August 21, 2020 Lauri Stone

Website Refresh or Total Redesign, A Few Tips to Help You Decide

A little this, a little that, or the full-meal deal? Whatever the case, deciding whether your website should undergo a simple design refresh or total full-scale redesign can be tricky.

Great design equals great usability, and great usability is only possible with a highly efficient website. Your site’s performance and page load speeds are so important. Faster page loads help users stay longer on your site which improves traffic and lowers bounce rates. Page load speed is a ranking factor with Google and slow speed affects your rankings that will thwart even the best SEO efforts.

So while a pretty website is nice, it has a very important function and much hinges on performance. There used to be a general rule that if three years passed without changing the website, it needs more than a refresh but rather, a total redesign because of rapidly evolving technology and changed business needs.

Design “refresh” versus total “redesign” and asking the right questions as it relates to your current site and business goals is a great place to start.

 

Honey, I’m Bored… Please “Refresh”

Website refreshing can be fun by sprucing up the design in various ways. Maybe using a new color palette, a new base theme, different splashy content, fresh branding, a reworked logo. It is redecorating while leaving the website’s functionality and code in tact. But how can you tell if a little “do” is enough or whether a full redesign is in order?

Your website should always feel fresh with streamlined information architecture, clean, crisp design, responsiveness working up to par, and all operations cooking along on a well-fit, fast-running content management system (CMS).

The design portion of a website project can be the most challenging because it is so subjective. This is why a professional designer will take you through a highly detailed discovery process. This process involves a lot of basic questions that helps the designer gain a deeper understanding of your business so that a well-articulated plan can be crafted.

Sort it out

Before diving into a redecorating refresh, defining what is working and not working along with your overall branding requires a good, hard look. The strength of your brand may need tweaking, especially if it has been a while.

Getting a sense of what content stays, what will be developed, and what goes, is another housekeeping task that will also help the design plan. Your target audience may need different messaging. In rapidly changing times, so goes the tone with your outreach.  Connecting with your audience must remain relevant in increasingly virtual ways.

 

A Total Redesign Would Be So Fine

Changing how your site looks and operates on a large scale by getting down to the technology will greatly impact the way the website functions. It may well involve changing your content management system with increased capabilities and enhanced features. This makes content control and editing easier while staying fully integrated with your site’s theme or appearance. The developer can also make recommendations to add more functionality that will improve business process flow. End result is an increase in revenue or leads, thus bringing more profits to the business. Added benefit– this would offset the investment of a total redesign project.

 

Here are just a few considerations in determining which way to go with your website:

  • What are the most important elements of the website? Ask colleagues, stakeholders, etc. (the answers might surprise you)
  • In an information-grab society where users expect fast, simple, and intuitive navigation, how does your site fare?
  • Do you recognize areas that need to be improved such as promoting content and reducing bounce rates?
  • Are your visitors frustrated and unable to get the information they need because of slow speed and poor navigation/design issues?
  • Is your CMS being fully utilized, its functions smooth and seamless? Is your content editing a breeze that keeps you productive and happy? Or is your CMS performance unstable and underutilized?
  • Has your business outgrown the current platform creating frustration and delays?
  • How is the responsive design and mobile performance of your site? Load times?
  • Site security, hosting and maintenance. How is it and who is handling it?

 

Very importantly–

When was the last time you conducted a website audit? Click here for a complimentary audit. You’re welcome!

 

Discovery

Effective discovery questions are divided into three important sectors of the business; strategy, design, and technology.  These questions help gain an understanding of what defines you, where you are and where you want to be. Discovery is also a way to learn about your client base, your competition, and the market. All of the areas covered in discovery are ways to make your very best sales tool — your website, speak as an extension of your brand, telling your story, delivering your message in a concise and clear way.

 

Strategy

Site objectives and goals are pretty much the same across industries; more leads, more sales, increase in users, more downloads, great marketing plan, “earned credit” through site content social media shares, contributions, education, and purchases. But how can you drive the site’s performance that ultimately drives your revenue? A few basic strategy questions could yield interesting answers that have shifted with time.

 

  • What are the biggest challenges within your industry? How has that changed post COVID-19 shutdown?
  • Was your emergency readiness plan enough? Identify the strengths and weaknesses.
  • Describe your single most persuasive organizational strength or mission in one sentence.
  • Who are your main competitors and what sets you apart?
  • What are your strengths over the competition? What is their strength over yours?
  • What terms or keywords would people use to find you?
  • What social media channels do you utilize and how will they be integrated?
  • How are you creating ways around post-shutdown limitations to deploy your strategies?
  • How are you engaging and capturing the rewards of your efforts in the new, mainly virtual ways?

 

Marketing and Design

Meticulous planning, mock-ups, and design options of varying perspectives of what the end product will look like are all excellent ways to create a clear and concise path for your project, large or small.

  • How well does your brand tell your story?
  • Are there certain color and design elements specific to your brand?
  • Is there any brand equity in existing identity, mark, or color scheme? If not, are these areas stale, ineffective, and ripe for a makeover?
  • Do you have a tagline?
  • How has creating and optimizing content for search engines changed?
  • From a marketing and design standpoint, what is working on your website and what isn’t?
  • Who is handling the content writing and content management?
  • How are you engaging your audience virtually and what tactics are you using to keep them engaged?
  • What websites do you like and why?
  • What new features would you like to see and which would you prefer eliminated?

 

Technology

  • Have your needs for a more responsive site increased now that so much is virtual?
  • How is your hardware and software performing across all devices? Speed performance?
  • Is the Content Management System (CMS) in use still a good fit? Are the features fully optimized or do you need more?
  • How comfortable with technology is your target audience?
  • What websites within your industry do you like and why?
  • What Customer Relationship Management (CRM) are you using and are the features fully or under utilized?
  • How are your keyword audits and other SEO functions?
  • How is your team structured?
  • Have roles and responsibilities of the IT team shifted following the shutdown? Consolidated roles?
  • What projects were delayed because of the shutdown that you wish could be completed by now?

 

Your website will never be completely finished because testing and analyzing its strengths and weaknesses, what works and what doesn’t, is a heavy, ongoing process. The line keeps moving with the many fluid business changes. Deciding which route to take with your website is a critical endeavor and reaching out for support from experts can save a lot of time, money, and grief by getting the job done right the first time respectful of time and budget.

 

Sanmita has been involved in hundreds of strategic development, marketing, site redesign, upgrade, or refresh projects and is an agency that specializes in the complex worlds of Higher Education, Government, and Nonprofits. If you find you could use support in any of these areas, reach out for a consultation.

 

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Lauri Stone

Lauri Stone is Director of Client Relations at Sanmita, Inc., a web design and development firm offering strategy, design, and technology services to higher education, government, and nonprofit entities. She comes to Sanmita with over 25 years of experience in media marketing and advertising and is originally from Los Angeles, California.