The Risk Of Redesigning Your Website

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If you are considering redesigning your website, Stop! I mean it. Before you invest resources – time and money into building something new, you should read this blog post. A redesign can be a lengthy process and there is a real risk that the end product may not be any better than your existing site. This blog post was written to give you a different view on approaching your site redesign.

Why does your business really want a redesign

A recent conversation with folks from a few web development agencies revealed the reasons why businesses opt for a redesign.

a) The board is bored – Plainly put, the board are used to seeing the site day in and day out and want a fresher coat of paint. There may be no consideration given to the performance of the site and how it contributes to the revenue. Instead, the aesthetics (or lack of it) is being obsessed over.

b) Taken a design and implemented without  any thought to UX – Bad user experience leads to frustrated visitors and sites that don’t convert as well as it should. Often, designs that are skinned from templates or off the shelf products don’t cater to the different audience types and this may leave a business frustrated with the outcome.

c) First version did not meet expectations – This is a common complaint when web designers build a site based on “best practices”. Let me go on record and say that this isn’t devaluing the work that was done but in all honesty, your users determine how effective a site is. “Best practices” work well on paper but not in the real world unless it is put through rigorous customer testing.This is the main reason businesses become jaded with the first version of their site when it doesn’t perform well in the real world.

The Never Ending Cycle

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Businesses often reach a point where they are frustrated enough with their existing site that they want it replaced by something more fresh and vibrant (read as lack of sales or leads). Considerable amount of time and money is then spent on rebuilding everything from scratch. Once the new site is out in the open, everyone is happy again. That is, until a few months have passed and the feeling of unease sets in again. The new site has been no better in generating any sales and in some cases it may be worse.

And back to square one…This is, loosely put, the nature of how businesses commision a site redesign.

A Better Way Of Doing Things

The first step of fixing a problem is knowing where the problem lies and thinking that a fresh design will solve inherent issues is the wrong way to go about it.

Fact Finding – There are a plethora of tools available that can give you an insight into the bottlenecks on your website. From Google Analytics to high end visitor behaviour analysis, the data from these tools can be used to create a list of what needs to be fixed. Data is your friend and you should collect as much as you can. Make good use of it.

Test – I always advocate testing any changes to your design no matter how simple or trivial it may seem. A/B Testing can show help you find optimal layouts and elements that can make the most impact. Remove ego out of the equation and test your ideas and see if it holds it’s ground. This way, you can cheaply test changes to the copy, layout, colours etc and see what impact it has on the conversions.

Feedback – Use the results from the split tests and feed that back into your redesigns and test again. Here’s where you can collate all the results and learnings from the tests and start shaping the “new” (I like to call it improved) version of your website.

This is the most of effective way of redoing an entire site – a continuous evolving process done one step at a time and making sure that you are using what works and discarding what doesn’t in the new design. Redesign done this way requires a high level of commitment from everyone involved – stakeholders, designers, developers and researchers and is certainly not for the light hearted.

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