When you embark on a website redesign, it can be a difficult choice to figure out what to do with your existing website content.
You may want to keep it all and just bring it over to your new site to save time or cost.
You may be looking forward to a complete refresh of your website content that better describes your business or services.
What Should Stay and What Should Go?
This can be a tough situation to solve from the marketing firm’s point of view, too. If you choose to keep old content, you’ll likely still need to re-write your homepage. Doing that might initiate some other content changes or additions.
We also know from over a decade of experience that when you see your new website with old content, you’ll most certainly want to change some things. And that can snowball.
A Website Redesign Calls for Heavy Editing (at least)
When you redesign the company website, you really should edit existing content heavily if not rewrite it completely. Here are some reasons why:
- Architecture changes
When you redesign, you’re probably going to want to change the organization of your content. You may need to add new sections or remove old sections, so you’ll likely need to move pages around or re-write them to accommodate new page goals.
- Page layout changes
When the design of your website changes, the page layout changes as well. Where you might have once had a large area for paragraphs of text, your new website might be more visual and call for a combination of visuals/graphics and short blocks of text.
- Business priorities and goals change
What was important 2-4 years ago when the last website was designed might not be the priority now. For instance, recruiting or corporate communication/PR might have be the priority years ago, where now your company views the website as a business development aid. These shifts in priority will always trickle down into your website content needs.
How To Rewrite Your Website During a Website Redesign
We’ve established that your website content rewrite should be guided by the goals of your company, not the content you already have. From that perspective, you should almost always start over from scratch (or at least heavily edit) when you decide to redesign your website to make sure that the final product reflects the vision and direction of your company.
Here’s how to start your website content redesign from scratch while saving important messages and favorite turns of phrase from your existing website content:
Start with a blank slate and identify your core messages.
With company priorities in mind and without using any of your existing site content, write out how your new website will contribute to meeting company goals.
The website goals will help you decide at a high level how your website content should be written, and you’ll need to take into account the marketing messages that speak to your current, ideal customer.
Your customer personas will be critical for this exercise, and you’ll want to have a clear grasp of the important messages that express your company mission to your customers. These guiding concepts will help you identify the key messages your content needs to get across and help you map out the content that needs to be on the site.
Carefully review all of your existing website content and delete what doesn’t align with your core messages.
Only once you’ve clearly identified the goals of your new website, examine your existing site content. Rather than looking at each web page during your analysis, pull all of your website copy into a document so you can review it all in one place. Then review it page by page and delete anything that doesn’t align with company and website goals.
Why take this extra (sometimes painful) step? It will make planning your new site content more efficient and save you a lot of time in the long run. It will also allow you to organize your content in a way that makes it easy to hand off to your web developer or upload into the new website.
Ask yourself these questions.
When you’re finished, you’ll have a handful of phrases, pages, and content assets that may or may not make it into your final draft. Some of this existing site content will be edited and included in the new content, and some of it will need to be completely rewritten. To decide what to do with each piece of content, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this item speak to our customer personas?
- Does this item match the tone and voice of the site redesign?
- Does this item align with the page layout of the new website design?
- Will removing this item create a content gap?
- Is this item needed for an initial website launch, or can it be added after launch?
- Do I have the types of content (i.e. text web pages, videos, images, interactive elements, etc.) that fit the needs of our customers?
- Are there gaps in content, and what are they? What needs to be written from scratch?
Outline, edit and draft the rest of your content.
It’s helpful to draw out or diagram how pages on your new website will be organized. Creating a sitemap and assigning a single purpose for each page is a great way to plan and outline pages.
Once you diagram your sitemap, start the process of editing your content or writing new content for your new website.
Hopefully this framework will help you wrap your mind around the daunting task of creating content for your website redesign. Remember, effective content takes into account your customers’ informational needs and your company goals.