasons why I redeveloped my website.

1. The old layout wasn’t a great user experience (UX)

I was really pleased with my last design. I thought it looked good. But as time went on, I started to wonder if I could have made it clearer what you needed to click on and how to get around. The design was getting in the way.

When I was redesigning it, rather than signpost towards services, I decided to direct people towards the door that represents them: independent consultants or SMEs. 

It’s not totally perfect. Not all my solo clients define themselves as a consultant. Some are coaches, some refer to themselves as business owners. I might change the label as I continue to gather feedback. But the intention is, you can land on the website and self-select services that meet your needs.

2. I wanted to make it easier to see what you need at a glance

When someone lands on your website, you have less than 5 seconds to show them they’re in the right place. The new version has buttons above the fold (what you can see on screen before you have to scroll down). If you do scroll, the first thing you see is my three key services plainly in front of you. 

A screenshot of Rachel Extance's website marked up with different features. Arrows point to:
What people want to do
How I help
Where the fold is on the computer screen
Key services

On the old version, messages about services were overlaid on an image and it was harder to process what you were seeing. I really like the simplicity of my new layout.

3. The copy needed refreshing

I’ve recently done some behind the scenes thinking about who I am and what I’m doing. I also seem to find myself having the ‘what about AI?’ conversation a lot. After I outlined my response to a mentor, she said: ‘I don’t see any of that on your website.’ Hmm… perhaps I had some writing to do. The new copy is a lot more me. It’s also shorter and snappier.

4. My old website had become messy behind the scenes

Over the years, I’ve pivoted, and launched offers and shelved them again (often without actually testing them out on the market properly). That means I have redirects where I have sent people to a new page when they click on a new link, and I have blog posts which refer to things which might have a different name or no longer exist.

I have a handy alert from SEO tool SEMrush which audits my website each month and sends me a message if I need to do something. Recently it flagged that 9% of my pages have redirects. It’s messy for Google and it’s messy for me finding my way around. I wanted a clean slate.

5. I’d broken something

I build my own website. No, I’m not a website designer. I’ve been interested in websites since I was a teenager (that’s more than 20 years ago) and when I started my business back in 2017, I wanted to see if I could build one. I got WordPress and had a go. I didn’t do a great job. Over the years I’ve got better at it, and speedier. I pay attention to advice from website designers and SEO companies. 

In an effort to improve the website I installed a couple of plug-ins. It turns out, they kind of cancel each other out. When I tried to uninstall one of them, all the images on my website disappeared. So I put it back in again. In a way, it doesn’t matter, and at the same time, it’s annoying. Which leads me on to…

6. I wanted to improve performance

This one is geeky. Plug-ins can enable you to add all kinds of functionality to your website but they can slow it down. They add extra code. Over the years, things I needed an external plug-in for are now covered by WordPress itself and my hosting provider, Siteground. I wanted my website to load quicker and perform better for SEO.

Here’s how the old site performed. Only a score of 30 on mobile and 49 on desktop. Not great eh?

A screenshot of page speed performance tests. 
Mobile: performance 30, accessibility 93, best practices 95, SEO 98.
Desktop: performance 49, accessibility 93, best practices 95, SEO 100.

And here’s the new one.

A screenshot of page speed performance tests. 
Mobile: performance 90, accessibility 93, best practices 95, SEO 93.
Desktop: performance 92, accessibility 93, best practices 95, SEO 92.

90s across the board! I was pretty damn pleased I can tell you!

7. A friend told me about a fast and light theme

I had been very happy with my old website builder. I recommended it whenever anyone asked me what I use. But recently web developer friends had started saying it wasn’t that speedy. Then Melissa Love mentioned Kadence.

It’s drag and drop and really quick to learn. There’s also a very decent free version. I had been paying for the pro version of my old builder so I get to save some cash too. Bonus!

While I was getting ready to launch the site, I started listening to The WP SEO Show by Pete Everitt and Jeff Patch (yes, that’s a podcast all about SEO for people building WordPress websites). Pete mentioned he uses Kadence as well so I vindicated in making the move.

What can you take from my experience?

  1. Be clear on what you want people to do when they come to your website and make it really easy for them to do it.
  2. Think about how you are directing people. How can they self-select?
  3. Don’t have a cupboard of secret offers, as a friend once described me as having. Get your offers out there! Talk about them. Then talk about them some more!
  4. Audit your website. You don’t have to do this yourself and you don’t have to do all the geeky things I have done. Susie Tobias at Wise Genius offers a WordPress website health check. It’s a bit like an MOT and you get a report. This was what alerted me to my arguing plug-ins.
  5. I added an Accessibility plug in which enables people to make your website layout work for them. Alice Jennings has a 5 minute guide on how to do this simple act to improve your site experience.

What do you think?

I always welcome feedback. Does the website work for you? Is anything unclear or, is there something that doesn’t work? Let me know! You can use the comment box below or get in touch.

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