At some point in the lifetime of our web properties – just as with out homes – there comes a moment when you look around and creativity takes hold. You'll want to tear everything down and start anew; perhaps you've outgrown the old design paradigm or it no longer fits your business model. Maybe you notice people aren't clicking through your conversion pages the way you would have hoped. In any case, the decision to tweak, innovate or remain constant is at your discretion.
This choice to redesign has countless marketing implications. Perhaps a new layout would allow you to capitalize on previously underused white space for display ad revenue, or refocus the master content in a different direction. In the case of Brafton.com, starting over meant a rededication to our bread and butter, our core essence, our news services.
Previously, the colors and structure of our website crowded our news content and information about our content marketing services. Much like cooking mushrooms, if you crowd the key information on your site, it won't develop the full breadth of its value (or flavor in the case of the vegetable.) Thus, we re-imagined the flow of text and color to place the highest contrast on the content – a proven method of granting emphasis in design. With the new content and stylistic scheme in place, dwell time, repeat visits and social sharing have grown significantly and continue to rise.
Reasons for a Redesign
Redesigns are generally propelled by one of two sources: statistics (web analytics) and the human element (usability, relevance). Both are important – some argue equally, some disproportionately biased; this is a whole another debate, but the bottom line is optimizing for usability is much more likely to lead to improved web metrics, versus the other way around. That being said, when you look at your website, the first question you should ask is, “Is it easy to accomplish the goal of my visit?”
If you run a news site, is the news easily accessible? Legible? Are deep links to related content present if the reader is curious for more?
If you run an e-commerce site, is your “cart” directly viewable and editable with minimum fuss? Are (legitimate) customer reviews front and center, with full product specifications a click away? Do you recommend complimentary products, such as a memory card to go with a digital camera and perhaps even bundle them as a sale?
If you're a financial institution offering online services, are 99 percent of account management options available in an automated fashion? Is it easy to obtain rapid, useful customer service? Do you provide intuitive tools (like budgeting, loan calculators, etc.) for your customers to make smart monetary decisions?
If site visitors can't easily and intuitively convert, it's time to think about reshaping your online presence. Although your first instinct may be to hire a design firm to whip up something new and fresh, the first people you should consult are your stakeholders – namely, your employees and visitors.
Gather Insight from Within
In most cases (I can think of), employees of a company frequent their website and will have feedback to improve the browsing experience. The beauty is internal market research is as cheap as sending an email. Thanks to the variety of personalities and use cases among your colleagues, they will be able to give surprisingly deep, honest and invaluable feedback. Use this insight as directional research and then pursue more qualitative and quantitative studies with your external visitors.
After all that, solicit some outside opinions and use your research to fact check and ensure you aren't spending time, money and resources ineffectively. The only worse thing than a failed redesign are the sunk costs and lost engagement to follow.