Your site has been up for ages and you almost hate it now because it has been the same year after year. While this is neither necessarily bad, nor a reason to redesign, very often a site that hasn’t seen a major redesign for many years really needs it.
On the other side, if the site is fine as it is, then you not only don’t need a redesign but if you do it, this can cause a lot of problems. We all know of sites that had an unnecessary redesign (for instance Digg a couple of years ago) that led to disasters.
You really do need to give it a serious thought before you start the redesign. Basically, you need to have a good reason to go this way. For instance, we feel like redesigning it because we’ve got nothing better to do – this is NOT a reason!
Neither is if your competitors have redesigned their sites – you don’t need to follow. Even if your competitors’ redesigns work for them (because their sites needed it), what makes you think a redesign of your site will work for you? On the contrary, a redesign might be so disastrous that it can literally kick you out of business.
So, what are some good reasons to redesign a site? Here are 5 very common ones. If any of them is true for you, your site is a good redesign candidate.
1. The Vision of Your Site Is Already Old
If the vision of a site is out of date, then you really need a redesign. I know it’s pretty subjective to figure out if the vision is old or not. What is more, the vision is not directly related to the age of the design. It’s quite common for the design itself to be years old but still the vision is current.
Basically, if your design is using evergreen techniques, it could last for years, even decades. However, if you have design elements that are rarely used today, your site could benefit from a complete redesign or at least a facelift.
The vision of the site in this screenshot, Aliweb, is so old that most readers were not born when this design was launched. However, since Aliweb claims to be the oldest search engine, for them this really old vision isn’t something to worry about. On the contrary, if they redesign, they will lose this authentic oldish look and will become just one of the many small search engines that exist today.
2. The Site Design Is Not Responsive
Responsive design has been around for a few years and it’s a deal breaker. If your site is not responsive, you are giving visitors from mobiles and other non-desktop devices a bad user experience. In other words, responsive design is not just a fashion thing that will go away in a year. It’s a major design trend that is here to stay.
In some cases you can make your current design responsive without having to modify everything. However, the risk here is that the end result might be somehow shocking. It’s always best to start the redesign from scratch and to plan it to be responsive from the very beginning than to try to modify an existing design to make it responsive.
To make it happen, use this list of responsive website templates.
3. Your Business Itself Has Changed a Lot
A really good reason to redesign a site is if your business has changed a lot since the time your site has been released. Since a site is like a showroom for a business, the site needs to reflect the change of direction your business has taken.
For instance, if your business grew in last years and now you are selling lots of stuff, this might require a more drastic change than a redesign. When you started a couple of years ago, you had a small 5 page HTML site and this was all you needed.
However, today you sell thousands of products and you obviously need an online store. You can keep the existing 5-page HTML site and add an e-commerce functionality to it but it’s much better if you go the other way round. In other words, put the accent on the shopping functionality and add the About Us, Contact Us and the other pages from the old site as a supplement to your new site. This configuration more truly reflects the current aspect of your business.
4. Over the Years Your Site Grew into a Mess
Your business might have not changed that much over the years, yet your site is a mess. This happens when this year you add a section here, last year you removed another there, and occasionally move this from here to there, etc. All these minor changes over the years can lead to no consistency and can make your site a mess.
If you’ve reached this point, or if you are firmly heading there, then the best you can do is redesign. Start from scratch, reorganize everything, and you are off to a clean start. This might look like a lot of unnecessary effort but it’s much better to start clean than to try to fix a mess.
For instance, Arngren.net the site in the screenshot, is really messy but somehow, if you know Norwegian or use the translator, you can navigate it because it’s arrangement is not that illogical. If I were the owner of this site, probably I would have redesigned it years ago but the owners decided to preserve its authentic 1990s look and keep it like this. In fact, this is charming because the site has a somewhat vintage look.
5. Your Audience Hates Your Site
You can’t please everybody. Even if your site is nothing but perfect, there will always be users who will not like it as a whole or dislike particular features. I am not talking about this – it’s inevitable and it shouldn’t worry you.
What I am talking about is when you get numerous complaints with constructive criticism from your audience that your site is awful. This doesn’t include complaints, such as, “I hate this red color, change it right away!” but rather “Your navigation is so messed up that even search doesn’t help me find what I need”, or “This small font size is killing me and when I enlarge it, the site breaks in pieces”.
If you are getting such complaints, you should not only consider fixing them piece by piece but you can think of a whole redesign to fix all other related issues. For instance, the small font size issue can rarely be fixed without modifying the whole layout. In any case, don’t follow audience suggestions blindly but don’t neglect them completely either.
It’s not easy to decide if your site needs a redesign or not and be certain you are not wrong. There are so many factors to consider and yet you can never know if the redesign will be a success or a failure. If your site is way too old, then it’s easier to decide – you can’t keep it the way it is now and there isn’t much to lose anyway but in all other cases, when your site is still good, it’s hard to decide which way to go.
Before you launch your redesigned site, do test it thoroughly. Of course, there will always be bugs and issues that no matter how rigorously you have tested it internally will show up when it goes live but if you skip real internal testing, it’s certain there will be lots of bugs for your users to enjoy.
Be prepared that when you launch your redesigned site not everybody will like it, at least not at first. This is normal and it happens with good redesigns as well.
However, don’t throw away your old site version yet. It’s true this rarely happens but it’s not impossible that your users hate the redesign that much (or that it simply doesn’t work) that you might have to revert to the old site version. Of course, these are extreme cases and it’s not very likely to happen to you but if it does, you need to know how to react.