If you're thinking of redesigning your website, ask yourself this question: Am I simply papering over the cracks?Meet the Jones family. There are six of them, not including two big dogs and two cats. Four years ago they moved into a brand new house. It was a beautiful house. But the Joneses are a very untidy lot.
Bit by bit the house became messier. The dogs scraped the paint off the doors. The cats sometimes peed in the wrong places and it was never properly cleaned up. The kids left smelly socks under the bed, that over time developed their own little ecosystems.
The Joneses have decided that something drastic needs to be done. It's redesign time, massive spring-clean time. They are going to paint and repair the house from top to bottom. They've ordered a big skip for rubbish and all that stuff they should have thrown away years ago.
After the Joneses' redesign, everything will look great for a while. But unless they change the way they live, in another four years they'll have to do another redesign. A major difference between the Joneses' home and your website is that your customers are asking to visit and spend time there.
Website redesign is nearly always a bad idea because it reflects a project-based management approach. The best websites are not managed simply as projects but rather as processes.
A website redesign approach is usually embraced by organizations who are reacting to the fact that their websites have fallen into disrepair. Something is not working and the belief is that a nice redesign, some nice new graphics and colors, and perhaps the purchase of some fancy content management software, will solve it.
This approach is papering over the cracks. The cracks are a lack of resources to professionally manage the website on a day-to-day basis. The cracks are a lack of genuine customer focus, and a lack of continuous testing and evolution. The cracks are a lack of a rigorous review process to ensure that only quality content remains on the website.
Website redesign is also often a product of boredom or new management. The web team or marketing department is bored with the old website. They want to freshen it up. I wonder how long such people would last at Google if they said they were bored with the Google homepage?
Website redesign should be a last resort. If your website is an absolute disaster and your customers detest it so much they're leaving in droves, then a redesign and radical overhaul may be in order.
I have seen perfectly okay websites go through a redesign for all the wrong reasons. And do you know who such redesigns hurt most? Your most loyal customers. Because they use your website most.
A redesign is nearly always bad strategy. In fact, website redesigns are often pursued by organizations who don't have a web strategy.
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.