Questions? (877) 643-7244
FutureNow Post
Wednesday, Sep. 23, 2009 at 10:39 am

Website Redesign Roundup

By Brendan Regan
September 23rd, 2009

Lots of talk about redesigning websites lately. Maybe it’s because summer is ending, and the Holidays are right around the corner (for e-Tailers, that is)?

needchangeFirst, there was Jeff Sexton‘s post about asking the right Persuasion Architecture questions before redesigning, which was inspired by a Seth Godin post. Then, Jakob Nielson had some good thoughts from the Usability camp about redesigns and how radical they should be.

Mr. Nielson’s thoughts resonated with me given that our OnTarget product is generally focused on incremental improvement of clients’ existing websites. He urges readers to avoid redesigns that involve massive change to a site’s user interface.  Why?  Because users (read: customers and prospects) hate change and love the familiar, even if we as marketers are sick of how our own sites look.  It’s always good advice to “evolve a UI with gentle changes rather than offer a totally fresh design.”  He also recommends “getting the basic design right in the first place, before you launch, so that it can live several years with minor updates.”  I think that’s a key point: a good (re)design is one that can stay fresh and current for several years, and accommodate a process of continuous improvement and incremental change.

I’ve seen many gorgeous site redesigns that didn’t stand up to that criteria–they weren’t well-coded, well-documented, or maintainable.  And when it came time to start optimizing, the marketing team found many unexpected constraints that made incremental changes more expensive than they bargained for.

Another point I’d like to drive home is that redesigns should be done with ROI in mind, not because internal stakeholders are sick of the look and feel.  There should be documented goals that can be measured, for example, increasing pages per visit by 20%, and increasing conversion rate by 5%.  And flexibility should be built in, so that you can always have a “to do list” of small improvements you can implement each month to incrementally build on your successes.

Finally, if you are considering a moderate to major redesign, keep in mind that usability testing can be done on very simple prototypes before you make major investments.  And, we love giving feedback on mockups, wireframes, prototypes, etc. because it allows our clients to launch with the best possible product, after which we start the process of continuous improvement.

Add Your Comments

Comments (79)

  1. Hi Brendan,

    I’ve seen that as you pointed out, its very important to keep RIO in mind over what you may think works. A good example is to perform a test against 2-3 different call to action buttons. There have been reports out of several large websites that increased their conversion rates dramatically by just changing the color and/or wording of their buttons. It’s incredible the little things you can do to tweak it. Good article!

  2. Hi Brendan,

    Great article. I agree. We’ve had dozens of client experiences where they will come to us and ask for a full re-design, and often won’t need one at all. They simply need some enhanced usability testing to indicate problem points on the website, with respect to conversion. Once we identify those, we can test new solutions to enhance conversion rate, and ultimately improve the ROI.

  3. I stumbled across this article and find it very useful! As long as a site is cleanly built to begin with, minor updates are easy to incorporate and fairly easy to measure.

    As long as you have good content and your site is usable, people expect it to stay that way. Don’t mess things up just because you want a fresh look. However, if you are receiving minimal results from your website, it may be time for a bigger redesign.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Andrea
    @ProtoShare

  4. Good points. However, as hinted at above, it depends how bad the current design is. Sometimes a huge overhaul is necessary.

  5. Thanks for sharing this information. Redesigned website also needs more regression testing to make sure changes have not affected other functionalities of website.

  6. Good post, thanks Brendan.

    I have an issue / question with the goal setting section though. How on earth can any company say ‘we want to increase sales by 20%’? Isn’t that just a stupid thing to say. It might be that no design could do that, it might be that a good design could improve the rate by 40%, how can any company make concrete decisions based on target numbers plucked out of the air?

  7. @Ian: While I’m not in favor of unrealistic redesign goals (C-level executives are often guilty of this), we strongly believe a redesign should have documented goals.

    Goals should be based in reality, i.e. if the industry-standard conversion rate is 2%, then don’t expect a redesign to give you 50% conversion rate right away.

