Whether you noticed that some links are broken or you’re getting some client feedback about some features that would be helpful to add on your website, every now and then you are sure to want to update your website. But how do you know whether it needs just a facelift, or if you should spend the (let’s not kid ourselves here – considerable) resources of time and probably money to completely redesign your website?
An update can be anything from adding a new blog post, to changing the order of the links that appear in your sidebar, to re-arranging the layout of items on your homepage, to backing up your website and installing the newest version of WordPress. If you’re not currently keeping up-to-date with the latest WordPress installation, you can read more here about why that is a good idea.
Even a small update can have a big impact. For instance, adding a call-to-action button on the homepage may drive donations to your non-profit.
An update may include multiple elements rolled out at the same time, or it may be a longer process. Sometimes websites are refreshed over a period of time. This is done for a few reasons.
1) If too many changes happen too quickly, users who frequent the website may have difficulty finding their way around and get frustrated
2) It’s easier to keep track of bugs that will inevitably creep in when making changes, if you do only a little at a time
3) You can more easily stay on top of design trends and be more responsive to user feedback if you website is in a near constant state of renewal, rather than being treated as static. Some website owners do ongoing A/B and conversion rate testing so that they are constantly finding (and acting on) new ways to improve their sites.
A redesign is a more significant update to your website that covers changing the look and feel of how everything works. We often find that this makes sense once the list of updates becomes so long and the changes that need to be made are so time consuming, that it would just be easier to re-design everything from scratch.
A refresh or an update is kind of like replacing an old shirt with a new, more fashionable one, or getting a new accessory. A redesign is like doing a complete makeover. It’s a greater investment of time and money but it’s also a more dramatic change.
That said, sometimes a redesign is still a smart choice, especially if you don’t have the resources to continuously test and update aspects of your site on an ongoing basis. It’s also the best way to update a really outdated site that hasn’t been touched in years or change the underlying content management system. Sometimes you need to restart with a clean slate. A redesign will ideally pay for itself with increased sales or donations, as a result of it functioning better than before.
Some of the major reasons that website owners decide to go for a complete redesign are:
1) Responsiveness: Today you want your website to be easily viewed on all devices, from large desktops to smartphones, sometimes with different functionality for each, to optimize the user’s expected experience from each device.
2) It’s been a long time since the last redesign: If your website has a really outdated look, it reflects poorly on you. If you have outdated features to match, you are probably not delivering users what they want and need from your website.
3) SEO: Your website might not be built in a search engine-friendly way. One of the telltale signs of this are URLs that are 1,000 (stray) characters long, but it is so much more than that.
4) The website takes a long time to load: Not only is this bad for SEO, it’s annoying for your users and may indicate an underlying problem.
So which one do you need?
Here are some criteria to help you decide whether you need an update or a website redesign:
1) Content Management System (CMS): If it gets the job done without major problems and the changes you want to make can be integrated with your site’s theme or appearance, then an update is probably all that you need.
If your CMS is difficult to use, or isn’t integrated with your site (ex. payments, your blog), you probably need a redesign. Similarly, if you’re getting complaints from customers or staff, your bounce rates are high (users leave after landing on one page), a redesign is probably in order.
2) Visual vs. Functional Changes: Changes that are more visual in nature, rather than changes to major site functions are usually best dealt with as smaller updates because they can be easily tested and easier to manage than an entire redesign.
3) Budget: If funds are really tight, you may need to stick with an update until you can budget for a larger refresh. Remember though, that a website is a vital investment in your brand and sometimes the only way that a potential customer or donor is going to find out about you.
4) Time: If you have some changes that need to be made in order to fix immediate problems, then you should stick with more of an update. Refreshes can take many months and often have their own period of de-bugging before and, hopefully to a less extent, after launch.
Ultimately it’s up to you to decide what you need, but if you need a professional opinion, feel free to drop us a line!