Summary: For website or product improvements, it may be better to refresh an existing design and give it a creative facelift rather than beginning anew with a redesign. As a user experience designer, this approach has been successful many times with clients.
Website refresh or redesign
As a designer you know there are times when it’s appropriate to update or do a “website refresh” for an existing design, but how do you know when it’s time for a full-blown website redesign? It can be tricky – especially if the elements of your existing website design have been working well in the past. But by carefully considering all aspects of your design and user experience, you’ll be able to determine whether it’s time to give things a facelift or start from scratch. In this blog post, we’ll dive into what constitutes a refresh versus a redesign so that you can make the best decision possible.
Pitfalls of full website redesign
Refresh vs Redesign topic reminds us of Indiana Jones making a hard choice that instantly backfired
If you’re looking to create something new with a website redesign, the process is no walk in the park or booby trapped cave – it’s a lengthy journey with many twists and turns. From conducting deep user research to understand what your target audience wants from your product all way through creating wireframes, prototypes and finally building & testing…it can take months or even years. But don’t worry – putting time into getting things right ensures that at the end of this exciting ride we have an amazing brand new website ready for launch.
Reasons why you may have to redesign your current website
Search engine needs
There are technology choices like going from your current content management system to a new content management system and assuring existing content is protected.
Slow load times
Your existing site has an underlying technology that makes rev gen impossible.
The whole structure of the business vision changes
Maybe there was a business vision change along with a completely new logo design. In this scenario the underlying vision changes to the point that elements like branding colors to marketing efforts are fundementally different.
Complete redesign is a suite must have
Many website owners feel that a brand should should go hand in hand with a full website redesign.
Not usually cheaper, but it could be
A full website redesign may be cost effective when compared to a refresh. This may be this if the site is smaller or just lead generation.
Refresh costs less (also less gigantic rolling boulders)
The redesign started off so well and then suddenly the boulder comes for you
The biggest issue with a redesign is that you have so many more variables to consider. That increases project risk. When an existing product or website needs an update, a refresh could be an answer. Through targeted user research and prototyping tailored to fit your specific needs, a successful redesign can freshen up even the most outdated of websites – all in less time and with a smaller budget than starting from scratch.
With an existing user base and market validation, a refresh offers the perfect opportunity to focus on what matters most: addressing the users’ needs. Instead of starting from scratch with no familiarity or feedback, you can refine your product/website based off of real customer insights that will have measurable results in usage engagement.
Full redesign and refreshes. They sound like just one thing – redesign process. But, when it comes to web design, there’s a big difference between the two processes.
Let review some reasons why you want to usually choose a website refresh over a full website redesign.
It’s cheaper to refresh your current site
This approach is by far less exspensive. Don’t think of this like you’re slapping on a new paint job and keeping the same visual appearance. A refresh means you are design existing pages but not structurally change elements. You’re making strategic choices driven by your budget. The interesting thing is this approach forces teams to get it right.
New logo, New website -itis
There may be a rebranding process effort under way and there will be expectations that elements like brand marks, colors, typography and voice are reflected in the current site build.
Focused on mobile
Maybe you just need to add responsive design to the current design with a refresh. You keep the same hierarchy, but update the deign and address mobile audience issues.
Play the optimization game
Here’s where you care more about optimizing the current user experience and that may include actual aesthetic changes or just user experience improvements. This is user centered design. You make incremental improvements sprint by sprint based on validated design work.
Refresh with a Design System
There is a whole design system series discussing the pro and cons regarding a design system. A refresh of your product or website can be a great way to build upon the existing brand and design language, allowing for improvements that engage users without completely discarding past efforts. A strategic redesign can help you draw in even more satisfied customers. Now when closely combine a design system into the mix and you have a very potent refresh.
Because your design system is part process part product it creates the basis for all the visual things on your website.
As a user experience designer, beginning from the ground up might be tempting and absolutely necessary – but it’s not always the best option. A refresh is often more efficient in addressing problems and enhancing products or websites, because you aren’t starting from scratch. So before taking off anew, consider shaking things up with a refresh first.
Simon’s a Product Designer and Front End Dev with over 20 years of experience. He started as a graphic designer and illustrator coding his first website in 1996. He has worked with brands like Publix, Microsoft, and Discovery Channel.