    If you don’t hit your redesign target, you learn something from it. If you do hit your redesign target, you ask for a raise :)

  8. @Brendan

    Good point… but I think there’s still a key problem with saying ‘this arbitrary level is good, that one is bad’. I want my marketing efforts to get 100% of what we’re capable of getting (with the resources we have). I certainly don’t want the marketing team getting a raise if they hit an easy 20% goal, in fact maybe they should get the sack for aiming so low. But if they get a 2% improvement in a site that’s already optimized up the alleyoop… hey, great stuff.

    In my experience these kinds of improvements are like business plans. They never come out exactly how you thought they would: stuff you thought would be easy is excruciating, and other bits that were just ‘duh’ moments win you 80% of the improvements you achieved.

    But I do take your point that you can set levels of the type: ‘we have to get conversion levels us to about that of our competitors, otherwise we’ll continue to lose market share’.

    Great and thought provoking post. I’ve only found the blog pretty recently and am enjoying the back-log greatly.

  9. We are slowly making changes to our site and have seen an increase in conversion rates.

    This takes time and effort though. Thanks for the insights.

  10. Great post !…thanks for share with us.. :d

  11. Nice arctilce. A major redesign should made carefully in dependence on the corporate identity of clients.

  12. nice. article….thanks i kept in mind…

  13. Our industries love of website redesigns is absolutely insane. When a redesign is necessary, you’re basically saying you have failed to discover problems and optimize the site properly.

  14. great articles, only its gonna be more pain in the ass :) i was thinking about redesins my web lately

  15. Hi Brendan,

    Thanks so much for this blog post. It’s a difficult decision as to whether to redesign a site when it is may be best to leave well enough alone or just implement minor tweaks. Moreover, the look of the site may remain consistent but the coding may have to be cleaned up.

    Your notion of ROI as an extremely important criterion when weighing the “redesign or not question” is well taken. I group this with SEO as it may go hand in hand with future profitability. (Webmasters may very well be concerned with redesign as it will definitely alter standing with the search engines — hopefully, improving a given site’s visibility in time.

    The site’s organization, navigation, ease of use for the visitor, code, marketing, and aesthetics have to be factored in when weighing the prospect to alter a site. Of course, all these considerations can lead to uncertainty and immobilization and that’s why so many webmasters choose to maintain the status quo and only implement minor changes. (Then again, after 8 years, our site has been altered 4 times. :) )

  16. I never thought of it that way. I keep redesigning my sites because I get bored looking at it everyday. But if I create content with my visitors in mind, I should do the same with my redesigns and do just small steps. Thank you!

  17. Getting the evaluation of any site amendment is useful for site owners as they can see the improvment the change was, then ultimately improving the effectiveness of any future changes. This way a site can be refined to what the users want. This way of streamlining a web process is highly effective.

  18. In my opinion I line fast homepage with simple code. With is easy to use and renders really fast.

    I know some site owner who invested 50 grands in new homepage, but there is nothing WOW even rendering speed is bad. So as author said. Keep in mind ROI

  19. “Because users (read: customers and prospects) hate change and love the familiar”

    Totally agree….It is much better to ease them into it. Users go into freak out mode with any major changes.

  20. I’ve seen al ot of redesigns in the past on several high quality sites like Shoemoney. I guess i’m one of those that really hate change, but he seems to do a good job of keeping most of the sites functionality the same. I think it is important, unless it is absolutely needed, to leave things in the same general area. So for example, if you are running a two column and have loyal readers, keep a two column layout in a redesign unless you just absolutely have to change it.

  21. Hello Brendan,
    Just wanted to thank you for sharing this information about redisigning a website. i really think it is an important matter and that website needs new look from time to time.

  22. I think that what you’re saying is right on the money. I once was involved with a company that had designed its website decently, but the code was not “nice and clean” like we prefer. This led to many inefficiencies in even the most minor site updates and changes. So, for this website the “redesign” consisted of a major cleaning of the code while keeping the user-facing appearance very similar. In this way, we were able to keep the user familiarity with the site while improving load times, navigation, and our own efficiencies on the back-end.

