Some evidence suggests top internet retailers are eager to frequently redesign their website’s, but not so eager to perform optimization and testing. It’s easy to understand why upper management loves redesigning websites. It’s tangible, it’s exciting, and it often comes with a load of lofty promises of future ROI. Website usability on the other hand, is not quite so tangible and easy to grasp. It’s not drastic, but rather slow and steady.
In a perfect world, a website redesign might never be necessary. After all, a redesign implies someone wasn’t monitoring the performance, and tweaking and optimizing as needed. However, inevitably the topic of a redesign will come up. Here’s 8 questions to ask yourself before embarking on a website overhaul project.
- What are the problems with the current site? – Why are you thinking about a redesign in the first place? Make sure you answer this question with fact rather than feeling based reasons. You may be tired of the look and feel of your website, but what do your customers think?
- What do your customers say about your current site? – What feedback are you getting from your current customers? Your customers may not be professional web designers, but even a novice can point out a bad website. In order to get feedback, try taking some surveys or polls from your site visitors.
- What is the purpose of this redesign? - Try to avoid vague objectives such as “the site needs to be updated” or “because we do it every year.” Is your goal to improve conversion rates? Reduce bounces rates? Increase search traffic? Ideally, your redesign goal should be inline with the overall purpose of your website. Be sure to set measurable goals that you can easily revisit after the launch.
- Can these problems be fixed with optimization rather than a full redesign? - Just because your search engine rankings need improvement doesn’t mean you must redesign your site. Maybe it can simply be fixed for a fraction of the cost. It’s easy to over react to a problem and assume everything needs to be scrapped, when it can be optimized instead.
- How will the redesign affect my search engine rankings? – Too often, SEO is an afterthought of a website redesign. While SEO is certainly not the only consideration when considering a website overhaul, there are many search related ramifications of a site redesign. Make sure you understand how these changes can impact your search traffic before you begin a project.
- Have you considered the opportunity cost as well as the financial cost? - Depending on the complexity of your website, site redesigns can take a significant amount of time. During this development time, will the current site be neglected? In my experience, its very difficult to focus on maintaining and optimizing an old website at the same time you’re building a new one.
- Will it be hard for my customers to relearn my new site? – Nobody loves change. Will customers be confused by the new layout? If the changes are drastic, expect the learning curve phenomenon. In other words, things may get worse before they get better.
- How will I judge if the new website has succeeded? – This is perhaps the most important question of all. If it’s not asked and answered properly, you may get stuck in an endless cycle of website revisions, never reaching a goal because the goal wasn’t defined in the first place. Be sure to answer this question before you launch the new site. Are you prepared to switch back to the previous design if the site is a failure?
As you can probably tell by now, I’m a big fan of website optimization vs drastic, sometimes unnecessary website overhauls. Don’t get me wrong though, there are certainly times when a situation warrants a complete redesign.
What has been your experience with optimization vs. redesigns? Under what conditions would you justify scrapping a design and starting over?