I’ve been in the Web design industry almost 19 years now. I was there when everything was just HTML and CGI. I saw Java when it was first released and everyone tried using it to make spinning icons and animated graphics.
I got to see scrolling marquees, websites you could smell, blinking text and a whole lot of crazy navigation schemes. It was really ugly and weird, but strangely, almost everyone thought it was cool… at least for a little while.
Fortunately, both our creative tastes and technology improve over time. In fact, technology changes so fast that it has become common practice to release a brand new website every two years, if not sooner. But, considering the speed of change and customer needs, is this really the best thing to do for your business?
Reasons To Redevelop Your Website
First, let’s look at some of the reasons you would want to start from scratch, or at least implement a new design for your website:
- It doesn’t match your company branding. There are a number of reasons your website might not match your branding. You may have bought or merged with another company, or you might have undergone a brand redesign recently. Or perhaps the company has decided to go in a new direction, or the public environment has drastically changed.
- You’ve outgrown your CMS (or have no CMS). There are a lot of content management systems out there. New ones enter the scene regularly and others fail or are poorly supported. If your CMS can no longer meet the needs of your company, it is time to change. Don’t wait so long that this becomes harder to do than it should be.
- It’s been neglected for too long. The main reason that a website needs to be redesigned is neglect — not much attention has been given to it, the technology supporting it is no longer useful, the content is no longer accurate and/or the design is simply outdated.
- You need to keep up with the competition. With constant advances in technology, it is easy for the competition to gain a significant advantage by aggressively optimizing their website. Sometimes, competitors can get so far ahead, a redesign is needed just to catch up.
So, let’s assume you’ve either recently redesigned your website or that it is already in pretty good shape. Is it possible to break the cycle of a design overhaul every couple years?
Learning To Adapt Your Website
One of the great tools that Web designers and developers have had for a while now is conversion optimization. This gives us the ability to test how a design or copy change can impact what a visitor does on the website.
Testing tools are relatively easy to use (even for non-programmers), and they give us insight into visitor behaviors that help us increase conversion rates. Typically, conversion optimization testing is used to improve form conversions, click-through rates or landing pages.
But, great Web teams use testing for much more. Design and Marketing teams use optimization techniques to regularly test all components of a website. This adaptive Web design approach has enabled Web teams to break the two-year redevelopment cycle. Instead of a creating new website, businesses can work to adapt the current website, constantly improving the user experience and conversion rates.
By constantly adapting your website, you gain a number of advantages:
- Qualified Improvement. Rather than letting your content and design go out of sync with your brand or out of style with current design trends, you can stay as modern and relevant as you like. Additionally, all that improvement is based on measurable results from visitors. Design doesn’t have to be at odds with what someone else likes or thinks the website should look like. You can prove what works and what doesn’t.
- Technology Advancements. As new Web, social and mobile technologies are released, it is much easier to test them out if your website stays current. The more out-of-date the supporting infrastructure becomes, the harder it is to implement new changes.
- Competitive Advantage. Most companies are in the mindset of releasing a new website every few years based on what they think looks good or what the newest styles are. But, a constantly-adapting website that can change based on positive and negative visitor interactions has a much greater chance of beating and staying ahead of competitors.
- Lead Generation. Because an adaptive site changes based on the needs of the business and customer interactions, it is much more likely to drive conversions and improve lead generation.
- No More Guessing. By measuring the impact of website changes, it takes the guesswork out of Web and UI design. Of course, you still need to know what you are doing as a design team, but you are able to truly control the website rather than reacting to every design whim or idea.
One of the great things about adaptive Web design is that even failures help move the site forward. When a test doesn’t work out as planned, you can learn what went wrong and continue improving.
Below are a couple of resources you may want to read to gain a better understanding of adaptive web design:
- Adaptive Web Design: Crafting Rich Experiences with Progressive Enhancement
- A Marketer’s Guide to Building High Converting Websites
The issue with redoing a website every couple of years isn’t just the cost of resources and budget. The main issue is that creating new websites is often just educated guesswork. New websites are often an improvement visually and functionally, but adaptive websites are constantly improving and driving results well before any Web redesign project. This means more business, better branding and a greater understanding of your customers.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.