Does Your Website Need a Re-Design?

Cole Wiebe
May 12, 2014
Read time: 4 minutes

Often, clients want a fresh web site re-design, when what they really need is additional quality content, published regularly, and effective distribution and promotion of that content.

Having a few friends and business colleagues ooh and aah over a shiny new design can be a lot more exciting than well-managed AdWords, great landing page metrics, publishing more blog posts and engaging in social media... and I get that. But what's best for the balance sheet?

When should you consider a website re-design, and when is it just a waste of money?

Legitimate reasons to consider a re-design

1. A technology update is overdue. If server software updates have crippled your site, or you hear that a new update of PHP may cause some issues with your CMS version, an upgrade of the core software is probably a high priority item; and while you're at it, you might as well freshen up the design.

2. There are significant SEO advantages. CMS platforms are constantly evolving. The ability to improve on-page optimization, or dramatically reduce page load speeds, are reasons to seriously consider a redesign. Check your website for speed on GTmetrix. You're looking for A's and B's from Google and Yahoo!

3. The current design doesn't support your target audience or keywords. One of the most common problems with under-performing websites is that they were built to client design tastes and often include the list of resource-hogging features handed to the developer. The owner is an expert in their product or service field, but not in internet marketing, and that now shows on the bottom line.

Another factor that can necessitate a redesign is a change in your focus, marketing direction, or branding. A site can become "all wrong" almost overnight.

4. The navigation sucks. If visitors have complained that they are having problems finding what they're looking for, or the bounce rate is high, your navigation may be suspect, and require an upgrade.

It's possible, however, that the home page is just poorly designed, without enticing information that verifies that the visitor has found the "right site", or calls to action that pull them deeper into the content. It's possible that only the home page needs a revamp.

5. Changes in the internet and web standards have dated your site. Your website should run on one of the most up-to-date CMS's (content management systems), use HTML5 and CSS3. Depreciated HTML tags (like tables) should be updated.

6. Your site looks really old. At some point, websites will have evolved so much that your site just looks archaic. If your site still has a Flash intro, blinking animated GIFs, or is configured for 760 pixel monitors, your visitors may be receiving the message that your site has been neglected for some time, or that you don't take your online presence seriously. They may question your commitment or ability to serve their needs. As a general rule of thumb, websites look behind the tims in 2 to 4 years.

7. No return on investment. If your site cost more to build and maintain, than it's brought in through new business, something's wrong. An evaluation by an ROI specialist or may help pinpoint why your project is hemorrhaging red ink.

A question I like to ask is, "If your site was generating a hundred qualified leads a week, would you be considering a website redesign?

8. It doesn't support mobile. Most real estate websites today receive more than 70% of their traffic from mobile devices. If your website is not responsive, or at least serves up several mobile-specific versions, it does not accommodate the majority of your audience, and you can expect Google to rank it accordingly.

Poor reasons to re-design your site

1. You're bored with the design. If you have set your website as the home page in your browser, it's easy to become sick of it quickly. Here's the thing; if it's working for you — and by that I mean it delivers a return on investment, and is growing your business — invest your marketing dollars somewhere where they will do some good instead.

2. You want to believe that a sexy new look will increase conversions. All things being equal, it won't. There are design factors that influence conversion, but the site's look and feel isn't one of them. Google doesn't care if your site sports the latest "flat" design and neither do your visitors. Flashy or gimmicky features usually just slow the site down and harm performance. To boost your conversions, consider having your content rewritten by a professional conversion copywriter.

Final thoughts

Website re-designs are somewhat costly and time consuming. If your site is an "expense" on the balance sheet, failing to grow your business or sales, consider increasing your content marketing, before doing a re-design.

If you do decide to move ahead with a website re-design, make sure the designer/developer you're considering has a lot of experience in preserving your hard-won search engine rankings on the short term, and increasing them over the longer term as a result of the planned upgrade. In many cases, if you're on a quality CMS platform like WordPress or Joomla!, the re-design can usually be completed at a 'skin' level, without actually altering the URLs, building the pages and menus again or tampering with the meta and schema information. If you have good search engine rankings, they won't be put at risk that way.

In the wrong hands, you could lose the rankings and traffic you already have, and potential leads and sales, as a result of a website redesign. In other words, a re-design could be the best marketing decision you make this year, or quite possibly one of the worst.

Cole Wiebe, content marketing expert, Vancouver, BCCole Wiebe helps brands and professionals grow their influence and value online; so they can “out content”™ their competition. Cole is a content strategist, content writer, conversion copywriter and online marketing coach.

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6 comments on “Does Your Website Need a Re-Design?”

  1. My web host just recently advised that they're upgrading the default php version to 5.4 Cole.

    I was thinking it was going to cause a few issues but luckily I seem to have gotten away unscathed.

    I designed my site myself and I'm sure in the future I will pay someone to do it but for now, I'm happy enough with the results.

    All the reasons I have at the moment would definitely be in the poor reasons to get my site re-designed!

  2. Hi Cole,

    I learned the hard way after many hours in the past that design is important but you have to get traffic there also.

    I am happy with everything on my current blog for now. I will get a better theme in the not to far future. My main focus is on the connections for now.

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Hi Steven,

      As 'revenue focused' web designers, a web re-design's potential upside must always exceed the cost, by a considerable margin, for it to make any sense.

      - Cole

  3. Hi Cole,

    You are absolutely right! You should change your site design or redesign it if you are facing problems or even if you want to upgrade it to a better version.

    Some designs aren't well optimized for the search engines or the SEO factor is better in some, while others are not mobile friendly or you prefer to choose a responsive theme for your blog. I think any change for the better - you should go in for. I remember changing mine because I wanted to go in for a responsive theme and I might change again if I find something better.

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice week ahead 🙂

    1. Hi Harleena,

      With WordPress, fortunately the data usually carries forward to the new theme design, with little or no impact on SEO. For those switching platforms, even with 301 redirects, the hit they take on rankings, and resulting sales, can make a design upgrade very expensive.

      Responsive designs aren't always perfect across platforms and devices, and there can be "fuzzy" images, but it's usually the most affordable way for a small business site to accommodate their mobile visitors.

      - Cole

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