Redesign is classic organization-centric thinking. It rarely has much to do with making things better for the customer. Your website isn't working. What should you do? Well, how about finding out why it isn't working and fix that. But let me tell you this, the problem with your website has rarely anything to do with its graphical design.
Your website is working. But it's four years old. What should you do? Leave it alone. Or focus on making it work even better. But let me tell you this, making it work better has rarely anything to do with its graphical design.
Organizations love projects. You get a budget and a launch date. You can get busy and look like you're working really hard. Some web teams love website redesign projects. It's fun. They get to go to lots of meetings and talk about graphics and colors, and to extol about how bored they are with the old design.
But usually it's not the web team that wants the redesign. Rather, it's some marketing manager. Or some senior executive in communications who has had a golf course conversation about the Web. Or some newly appointed manager desperate to reinvent the wheel.
Great websites are not redesigned. They are continuously improved. The website that gets some new budget every couple of years for a redesign is the website that is being managed like a brochure. In other words, it's not being managed.
Relevancy, accuracy and up-to-datedness of content are key problems that websites face today. You don't need a redesign to address these issues. Instead, you need professional publishing processes, with a particular emphasis on how you review and remove old content.
Customers need to find things quickly on your website. Sure, you might need a better search engine. But there's probably a lot more work you could do to make your content more search-friendly, and that doesn't require a redesign.
If customers are having problems with your navigation then the first thing I'd check is the words being used in that navigation. Making the words more customer-centric can substantially improve navigation.
What is one of the most significant impacts of a redesign? You make life miserable for your most loyal customers. They've got used to how to get around your website. And now they have to learn new tricks. They don't like learning new tricks.
I remember some years ago, eBay wanted to change the background color on their website. Within minutes of making the change, they had a stream of calls from angry customers saying that they couldn't find anything on the website.
Trying to explain that the only thing that was changed was the background color was fruitless. People felt disoriented and very annoyed. EBay changed the color back, and over a period of weeks gradated to the new color. Nobody noticed.
Take the top task on your website and improve it bit by bit. Test a change, see how your customers react, refine and test again. Once you have your top task at optimum performance, move onto your next task. Evolution, not revolution.
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.