Website Redesign Horror Stories

Website Redesign Horror Stories

Posted on October 28, 2022 nerdymind

Your bedroom door slowly creaks open. A dim figure peeks menacingly around the corner. Your voice shakes as you burst upright in bed, “Who’s there?”

You wonder if your eyes are playing dark tricks on you. The figure undulates around the room in an alarmingly unnatural manner, covering every corner of the space until it gets to your bedside. You’re frozen. The tall, thin shadow stares down at you with aggressive, pulsing energy—breathing heavily as if respiration is new to it. It starts to bend and contort, closer and closer to your face. You try to scream, but nothing comes out. You can feel your heart pumping in your throat. You feel a freezing cold blast of air as you slam back into your bed, pulling the covers over your face. Is it still there? you wonder as your hands unconsciously start pulling the sheets down to peek. The figure’s faceless head is INCHES from yours. You squinch your eyes closed as hard as you can. Then you hear a deep, horrifying whisper as if the figure was under the blankets with you.

I am a website redesign gone wrong.


There are a lot of things that can go wrong during a website redesign, but these projects don’t have to be something out of a horror film. In celebration of our favorite time of year (Halloween time), we compiled a list of “Website Redesign Horror Stories” for your perusal. Not to scare you—but to show you how to avoid these situations. Don’t run up the stairs when you should be heading for the front door if you catch our drift.


Story #1: A once-healthy conversion rate drops by 150% after the new website launches. *Insert blood-curdling scream here.*

If your business depends on the prospects that your website produces, it’s important to really, really think through your website redesign. If you have a conversion rate between 3%–5%, your goal should be to maintain that conversion rate (or improve it if you can). A lot of folks think they need to completely wipe the slate clean and start fresh. That’s not what the NERDS of NerdyMind recommends. We’re here to be real with you: Website redesigns don’t have to start from scratch. If your website performs well, it’s important to consider WHY you think you need a redesign. Have you updated your brand? Your messaging? A phased approach can be extremely effective.

As a first phase redesign, consider keeping the overall “wireframe” of your website intact and simply update the logo, colors, fonts, and words! Start by moving a complete copy of your website and database to a staging server. Your web development partner can update the style to match your new brand standards. Once that's done, you can edit the pages like you would on the live site! If you take this approach, follow these recommendations to survive:

  • Block your staging site from Google at the server level by requiring a password to view it. You can tell the robots not to crawl your website, but they don’t always listen.

  • If you decide to change up your navigation (the pages listed in the top bar of your website, or in the hamburger menu), be sure to write 301 redirects for those pages that are going away. We recommend changing the navigation in the SECOND phase of the redesign, but we’ll talk about that in a moment.

  • Make sure to move your Google Tag Manager snippet over for seamless website performance reporting.

  • Create a public annotation on the date the site changed for simpler “before and after” reporting.

If you follow these survival tips, you will make it to the end of the movie (and not in a “final girl” kind of way).


The inspiration for this recommendation comes from something absolutely terrifying in the web redesign world: GROUP THINKS! The C-Level of a rather large organization decided they needed an incredibly “flashy” website with jarring background videos and hyped-up messaging. They focused SO hard on being “modern” and “sleek” that they forgot about the calls to action completely. The resulting website was not only hard to understand (we didn’t know what they did until we talked to them), but it had scary-slow load speeds and not one CTA (call to action). The result? They went from about 200 conversions per month to less than 30 conversions per month…and the quality of the conversions did NOT improve. We love cool background videos, by the way! Just not at the sacrifice of a simple user experience and an easily digestible message.

Story #2: Organic traffic dropped by 300% about 2 weeks after the new website launched.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh! That’s terrifying to us—but we know the secret weapon required to combat this frightening outcome. Just like any horror movie, a theme is starting to develop here: A phased approach to a website redesign avoids those darn “jump scares.”


In the first phase of a website redesign, we usually recommend keeping the navigation the same (unless you want to add NEW pages). You can still change the imagery and copy on the existing pages, but it's best to avoid writing a lot of 301 redirects on the first pass. This way, all your URLs will remain the same and your search results should not shift. If you have a long domain history, you may have pages and posts indexed in all kinds of positions, for all kinds of search terms. Google’s not the movie monster here. No need to watch it lurch around, as it tries to figure out what happened to all that content. Instead, keep the content. If you want to add new pages, that’s great! Just make sure those new pages slide into the existing site navigation.

When planning the second phase of a redesign, imagine how the new navigation should look. Consider what redirects you need, and you can handle that part in more of an isolated fashion. Try to do too much at once and you’ll find yourself in a locked basement as the monster shuffles closer.

This horrifying story involves a client who lost all their organic traffic, so they came to NerdyMind for remedies and recommendations. We used the Wayback Machine to see what their website was like BEFORE the redesign. The content was completely hacked away. It went from a solid, deep navigation with great informational pages to a sleek, one-page WordPress theme. They went from hundreds of indexed pages to just ONE, and their rankings tanked over the next couple of weeks. Luckily enough, the company’s domain had a lot of history and authority. We were able to help them “rebuild” their navigation with content-rich pages. This was a lot of work to get them back where they wanted to be, so heed our caution: it’s best to avoid this altogether.

Story #3: Your conversions are no longer tracking. At all.

The few days after your website launches are critical with regard to tracking data. We often use “Destination URLs” to track form submissions and premium content downloads. This means we create a “thank you” page that loads after a user submits a form. We block this URL from search engines and track a conversion whenever this page loads. The only time these pages should load is when a user submits a form (or downloads something, signs up for an account, and so on). If you forget to move your confirmation pages over and your forms reset to show a message upon submission, then you won’t see any conversions in your analytical platform. This makes things look SO MUCH SCARIER than they really are.

When considering a website redesign, examine your form plug-in very closely. Whether WP Forms or another plug-in else, the settings are usually similar. Review which confirmation pages need to move to the new website. Make sure to copy the form settings correctly. This process is ESPECIALLY necessary for webhooks.

Our true story involves a business that not only forgot to copy form settings and confirmation pages over, but also lost its integration with Salesforce and Pardot. This mistake was detrimental to basic business operations. Prospects weren’t flowing into Pardot and getting properly scored. Even worse, the appropriate salespeople were not notified about the new lead. This translated to lost revenue. While it’s not loss of life, it’s still something we recommend avoiding!

See? It’s not so scary!

Congratulations! You survived!


But this is no horror story, nor is it a nightmare. We’ve found that folks will leave their website static for far too long. A bustling business should think about updating its website every few years. It doesn’t have to be as involved as you might fear. If you take a phased approach, you might find that you’re in a romantic comedy as opposed to some slasher flick.