  23. I’ve done a lot of redesigned, I think giving clients clean code, clean crisp designs and considering some basic usability matters makes a large improvement.

  24. [...] on website redesign: Seth Godin Blog: Things to ask before you redo your website Grokdotcom Blog: Website Redesign Roundup User Interface Engineering Blog: Thinking in the Right Terms- 7 Components for a Successful Website [...]

  25. Para nasil kazanilir, internetten para nasıl kazanılır, kolay para nasıl kazanılır

  26. We just launched our redesign yesterday.

    The design is very different from the previous version but we focused on allowing our visitors to find information about our toolset much faster and easier.

    We also placed more emphasis on calls to action.

  27. [...] Source – GrokDotCom [...]

  28. Speaking of web design, in Firefox (3.0.14)and Mac (10.5) your layout is broken ;-( There is a huge empty space to the right hand side (scrollbar is nearly a page wide) and some of the videos in blog posts overlay part of the text, thought you should know, SY

  29. Thanks blogging tips. We’re investigating the problem.

    I’m not seeing it on my mac running firefox 3.0.14 but I’ll try some more scenarios.

  30. Would a screen shot help? I am still getting the huge empty space on the right hand side, SY

  31. redesigning will help you identify which and what designs did the public want.

  32. Redesigning is always nice but the problem with it is that sometimes people do a complete overhaul of the original project. This can lead to some drastic changes in site and link structure, which of course is not good for SEO. A site can’t just be eye candy, it actually has to be a well built machine in my opinion.

  33. Nice post. I think that changing the design of a website is a good idea of course. Word is changing so why internet websites should stay the same ?
    But don’t forget to keep somme graphics standards…

  34. I think there’s still a key problem with saying ‘this arbitrary level is good, that one is bad’.

  35. This was a good article to read and redesigning a website will keep it fresh and up with the times, but what happens if you’re constantly redesigning a website? Would that confuse visitors coming to the site e.g if the overall design changes would the sites branding and image change with it?

  36. nice post :)

  37. I go for incremental changes. But if you look at my main site 2 months ago you wouldn’t recognize it.

  38. “when it came time to start optimizing, the marketing team found many unexpected constraints”
    That’s a real problem for sure !
    If the new design is cool and more efficient for users, don’t forget to think to developpers too !

  39. “a good (re)design is one that can stay fresh and current for several years, and accommodate a process of continuous improvement and incremental change.” thats pretty much it in a nutshell.

  40. Great tips! thank you.

    best regards

  41. [...] came across a post by Brendan Regan over at FutureNow that lays this all out quite clearly.  Brendan reminds us that users (i.e.: your [...]

  42. my site also returns an error in my frefoz

  43. Great tips! thank you.

    best regards

  44. Most of our clients came to use with complete disasters for websites. I wish I could just offer advice on small updates, that would make life much easier for us. But usually a total overhaul is in order. And by the time they are done paying for the original mess that someone else did, then paying us to fix the mess with a new site, people just don’t want to spend any more money for “continuous improvement”, they just let it sit, get mangled or out of date, and then begin the cycle all over again.

  45. “if you are considering a moderate to major redesign, keep in mind that usability testing can be done on very simple prototypes before you make major investments.”

    I will surely keep this in mind. Anyway, thank you for the tips and I hope to see more of these helpful tips in the future.

  46. Web site redesigning means reevaluate , tips mite be help when website pass from SQA Software Quality Assurance department,

  47. Nice arctilce. A major redesign should made carefully in dependence on the corporate identity of clients.

  48. Great post,thanks for share with us.

  49. I have thought website redesign make user lose familiar with website.

  50. After i redesigned my site, the average pageviews per visitor fell by 15%. But now after 2 months it is catching up again. I guess the users needed some time to get familiar with it.

  51. EZ Website Monitoring is right, you can also increase your ROI drastically by implementing Google Optimizer Tool on your website. You learn about it more on Google Conversion University.

  52. Website re-design is always a headache for me. Especially when the site already has good readership (subscribers).

  53. Blind redesigns lead to more redesigns in the future. Conceptualize, sketch, and plan for hours before you do anything. Nothing like repainting the walls a different color, only to discover you liked them better the first way better.

