Wednesday, October 13, 2010

3 Actions to Take When Launching your Redesigned Website

When a website is redesigned, the page addresses (URLs) usually change. This causes a lot of “Page not found” errors, also known as 404 errors. It also causes a lot of frustration amongst those attempting to reach your website.

To recover these visitors and keep a smile on their faces, 3 simple actions should be taken. Most web agencies know them. The best agencies implement them. Do you know in which group your agency belongs?

Main Causes of “Page not found” Errors after a Website Redesign

This type of error is the result of users keeping the old pages in their bookmarks or favourites. It can also be because other websites have links to your old pages. Finally, it is possible that someone tried to access your old pages from the search results of Google or other search engines.

3 Actions to Take after a Website Redesign

These actions will minimize “Page not found” errors after a website redesign:
  • Redirect important and popular pages to their new addresses;
  • Implement a customized 404 error page;
  • Remove old pages from search engines.

Redirect Important and Popular Pages to Their New Addresses

To implement this action, I suggest a 4 step process:
  1. A list should be drawn of the most important pages from your old website. Good candidates are: homepage, about us and landing pages. Add to that list the most popular pages based on your web analytics tool.
  2. Remove from the list the pages that have kept the same address (URL) in the new website.
  3. For every page remaining in the list, identify the page in the new website that fits best the content from the old page.
  4. Implement on the new web server 301 redirects from every the old page to its equivalent new page.
Implementing this action will provide the users with a reasonable compromise. The error message will be avoided and they will probably reach the content that they were looking for.

Implement a Customized 404 Error Page

When a user enters an invalid page address or clicks on one, a “Page not found” error message will appear in the browser. This user wants to go to your website. To help this person, the smart thing to do is to present instead a customized 404 error page from your website. This page has the look of your website and will indicate that the page does not exist anymore. More importantly, it will offer an easy way back into your site by providing a navigation system.

For ideas on how to design such a page, see this article from UXbooth: 5 tips to make your 404 error page more usable.

Note that a customized 404 error page must have an HTTP status of 404 and not 200. This will help search engines clean up their indexes.

Remove Old Pages from Search Engines

With time, search engines will remove your old website’s pages from their indexes. But this will take weeks after the new website implementation. To avoid having both old and new pages in search engine result pages, you should remove the old pages using Google Webmaster Tools or Bing Webmaster Tools. It is quite easy to do. However, before you do this, make sure the new website is already indexed.


You redesigned your web site to generate more visits from your target audience. Avoid frustrating them by putting in place these 3 actions. They will certainly appreciate.

You may also use this post to test your web agency. Ask them what they will do to minimize the “Page not found” errors when redesigning your website. Then compare their answers with my suggestions.

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