Redesigning a web site can be a monumental task.
There are lots of things that you have to commit to in order to reach the successful completion of such a particular type of project. No wonder so many companies fail with their redesigns.
However, you shouldn’t be afraid to do a proper redesign. After all, the web is the most dynamic medium out there. If you get stuck in your old ways, you might see yourself get left behind. That means the end to your business as you know it.
As for a less serious reason, there’s always some room for a dash of fabulousness on your web site. What’s important is the understanding of what you should really go for: a simple UI fix or a full-blown time-consuming, hair-tearing, deadline-missing experience?
Coming from the vaults of first-hand knowledge on custom web apps and their life cycles, this article will give you some pointers down below.
Why Should You Redesign Your Web site?
Can you answer this question with a simple elevator pitch or a similarly succinct statement? If not, then it’s probably not the best time to go for web site redesign right now.
You need to have a clear vision of your redesign goals. To do that, you should fully understand your current business processes and how they affect your bottom line. Why? Because you can’t be 100% sure that you need a redesign if you’ve no idea if the rest of your pipeline is working properly.
The simplest example would be to imagine a landing page. People visit, but they don’t buy. How can you be sure that it’s the design that needs to be changed? Maybe, it’s all about a poor copy or the product itself.
The same idea could be extrapolated to the whole concept of redesign. Usually, businesses are ready to overhaul their website when they’re financially hurting. Right at that point, the business should go over its processes, analyze each part of the team and the sales pipeline to see if there are any ‘leaks.’
Fixing these ‘leaks’ should take care of many of the financial issues, if properly implemented. If at this stage, after fixing everything that you could, you’re still able to answer the ‘why’ question succinctly, then you’re probably on the right track.
At the same time, your website is a crucial part of your funnel. If you’re generating leads but not closing them, the issue probably won’t be fixed by redesigning your web site. But if it’s your web site that’s leaking, that’s a solid bottom-line reason to fix things.
If the web site is not getting any traffic, that’s a good reason to look at design as well as SEO, on- and off-page. Look at your numbers at each of the funnel stages and check for other possible poor performers before you get to fix the design.
For a quick and simple way to figure out whether the problem is in your web site, head over to Google Analytics. Google says:
“A bounce is a single-page session on your site. In Analytics, a bounce is calculated specifically as a session that triggers only a single request to the Analytics server, such as when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits without triggering any other requests to the Analytics server during that session.”
In other words: people come to your site, see what you’ve got and leave right away. This is either your SEO and paid ads attracting the wrong traffic, or your website putting your visitors off.
If you’ve got major differences between your mobile and desktop bounce rates, that might be a sign that your web site dates from the time when mobile wasn’t such an issue. Now, mobile accounts for more traffic than desktop, so if you’re losing mobile users in large numbers, redesign is definitely in order.
Are You Able to Pull It Off?
It might sound like a no-brainer, but sometimes businesses underestimate the budget and resources required for a redesign. Of course, that also depends on the size of your web site, its goals (an e-commerce web site, an information website, news outlet, etc.), and its complexity.
It still may end up in a mess, where you can’t keep up with the sprints (assuming you practice Agile) and the rest of your projects is stuck, because, for the time being, design is the priority. There are plenty of other reasons why redesign can fail.
The most common single cause is lack of clarity on goals, which make up one of the most critical elements of any design project. If the overarching goal of the new web site isn’t clearly defined, the whole project is much more likely to wind up in the long grass.
But the normal way web redesign turns into a disaster is that multiple factors conspire simultaneously: lack of clarity, budget issues, mission creep, and competing business priorities.
Imagine that you want to renovate your yard. You’re moving a treehouse to a different tree to cut the old tree down and get a lawn going on the spot that it occupies. But your back is aching after you got the treehouse down and your local zoning limits don’t allow more than a specific amount of water to be wasted on a lawn. Plus, you ran out of money for nails to put the treehouse back together.
So you end up with no lawn and a pile of dirt instead, a cut-down tree that was rocking a great shade and no treehouse, which makes your kids properly upset. This is what your redesign project mustn’t become.
To avoid disasters like these, you need to:
- Have clear goals/requirements
- Have the right people in place to run the project
- Provide the right feedback for the team
- Make sure that your team has the expertise, or make sure that the experts are acquired prior to the project start
- Have a detailed plan
- Manage your risks, e.g. what will you do if the project goes south?
This simple plan should get you covered for most of the steps associated with web site redesign.
Do You Need Some Makeup or a Plastic Surgery?
Confused? Alright, let’s rephrase the question. Do you need a simple portal design with a couple of UI fixes or a full-blown redesign? Sometimes, business owners and managers confuse these two things.
What’s the difference? The volume of work and the goals. With UI fixes, you’re eliminating individual issues with your web site. With a full-scale web site redesign, you’re overhauling the UI, the backend, the structure and many other associated things.
You’re also risking current rankings, traffic, and conversions. Many a web site has been redesigned into SEO oblivion, and it’s not unusual for a redesigned web site to be the fruit of so many compromises that it actually underperforms the original, however creaky.
Before committing to redesign, make sure that you’re not just looking for a simple fix to an interface problem. How can you do that? Ask yourself about the origin of your redesign idea. Were you looking to, for example, fix a button on your site or remove a flash banner and ended up considering a complete redesign? Just do that fix, for now.
Then look at the next small thing you could change. Compile a list of these potential changes. Does that list look like something that could be consolidated? If ‘yes’, then you’re in for redesign. With a step-by-step approach like this, you will be able to break up the tasks on the go, build a better list of project elements and save resources if you don’t end up starting redesign after all.
Hopefully, these tips will provide you with a solid framework and reasoning for your redesign initiative. Good luck!