  54. This post is a bit confusing for me. It seems that the more I read about the website redesign, the more confused I become.

  55. @Kingfisher Airlines Booking: Yes, it can be confusing, and major redesigns are also risky. The simple way to think about is 1. invest in understanding and modeling your prospects, 2. gather feedback and test during an iterative design phase and 3. know that you’ll still have to keep redesigning after the new site is live!

  56. Usability testing can be a large part of a sites redesign, also important in usability is optimizing the content for search engines. Ya, it’s great having a cool looking site but how are people going to find your site? If it’s through search engines then you best pay special attention to optimizing the actual content of your site not just the design.

  57. Good points. However, as hinted at above, it depends how bad the current design is. Sometimes a huge overhaul is necessary.

  58. Great articles. Sometime we need redesign for refreshing and still keeping spirit for post. Good luck and congratulation

  59. Hmm, sometimes redesign is needed for usability improvement, but sometimes it is not.

    I’m pretty much hold on to the terms “Why change the winning team ?”

  60. I think it is important, unless it is absolutely needed, to leave things in the same general area.

  61. website should be redesigned over a period of time keeping the technology trends in the mind, and the business need and requirement you felt over the period since you have the website, the functionalities should be there in the site, you should get them all.

  62. Site redesign will result in google ban?

  63. No… it will not result in Google ban at all…

  64. It is true that many people do not like change and when you change the background or colors on a site I have had visitors bounce off because they thought it was the wrong site.

  65. As long as you have good content and your site is usable, people expect it to stay that way. Don’t mess things up just because you want a fresh look. However, if you are receiving minimal results from your website, it may be time for a bigger redesign.

  66. Too many people think a redesign will make all the differnce and if not thought out correctly they can do you more damage than good.

  67. Hello Brendan.. What do you think about SEO in design? some people tell me that SEO and design seems like water and oil. Is that true? Thanks :)

  68. @Salehdbrent Sgdashhousedotcom: All the various elements of conversion (design, functionality, copy, SEO, persuasion, etc.) have to be balanced, and there are always going to be trade-offs that need to be made. Specifically, I’ve seen many cases where Design has ruined SEO, and where SEO has ruined design, which is why balance, trade-offs, and keeping focus on business goals and conversions is crucial.

  69. This is awesome, not only is it good for consumers to know but it’s also kind of an eye opener for programmer and designers too.

  70. What do you think about SEO in design? some people tell me that SEO and design seems like water and oil. Is that true?

  71. @oyun indir: I think of design and SEO more like Yin and Yang. They are very different, but can coexist as part of a cohesive whole. For an example of a site that obviously understands SEO and design, check out SEOmoz dot org.

  72. My opinion is that you shouldn’t change the things that work just for the sake of different look. Mild to moderate changes t the site are welcome, but radical redesign, especially when it comes to totally different look, will most often have more negative then positive consequences. And of course, changes made to site often open new holes for malign infiltrations.

  73. the sad truth is that many people do not have ROI in mind while redesigning.The look of the site matters most to them but at the same time,i will have point out that clients must mention their intention/need to the designers so that they can render what they wanted.

  74. Even now it seems like the “thing to do” if you look at sites like IMDB and Wikipedia and other large sites changing their layout, for no other reason than the sake of it. It is especially frustrating over at IMDB, that new layout isnt an improvement at all, it gives you a much poorer user experience imo.

  75. the marketing team found many unexpected constraints that made incremental changes more expensive than they bargained for.

  76. we as marketers are sick of how our own sites look. It’s always good advice to “evolve a UI with gentle changes rather than offer a totally fresh design

  77. In my experience these kinds of improvements are like business plans.

  78. To have a good conversion rate for first you need to win your visitors trust by addig security methods and attractive packets that will make them read more and more on your website.

  79. Usability testing – so over looked, yet so important.

Add Your Comments

 

Print this Article
Share

More articles from Brendan Regan

Marketing Optimization Blog
FREE Newsletter Sign-Up
send it once every: