Most companies are to the point where they have already gone through several iterations of their website. This is part of the natural cycle of your website and should be expected when you are considering the long term plans for your site. After all, technology is constantly advancing and changing. As technology improves the capability of web functionality increases, there are new design capabilities and user behavior changes as well. A perfect example would be the adoption of social media and how that now effects time spent online.
But You Can’t Redesign Constantly
While it is important to update and redesign your site you can’t do it constantly. Not only for cost reasons (as the price of a site redesign can be costly), but it would also confuse users and make it difficult to navigate your site. Over time as people visit your site they become accustom to where things are placed, how content is organized and how to use your site. They literally have to learn how to use your site much like they would any other piece of software. A Redesign means that users have to start from scratch and relearn to use your site.
Website Redesign Criteria
Having worked in the web design industry for over twelve years now, I have done my fair share of web redesigns. Getting an in depth look at the before and after of web redesign has unveiled a common set of elements that were consistent in successful redesigns. Successful meaning that objectives were met in a measurable fashion. After analyzing these elements, I have been able to identify a clear set of criteria for successful redesign.
1. Outdated Design
Some designers will say that great design is timeless. While this is true in some sense, the advancement of technology can make great designs look out of date. Even in the last two years the improvement of screen quality has allowed web designers to use higher quality images and more screen space (resolution). A website designed to look optimal on an older, low resolution CRT monitor will look dated compared to new modern designs.
Having a design that looks out of date decreases the credibility of your site dramatically. With high speed connections being the commonplace, it is way too easy to hit the back button and skip on to your competitors website. A dated or ugly design tells your users that either you can’t afford a credible design or your products/services have just as little attention to detail as your website. In either case your website will fail to perform at it’s highest potential.
2. Missing Essential Functionality
When the web first gained popularity in 1998 – 1999, rich website functionality was expensive and often impossible. These days, by using open source software we can easily add engaging and interactive functionality that will provide more value to our users. From integrating customer relationship databases to invoicing systems, there are plenty of ways to increase revenue or decrease expenses through the addition of website functionality. That being said I don’t want to ignore the importance of adding expected functionality.
The best example of this would be social media integration. The use of social media continues to head towards the most common activity online, and because of this there is a high adoption of social media throughout websites. This has become so common that many users have come to expect and look for social media integration as an indicator of credibility. Failing to demonstrate that you use social media you may lose the trust of your target audience.
3. Malfunctioning Portions of your Website
While it may sound obvious, there are a lot of websites that are currently online and not functioning correctly. This goes back to the cost and capabilities of website programming ten years ago. Previously if you didn’t have a large budget chances are you ended up with some poor quality programming behind your website. As servers upgrade and web browsers improve, that poor quality program breaks more and more often. Many companies take their website for granite and ignore these functionality issues.
If your website has error messages, broken links or a malfunctioning design, users will lose trust in your company and leave your website with the click of a button. A malfunctioning website is a clear indicator that a redesign is necessity.
4. You Can’t Update It Yourself
A website needs to be updated, maintained and cared for to generate results. Paying your web design agency every time you need a change is expensive and slow, despite the fact that constant updating is necessary. Content management systems allow you easily update and add pages, post news, blog posts and other listings. The right content management system is easy to use and functionality rich, so you can easily keep your website up to date and alive.
If your website fails to have a content management system and you can’t make changes in house, you should look at redesigning your give you that capability.
5. It is not Search Optimized
Search is the second most common activity online (beat only by e-mail), and if that doesn’t get your attention nothing well. The fact is that users now head to Google when they are about to make a purchase (in both business and consumer situations). If the users can’t find your site they are not going to buy from you, instead they will go to your competitors who have had their site search optimized.
While it is possible to optimize an older website, improvements in technology and changes in the search engine algorithms make it advantageous to build a search optimized site from the ground up. If search engine traffic could benefit your business you should consider redesigning your website.
Conclusion and Other Criteria
While there are clearly additional reasons to redesign your website (scalability, brand identity changes, etc…) I have found that these are the top five reasons that websites are not succeeding. I have consistently seen the results of a website redesign grossly out weight the cost in redesign and redevelopment.
What have been the primary reasons that you have done a redesign (either your site or your clients)?