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Don’t keep throwing your website away

For most companies, a ‘redesign’ of their website means throwing the existing one away and starting again. Such drastic action has been encouraged by website designers and by the apprehension of marketing managers when it comes to all things online.

It’s also quite unnecessary.

In industry, we only have small numbers of visitors on our websites. We don’t have the data on which to base decisions about changes. So we need to look at how the owners operate on websites which do have big data. And what they do is make constant improvements.

If you’re a massive business like Marks & Spencer, Easyjet or BT, there would be only two sensible reasons why you might redesign: the content management system is no longer fit for purpose, or the company is rebranding. For anything else, problems can be fixed and improvements can be tested – but throwing away an entire website is not necessary. And that’s fortunate, because redesigns nearly always cost twice as much as you’d planned for and take five times longer than you’d expect. I’d also suggest that the majority are done simply because ‘it was time for a refresh’ – and that’s not enough of a reason. You can modernise the look of a site quite cheaply without a redesign.

So my advice is this: if you’re in charge of your own website, you should be making constant changes to the way it works, the way you do things and the site’s look and feel. Try to implement any new ideas you encounter, rather than putting them to one side and hoping they’ll be incorporated when the website is next redesigned, in three years’ time. If your website looks stale, invite a designer to spend a couple of days smartening it up for a few hundred pounds. If you’d like to change the way the navigation works, then get a designer to change the way the navigation works. It isn’t hard.

And if you’re not in charge of your own website, as is the case for many readers, push for more flexibility in what you’re allowed to do. I know several companies who’ve been surprised to find that global HQ was quite prepared to let them put up their own, locally-designed pages for specific projects – it’s just that nobody had ever asked before.

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