Considering A Site Redesign? 5 Tips To Get You Focused

paintAt some stage, most designers or developers will want to overhaul their existing website. It may be that your site looks OK, but is a complete pain to maintain. Perhaps you’ve plenty of content but your visitors needs a PhD in navigation to find their way around the site. Or it could be the case that your site looks like it is wearing the web design equivalent of a pair of legwarmers and a batwing cardigan, i.e. completely out of date.

If you’re thinking about a re-design of your existing website, some questions to ask yourself include:

  • Does the site do what I originally wanted it to do? And if it does, then do I still want it to do that?
  • Has the audience for the site changed?
  • Does the site pass accessibility and usability checks at the W3.org site?
  • Do I still like the look?
  • Do I need a new logo?
  • Has my little site that started with 3 pages become a behemoth? Do I need help maintaining it?

The answers to these questions can help you determine if your site needs a small update or a complete overhaul. If you designed and developed your site a few years ago, you may not have had the opportunity (or cash) to set up your site using a Content Management System (CMS). A few years ago a CMS was considered a specialist piece of kit, but today, thanks to Open Source applications anyone can have one.

Here are five tips to keep in mind when planning your redesign.

1. Simplicity = Good.
Both in terms of functionality and design, it’s hard to go wrong with a clean and simple site.

2. Know your audience.
Use applications such as Google Analytics on your existing site to see where your visitors are coming from, what browser’s they are using and where they go on your site. This can help you figure out exactly what they want.

3. Who are you?
What are you telling your visitors about yourself? If the visitor can’t figure out what your site is about pretty quickly, there is a strong chance you’ll lose them.

4. Get and stay usable.
It’s OK to try something different but don’t confuse or annoy users by creating a website that is so off the wall it’s unusable.

5. Trendy is not necessarily good.
Designs that may seem very cool now, can go out of date very quickly. Good design is timeless and doesn’t depend on the latest font to prop it up.

Below you can see the homepage of the Apple.com website from May 1998, and it still looks pretty good to me. (The width of the content was actually this narrow.)

apple

Redesigning your site takes time and effort, but by spending some time auditing and planning what you want to do with your site, you can streamline the process. Hopefully some of the tips and questions here can help you get started.

What other tips would you add to the list? What other questions should a designer or developer ask themselves before starting a redesign?

Image Credit: Kabils

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  • Fred from Channelship

    Great post Jennifer.
    Good points for redesign.
    One of the other important questions that we ask all our customers before redesigning is: “How will you measure the success of the new site? (more customers, queries, sales, etc)”
    That really helped us be on the same page, especially after launch.
    All the best
    Fred

  • Jon Whipple

    One of your opening questions “Do I need a new logo?” likely falls outside the scope of a website redesign. Generally looking for a new logo is actually looking at a new corporate or business ID programme – and even further a brand platform (a comprehensive design of visual language for communications). In fact the new ID can heavily inform the visual styling of a website. Somestudios can do this work as well as develop a website and others will need to team up.

    It can also happen that a website redesign will reveal a fundamental business problem that will not be able to be brushed aside or ignored without risking the project and the business. This happens more frequently than discussed, but represents a critical opportunity for a company or business.

    Thanks for this list, it is definitely a good primer that we’ll be sharing with our clients

    jon@e-cubed.com

  • http://www.HereNextYear.com lerxtjr

    I understand and respect your generality of advice, but particularly in the “re-design” area, I believe your approach is underestimated. The reason a business owner does a “re-design” in the first place is because whatever website is present now is not working. We have a questionnaire that is 20-PAGES in length. And, we even call it a “web site pre-flight” so that the client fully understands that they must invest time on their own to answer our questions before a new design phase can begin. This bridge between the client’s understanding of their market and our ability to dig out of them what we need to design a site that sells has been the essential component for years.

  • http://blog.thenetgen.com agentforte

    Audience is a very important one. You might want to make two different designs/pages for the exact same content if you have two different audiences. One might need a simple interface with instructions, while the other might be for power users and have extra options.

    It can also happen that a website redesign will reveal a fundamental business problem that will not be able to be brushed aside or ignored…

    This is very true. A straight forward “upgrade our online quotation system” became “create a new web based quotation system that can also replace our internal quotation system”. The old quotation system (not web based) was not very usable (bulky and difficult to understand). Also, the company realized that having two separate quotation systems and two separate databases was too much to maintain with more room for error.

    In this case the audience for the redesign includes both customers and employees (two separate pages/interfaces for the same system). It also presented an opportunity to make the company’s systems more usable.

  • jhosyi

    One of the biggest questions I ask myself on a redesign is “What is currently working here?” A redesign is not a complete do-over in most cases, especially when there has been marketing efforts using the current brand.

    Not to mention, though we all want to create the next latest and greatest, design is evolutionary. We’re never getting anywhere if an entire site – the good and bad – is thrown out with each redesign. Re-evaluate your goals and how to maximize your previous effort while improving on meeting those goals.

    Sometimes a complete overhaul is necessary, but taking the time to truly make sure it is or isn’t first is where I always start.

  • Weboart

    Great Jennifer! Due to the constant technological advances, a Web site that is not redesign will suffer several negative consequences. I think that redesigning a Web site is a great opportunity to become 2.0. In other words, become modern and fresh adding multimedia tools which are fashionable today. Redesigning is also a must in order to be on truck in the online marketing field. Well, I’m beating around the bush… but, if you want to keep discussing this interesting topic, just see my post “When is it time to redesign your Website?” at blog.weboart.com Thanks!

  • Stevie D

    @lerxtir:

    The reason a business owner does a “re-design” in the first place is because whatever website is present now is not working.

    Sometimes, but not always!

    In some cases, the owner wants a redesign because he’s bored with the old one, or because he wants to jump on the latest faddy bandwagon – it doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong with the old sie,or even that he has undertaken any objective analysis of the old site’s effectiveness.

    The first question to ask before any redesign is “Why?”, closely followed by “What do you want the redesign to achieve?”