I sell websites, but I might not want you to buy one. There are certainly circumstances where a ground-up redesign is the only option, but there’s an alternative that’s often eliminated without proper consideration: iterative, impactful improvement to an existing site.
This option is overlooked because the perception is that it’s always easier to start from scratch than to clean up an existing mess. But that may not be true. Read this before you embark on your next redesign.
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
Your website isn't performing the way you want it to. The content is scattered, the menus point visitors every which way, and the day-to-day management has become a burden. On the whole, it's not performing as you know it should. Conversions are down, and everyone knows it's in disarray.
You know that your website should be a streamlined marketing engine, but you are hostage to decisions made years ago about what it should be, how it should look, and how it should be organized.
Your only option is to redesign from the ground up, right? Here’s what that process typically looks like. You'll go through the process of allocating budget and getting approval to start interviewing vendors. The project will be massive, so a committee of internal stakeholders — many of whom rarely look at the website or consider its function as a marketing engine — is formed to help make the decision. The decision-making process quickly moves away from a focus on core marketing objectives and customer experience; instead, you're designing the website around the attitudes and opinions of internal stakeholders who (unlike your audience) are deeply familiar with the organization and want it to reflect their vision. You'll ultimately end up with a new site, but one that is at best a minor improvement — and at worst a lateral move that still doesn't allow you to do what you need. You still can't make changes as easily as you'd like, you can't effectively measure your conversion paths, and you can't integrate it with your other digital marketing efforts. Maybe the next redesign will be better.
What if you could avoid this future, and do so in a way that's more cost-effective and leads you to a better end result?
Consider every other online service you might use in a day: Gmail, Instagram, Netflix. How often do these services stop everything to completely reimagine their platform from the ground up? The answer is never. Instead, they continually improve and modify to the point where, ultimately, you see a completely new version of the product, but the transition was seamless, and updates and changes were phased in piece by piece.
It's time to stop believing that you have to patiently await your next full redesign before your website can be improved. Of course, there are situations where a full redesign is necessary. In those scenarios, either the effort involved in repairing an existing site is greater than creating a new one, or other circumstances (re-branding, mergers, etc.) mean that the website must undergo a fundamental, ground-up change. However, we've also helped many of our clients continually improve their websites over the span of many years, prioritizing the changes that matter, and ultimately revamping the entire site over time. This is an option that’s often not seriously considered, but should always be on the table.
Our continuous improvement plan looks like this:
We take a look at the site from a technology perspective to understand what we're going to be dealing with from an implementation standpoint. Our developers dig in to understand what it will take to "refactor" the code — continually improving or swapping out components so that the original one is ultimately replaced by a newer version.
We talk to your executive and marketing teams to understand what you really need the website to do. We avoid words like "redesign." While there's certainly a design component to what we'll be doing, "redesign" simply doesn't paint a broad enough picture. We need to understand how the website fits into your overall brand and digital marketing strategy. We're building a measurable, data-driven customer journey, not a brochure. And if you're of the opinion that "business doesn't come to us from the web," that's because you haven't been doing it right. The whole world goes to Google first when looking for a product or service, and once they land on your website, you have to offer a curated experience to get them to interact with you.
We draft a continuous improvement plan with month-to-month milestones that our team will execute on. We're focused on meeting measurable goals alongside your marketing and executive teams. We will execute on search optimization, conversion optimization, customer experience, and marketing automation. And all of it is driven by market intelligence that helps you prioritize where changes will have the most impact.
Phased Development and Deployment
Ultimately, you will get the new CMS you need, the new design, or both, depending on the specifics of your individualized plan. But you can maintain momentum and stay hyper-focused on actual objectives, rather than stopping everything and hoping that your new website — 8 to 12 months away — is everything you'll need it to be.