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When you Should—and Shouldn’t—Redesign your Website

Posted by in Web Development

website redesign hero image

In this post, we discuss what to consider when planning a website redesign and when other options might be better for your budget and schedule.

For many organizations, website redesigns are simultaneously exciting and terrifying prospects. Every three years, the old site is completely scrapped and a shiny new one takes its place. Teams frantically review designs, labor over content, and test the smallest details in prototypes for months on end, only to launch the site and do it all over again a few years later.

This process can be expensive and ineffective, but it doesn’t have to be. With so much hinging on your site’s success, it’s just as important to consider how to create a new website as what it will contain, so we’ve put together some new ways to approach and streamline the process. For this post, we’ll use an analogy of redesigning your living room to give these concepts more clarity. 

Original Room Design

Redesigning a website is not unlike redesigning your living room: it can take many forms.

What’s Wrong with Your Current Site?

Before starting any website redesign, it’s important to ask yourself why your current site isn’t working. Common issues include:

  • We don’t like how the site looks: A site’s design sets the first impression, so it’s no surprise that organizations are keen to keep their sites visually appealing. Often, we’ll get approached about a redesign when the visual aesthetics of a website feel outdated or no longer match the organization’s branding.
  • The site’s functionality isn’t working well: Organizations looking for new or updated functionality on a website often take the opportunity to redesign their site. Sometimes new functionality will have an impact across the entire site (e.g., the ability to make purchases on what was previously a brochure site) and other times it is specific to a page or section.
  • Our site isn’t generating enough leads: It’s common for an organization to want a fresh start if their current website isn’t generating enough leads or sales. This stems from the notion that you can get better results from a brand new site than from fixing one that is broken, but in reality this isn’t always the case.
  • Our site’s users can’t find the content they need: Large sites can become cumbersome for users and administrators, so it’s not surprising when an organization wants to start over. A website redesign offers a great opportunity to run a content audit and rethink information architecture, helping to pare down and organize existing content.
  • The CMS and integrations are outdated: When a site’s technology starts to hinder its ability to function well then it’s time for a new site. The content management system, third-party integrations, and code create a foundation for the site, and if they aren’t working properly then the site won’t either.
  • The site isn’t helping us achieve our goals: An organization’s marketing goals evolve over time, and if your site can’t keep up then it’s time to consider making a change. Your site has to deliver on your marketing goals. Otherwise, it will never be an effective tool for your business or organization.
  • The site is difficult to update: Web administrators are often a website’s forgotten users, but their ability to easily update content is essential to a site’s success. Improving this experience makes a website more efficient and effective.

Knowing why you want a new website can help to determine how much work you’ll actually need to undertake in order to get the website your organization needs to reach its goals, as well as the best approach for achieving them.

Website Refresh vs. Website Redesign

There are two general approaches to revamping a website—a refresh or a redesign.

refreshed room design

A website refresh keeps the original’s spirit, but with new ‘furniture’.

Website Refresh

A new website doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch, sometimes you just need to make some updates to your existing site in order to get it looking and working as you want it to. A refresh can be used to make major changes to a site, but instead of building it from the ground up, you’re updating and changing what you already have. Think of it like getting new furniture for a room—it’s the same room you had before but you’ve made it look different and work better for you. This approach is easier, quicker, and requires fewer resources at any given time, but it may have limitations based on the technology you are using and how the site currently works.

completely redesigned room

A website redesign has a completely new look and feel from the original.

Website Redesign

A redesign is what most people think of when they start planning a new site. A proper redesign involves designing, developing, and structuring a new site from scratch. It’s like tearing down a room, rebuilding it from the ground up, and then adding a new paint color, carpeting, furniture, etc. This process is more complex, slower, and more expensive than a refresh but sometimes can get you better value for the money. Think of it this way, if your website needs so much work that it will take longer to undo and fix what exists than starting over, then a redesign is probably the best option for you.

The best way to figure out which approach is right for your organization is to have an honest conversation with a digital agency about what you need from a new site—your goals, existing problems, budget, and timeline. It’s also important to leave personal preferences aside and focus on what is right for the organization:

 

As someone that takes a lot of pride in the product we ship, it’s tempting to make it look better and fiddle with pixels without having the self-awareness to question, ‘Is this actually going to change how people use the product? Will it meaningfully impact our metrics?’ Don’t let your ego get in the way of prioritizing what’s right for the business and your users.

– Ryan Hoover, Founder of Product Hunt

 

Three Ways to Build Websites

Once you know whether you are moving ahead with a refresh or a redesign, you can determine which production process to use. The goal is to build a site that works better than what you already have and then improve the site based on user feedback. It’s also important to understand your customer buying process so each step in the sales funnel can be included in the initial launch. This ensures that your new website can generate leads and sales from the start. At Mightybytes, we use three different processes when creating or updating websites. Regardless of which process we use, we combine strategy and test-driven results to help us optimize our sites for our clients and their users:

1. Low-Hanging Fruit

In some cases, an organization just needs to fix things that are broken, so the majority of the site can be left as is. This approach primarily focuses on updating the broken elements of a site. Typically these are functionality fixes, but they could also extend to changing messaging, relocating existing pages in the site architecture, carrying out a content audit, or removing administrators that no longer need to have access to the site. These quick fixes can get the site back to its original glory without much time or investment.

2. Quick Launch

The goal of this process is to launch the initial site quickly and then follow that up with additional updates and conversion rate optimization based on what post-launch data analysis, i.e. what resonates with users. To achieve this, the initial site is launched only with what is “mission critical” to the site’s ability to convert users. After launch, secondary functionality and content is added as needed, and conversion rate testing begins. Think of this like you would an app on your phone—the initial launch is followed by regular feature updates that help improve its usability and security. The benefit of this approach is that you are able to get something up and running quickly, which means you can look at user data to determine how users are engaging with the site and what next steps would be worth taking.

3. Traditional Redesign

There are some situations when a full site is required at launch. This tends to occur when all the moving pieces need to work together to achieve the site’s goals. A good example of this is an e-commerce site, where the full product catalog, shopping cart and payment gateway have to exist in order for a purchase to be made. While this does take longer to get to launch than the other options, its strength is that you are able to have everything up and running at once.

A new website can have a big impact on an organization’s business goals. Planning how you will create a new site at the beginning of the project will help ensure that you get a site with minimal disruption and maximum impact. It’s important to work with an agency that can guide you through the process, whatever it ends up being, so you can get the site you want and your users need.

 

Veronica has managed digital marketing projects for over seven years and her past clients include BBC Worldwide, Pfizer, The Building and Social Housing Foundation and the NHS. When she's not working, Veronica enjoys travel, working on craft projects, and playing board games. Connect with her on LinkedIn.