A business’s launch of a new website is always met with anticipation, excitement, and even a little bit of relief. The process takes time, but when it’s complete, you have a shiny new site that (hopefully) improves upon the previous iteration. Pizza is ordered, champagne corks are popped, and the celebration begins: The new website is live!
And then, time zips by, and that shiny new website you seemed to have just launched now looks old because…you actually launched it two years ago. So much work is put into a site redesign that no one is in a hurry to do it again. Yet, both aesthetically and functionally, your homepage looks too 2014 for its own good.
Of course, your website might still be effective for users—if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right? The challenge is determining if your site does meet both your needs and the needs of visitors. You are aware that you must keep up with competitors and show customers that you care about the value of your products and services. A website that doesn’t reflect that will leave visitors unimpressed. The longer you wait, the more unimpressed they might become….
Redesign or Stand Pat?
Although there might be some obvious signs your website needs updating (that link to your company’s MySpace page is a no-brainer), not every indicator is so clear. After all, everything might be working fine, thus suggesting you stand pat. A redesign should be purpose-driven. There isn’t any right or wrong timeline; realistically, the decision to revamp your website depends on a number of factors:
- Have your services or products changed?
- Are you presenting content as effectively as you can? Is the content getting old?
- Are competitors outranking you in search results?
- Have your users’ needs changed since the last redesign?
- Did the company go through a rebrand?
- Does your current site work and display correctly on all devices?
- Do you need to improve usability? Are visitors not finding what they are looking for?
- Is your site load slow?
Your answers to these questions should give you a good idea whether or not a redesign is in order. There are several ways to tackle a redesign based on urgency and severity, but basically you likely will take one of two paths: incremental changes or a complete overhaul.
Tackling a website redesign in baby steps might be necessary in order to make the process as seamless and non-jarring as possible. Consider these two perspectives on why incremental changes might work best:
- The process doesn’t drain your time and resources: A typical overhaul of a site could take at least two months (starting from scratch all the way to launch). If you don’t have an unlimited amount of time, manpower, and budget to devote to the redesign, strive to make small enhancements to the user experience, perhaps adding new pages. You or your creative resources then can focus on other projects that help the business while making those small, incremental changes.
- Users won’t be scared off: People tend to hate change; they are used to certain patterns and intuitive experiences. When updating incrementally, you aren’t abandoning your current design—just gradually adjusting it.
Incremental changes offer other advantages as well. You can run A/B tests, keep track of traffic, and get customer feedback and data to make sure you are achieving user-centric goals.
If you need a visual refresh (or a reskin), there are small ways that you can update elements without hurting the website’s structure:
- Replace old textures, drop shadows, and old-school gradients with a flatter, modern look while keeping the main focus the same.
- Change the font to something more modern.
- Swap out stock images for more natural situations.
- Take inspiration from brands that you and your audience engage with regularly.
Because you’re just changing the CSS and applying new elements, this approach is definitely more of a money-saver. However, if you have tried incremental changes but discover that your issues go beyond aesthetics and don’t remedy low conversions and bad search rankings, you likely will need a complete overhaul of your website.
Complete Site Overhaul
A massive redesign may seem extreme but might be necessary if your site isn’t delivering the way it should. And if your website isn’t delivering, your bottom line will suffer. Here are some advantages of a complete overhaul:
- Fix any messes: Is the site architecture a mess? Do you have SEO problems? Is it not responsive? A freshly built website can fix all of these.
- Updating the look: An overhaul is a good opportunity to include new functionality, incorporate any rebranding elements, or add those fun background videos. Just make sure those videos have a purpose; don’t add them just because “they look cool.”
- Reorganization: A redesign gives you another chance to get it right—better content strategy, intuitive navigation, and an array of conversion opportunities.
The Right Time
Unfortunately, revamping your website isn’t like changing the oil in your car: There is no magic number on how long you should go between website redesigns and overhauls. As explained, many factors go into the decision—some sites can stay fresh for years; others seem dated several months in. That said, I would recommend a good redesign every two to three years, mostly because of the constant changes in your industry, as well as changes in design and technology.
Keep in mind the considerations detailed in this post to help you determine whether you should apply incremental changes or proceed with a complete overhaul. Strive to continually improve your website between redesigns so that task isn’t so monumental and, perhaps more important, so you don’t fall behind your competition. And when you do relaunch, be sure to celebrate! But if you can’t make it to the party, don’t worry—another site launch will be only a few years away….