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Tuesday, May. 6, 2008

Website Optimization vs. Redesign: The UFO Metaphor

By Robert Gorell
May 6th, 2008

ufo house website optimization vs redesign

Who would throw away a perfectly good UFO house?

That’s exactly what happened in Taiwan more than 20 years ago, as you can see from these Flickr photos.

Wow. An entire resort filled with UFO-style houses.


Seeing this made me think of the websites that are abandoned each day, each quarter, by businesses that decide they need to redesign instead of enduring the less glamorous process of website optimization.

According to one blog, there are a several rumors as to why the “UFO house” resort in Sanjhih was abandoned. One story suggests that someone was killed there and the resort is haunted. Another is that the Taiwanese government outlawed bathing beaches in the area. But the most believable explanation is that the design was impractical; the resort is in a remote, windy area near the sea, and if the houses are indeed made of fiberglass as it appears, it would get incredibly hot in the summertime.

Form without function is art, not business.

In August of last year, Internet Retailer‘s Form and Function survey of “243 chain retailers, catalog companies, virtual merchants and consumer brand manufacturers,” and found that…

60.3% . . . have redesigned their e-commerce sites in the past year, including 20.1% in the past three months and 14.3% within six months. Of the retailers planning to overhaul the look of their web sites, 74.7% expect to do so within 12 months and 28.6% within 90 days.

[...] “The pace of web site design is brisk because more retailers know that having an attractive site that makes it easy to find merchandise and make a purchase is a competitive advantage,” says Joey Lechtner, director of e-marketing services for Fry Inc., an Ann Arbor, Mich., web site design and e-commerce development company. “Retailers ‘keep up with the Jones’ [sic] and if their competitor redesigns a site, they notice and take action.”

A costly redesign? Just to keep up with the neighbors? What if these earthlings — these so-called “Joneses” — take their design cues from outer space? Sure, there are times when a website redesign makes sense, but if you plan it with human visitors in mind in the first place, redesigning each year would seem crazy.

And let’s face it. Maybe you don’t need a redesign. Maybe you just need to recognize that you’ve built a cool-looking-yet-impractical UFO house that would be fine if you just painted it white and installed solar panels, reflective glass and an air conditioner.

That’s my website optimization metaphor and I’m sticking to it. For now.

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Comments (13)

  1. Thanks for the post. As I provide marketing services to clients, when they are considering changing their site – I constantly ask them ‘Is your site bringing you clicks but not customers? If the answer is yes – then as you put it the UFO house goes away and something better replaces it. In the chase for magic keywords, sometimes we loose sight that once the humans do find you – your website has to make someone (even aliens if they have cash) want to click, buy or call. Business websites are marketing tools to get new customers and retain existing business – in my opinion it always needs to be changed and worked on. Lia Barrad

  2. It’s important to remember that much of this issue comes down to what people call their overhauls…a “redesign,” or “optimization.” My web designer will call what we’re doing a redesign, but while she is worrying about a pleasing design, I’m worrying about usability and conversion. Therefore to me it’s optimization. But your point about annual overhauls is well-taken. They would seem entirely unnecessary if the thought and planning about the visitor experience was there in the first place.

  3. Can you imagine how much money would be saved if businesses would “do it right” and design their web site with their customers first and foremost in their mind to begin with? Web design, copywriting, and search engine optimization should all be focused on the customer, but oddly enough, few companies seem to “get it.”

  4. As Viki points out it’s imperative to consider all aspects of an internet business solution during the initial design & functionality programming phases. The truth is that often a business site is so far removed from the company objective and brand positioning as well as being built to poor programming standards that its better to scrap it & start again. If it was “done right” to begin with then tweaking and testing should be considered on-going activities for the health of a business solution. Business owners & managers have to understand that the internet is a living document and their site should be one as well.

  5. Hilarious, I just had this exact conversion with a marketing team today. They are working on some brochures for a company, and every few months the brochures “evolve” or so I was told. As I dug into what they meant by evolving there wasn’t any clear reason why, other than something new. I explained to them the concept of testing and tracking, although this isn’t as simply as it is online, but nonetheless still a possible scenario in the off-line world if you have the right approach.

  6. I think they look like really cool place to live. I totally agree, so many people want a new looking site. just becuase they have seen it a million times does not mean thier visitors has. For some visitors that have only visited a few times and got use to the lay out have to rework thier brains.

  7. It is a strange one… I think that sometimes, if things are not broken (design wise) no need to fix them. Specially if this is going to affect your SEO

  8. Getting clients to your website is the most important thing. It has to look nice/professional, but it certainly doesn’t have to be crazy.

  9. site with their As first and foremost I dug into what they meant by evolving customers first and foremost design their web site with their design their web customers in their in their mind

  10. Why vs ? why not both , i think with both you can achieve higher things and goals.

  11. Both are important needs to be done on the same time.

  12. I guess both Website Optimization and Redesign are necessary because many people uses both of it and many are enjoying its features and services.

  13. As I continually improve how I build a website, I have discovered something amazing.

    When I surf the web, I always ask myself, “Would I stay on this site, and do I find it pleasant and easy to surf?”

    I try to put myself in the visitor’s shoes and give them what I would want if I were them looking for something.

    A lot of times I see sites that just have too much flashy junk and it loads too slow or the print is just too small.

    Sites must be Human-friendly as well as Search Engine-friendly for best results.

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