Southern Inflatables bounces back with a site redesign
I've just completed a website redesign and relaunch for Southern Inflatables, manufacturers of inflatable buildings and other inflatable structures. This was a 'team of one' job where I was the chief cook and bottle washer.
The old Southern Inflatables site was almost 10 years old, so there was a lot of legacy content that, though out of date, was still attracting search traffic.
At some point in the recent past, an SEO firm had got its hands on the site and ruined the top level navigation, stuffing it with the word 'inflatable' wherever it could, and introducing lots of content that was not engaging for real site visitors. A content audit revealed that over two thirds of the pages on the site were duplicate content.
Here is the site before the redesign.
And here it is after the redesign.
The Southern Inflatables website redesign process
With a small budget to perform the redesign it was important to use the time efficiently and focus on the key activities necessary to produce a successful migration.
Content audit with focus on Search
Although the user experience wasn't great, the site did attract a lot of traffic from search. I performed a content audit and cross referred it with Google Analytics data.
The content audit revealed:
- Which pages were attracting search visits, and which keywords visitors are using,
- There were hundreds of duplicate pages that could invoke a search penalty,
- There were hundreds of pages (even ones that the SEO company had created) that attracted fewer than 10 visits from search in over 6 months.
- There were important pages that had somehow become disconnected from the navigation and had not received a single visit in 6 months.
To reduce ongoing hosting fees, and to ensure that as much effort as possible could be put into creating a new information architecture and improved user experience, I recommended migrating the site to a hosted service. After reviewing the site requirements for Southern Inflatables I selected SquareSpace, a site design service with a user friendly content management system that comes with configurable templates that work well on computers, tablets, and smartphones.
Using the knowledge gathered in the content audit I identified 2 ways of looking at the content:
- By product type - Many people are searching for 'inflatable buildings', 'inflatable spray booths', and so on. A categorisation by product type helps them find information quickly.
- By sector - People were also using industry/sector based searches such as 'blow up buildings for disaster relief'.
There were many stories on the site that could be linked to as further reading from either product type or sector. I decided to use a blog content collection that could be categorised by product type and tagged by sector to allow filtered lists of relevant stories to be linked to from both product and sector overview pages.
The sketches below have varying levels of finesse - I used them to concentrate my thinking on various aspects of the solution. I'm a big fan of mind mapping and concept mapping - either electronically or in sketch form. As you can see from the sketches, I'm not an illustrator, but I do find that ideas stick in my mind better if I get then down in sketch form.
Click on an image to see a larger version.
User Experience Design
Working within the Squarespace system puts constraints on what can be achieved. With budget as another constraint it was important to focus on key improvements:
- Declutter the navigation
- Enforce consistency in the way articles are structured and assets are prepared
- Introduce calls to action on key pages
- Surface important content and submerge / remove redundant content
In addition to the human user experience I also considered the Search Engines to be a user and ensured their experience was improved through the implementation of a comprehensive 301 redirect policy that points old site links to their new site equivalents.
Having identified the way the content should be organised in the Squarespace system, I selected the most suitable Squarespace site template and set about migrating the content. The content was migrated before customising the look & feel of the template because it made more sense to see how the site hung together first.
There wasn't a lot of budget for rewriting content so I concentrated on the pages that the Content Audit had identified as being the most popular. There's still work to be done to get the content up to scratch, and it's hoped that an ongoing content improvement program will be undertaken now that the relaunch has taken place.
There was no budget for engaging a graphic designer. Instead, a number of tweaks were made using the Squarespace site configurator and then custom CSS was injected to further personalise the design.
The new design is intended to showcase the content, with particular attention being given to font sizes and leading, and other readability improvements.
This is the final part of the project - I will be training people at Southern Inflatables how to update the existing content and how to add new content in a consistent way to what already exists.
Although there were a lot of activities necessary to migrate the Southern Inflatables website, the constrained budget meant that the whole process had to take place over a short period of time - 8 days of effort spread over a fortnight.
By undertaking a search-focussed content audit and imposing constraints at an early stage, it was much easier to prioritise activities and produce high quality work where it was needed, leaving less important tasks for future phases of improvement.
Need advice about an upcoming website redesign?
If you have a website redesign project coming up, I'd love to discuss it with you.
Simply drop me a line using the form below and we can arrange a good time to talk.