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Site Graphics and Multimedia Design Forum

This 31 message thread spans 2 pages: 31 ( [1] 2 > >     
How often should a website be redesigned?
What happens after you stare at the same design for years?

 3:30 pm on Apr 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm actually running into a little challenge with a site redesign. We've been staring at a fixed width, fixed pixel environment for over 4 years. We've grown to the point where things "have to change" or the usability of the site will suffer.

So, we build a new Web 2.0 Template, nice and clean, validates, 100% fluid, a real work of art I think, and so did many others during the redesign. The initial responses from the client were not what we expected...

"Wow, everything is so big now, can we have it small again?"
"It fills my entire screen, I want it centered in the middle."
"Can you make the fonts smaller again?"
"Why the Expand/Collapse options? Can we have the long scrolling pages again?"

You'd really be surprised at some of the responses from the client.

So, I got to thinking, why was this such a "big change" for him? I think its because we've been stuck in the 800x600 mentality way too long. And, with 12px fixed font sizes, fixed widths, everything was all scrunched into the middle of the screen.

The new layout is "pure". We're going to make modifications to compromise but I think after he's used it for a while we'll get the okay to proceed. It really is a work of art. The fluidness has added a usability factor that we not had before. And, with the growth of the backend applications, the amount of data we are displaying just would not work in a fixed width non-fluid environment.

So, what's your take on it? How often should we redesign and/or upgrade our websites look and feel, functionality, usability, etc? I know, its an ongoing daily grind for many of us but in this instance, is four years a bit too long? We missed a couple of screen size jumps during that time so what we had finally became this little portrait size website in the center of a large landscape universe. :)


travelin cat

 4:13 pm on Apr 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

It seems like the client is afraid of so much change all at once. Business owners don't like change, if it ain't broke mentality is everywhere in business.

I think you need to make the change and convince him of it, otherwise the site will become stagnant.

We modify our travel site about every 2 years. Some changes have been drastic (static to CMS) while others were simple rearrangements or color/icon changes.

We never once heard any complaints and business grew steadily. We'll be making another major change next month... I'm looking forward to it.


 7:54 am on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Most clients are not very web savvy. Having a website, is, for some of them, a major step. It takes them a long time to get used to a website and how it functions. While the changes might seem a good idea to a designer, its not always the best option for a client because they are back to square one.

As a designer you always want to make things better. Me, I only re-design if the client specifically asks me too. It can cause too many headaches for both parties otherwise.



 8:27 am on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

This won't help with your fixed-width design, but one solution I use on some websites is to let the user choose with a stylesheet switcher. You still have to have a default design, of course. But you can supplement that with a collection of buttons at the top or foot of the page that people can click to choose between styles. Mostly this is used for font-size changes, or higher-contrast designs for the sake of accessibility. But you aren't limited to that at all.

Four years is really too long, but you do have to strike a balance between too much change and too little, because it costs a lot of money/time to be always redesigning. If your design is pure CSS, however, you can always give people the option of going back to the old design if they preferred it for some reason.


 11:37 am on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Is it that your client doesn't like the new design. Or that he's scared of changing a design which converts well and brings him plenty of business? In which case he's really asking can you make it more like the old one!

Receptional Andy

 12:02 pm on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Split testing is the answer, I reckon. Who you test on and how is up to you, but if you can demonstrate the benefits with real users/customers I doubt you'll have too many problems convincing people. And design is a funny thing - you might even be wrong ;)


 1:19 pm on Apr 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

I get totally pissed when a B&M shop changes their layout so much that I have to change my brains mapping of where to find the products I need, that I normally boycott the joint until I get over it.

Paint, posters and new cashier counters don't bother me so much.


 1:32 pm on Apr 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

Tell him to read the book "who Moved my Cheese" Humans by nature are scared to death of change.


 1:38 pm on Apr 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

100% is nowadays not the best option
why: reading a page 100% width on a large monitor is a pain for the eyes, to the point that 1,2,3 you loose interest and click away...

a nice fluid design is built around a mini/maxi
so it looks good from X width to X width


 2:35 pm on Apr 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

How often? Probably depends on your market. But then again, maybe not. Once you've got a clean, fast loading easy to use design I'm not sure why one would change it.

Some of the online electronics stores I use have designs that have been around for many years. And it still works fine. If they 'updated' the design that'd be bad for us customers.

I haven't updated the design on some of my sites for many, many years. They're clean, simple layouts with a bit of CSS. Almost not 'designs' at all. They rank just fine and I still occassionally get compliments from visitors.


 2:35 pm on Apr 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

You'd really be surprised at some of the responses from the client.

why don't you ask your client's clients, i.e. visitors?


 2:50 pm on Apr 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

i agree with henry that
in our experience none of our customers likes the 100%.
i had one customer who was driving us crazy wanting a nice design and not being happy with the designs or the layout.
after i went down to visit him i relised he is still using a old monitor 800x600. by the end it got really silly and i told the customer "we asked 20 people bla bla bla, leave it to the experts.. etc.) it was take it or leave it. they want nicer better sites and ranking 1st... but they are not happy with changes. especially the ones that dont know internet / computers.

and to the answer of you rquestion.. i think a site design should not be changed unless necessary BUT there should be constant changes and improvements. for ex. when we create a funky feature or a nicer photo album we might as well add it to a couple of customers. users and clients like to see improvments, over 4 years the site will be different and users would get pissed at you for changing everything.


 3:01 pm on Apr 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

p1r, it very much depends. We have one larger site that sees changes every month. It is little changes - style improvement here, usability improvement there, etc. Back-end improves too. Nobody gets hurt that way, improvements are gradual. It helps though if you start from a solid platform, we started from a fluid design with some CSS.

I remember - a while back - a company I consulted for moved 2 websites of a client from older design and php platform to Windows...I didn't have much saying 'cause they had "know it all" boss and tech lead. We missed deadline by a large margin, and eventually got fired. Too much change, too many things got broken, including 404's, 301's, SEO and such...that client is now on iteration 3 with .NET, completely different webdev company.


 3:07 pm on Apr 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

Rule #1: You can never make everyone happy...

Rule #2: Small incremental changes are better than full-blown over hauls.

On my sites, we have been slowly incrementing the width of the pages to fit the more popular 1024x768 screen sizes... By doing it slowly over a few months, no one has even noticed, or commented... ;-)


 3:44 pm on Apr 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

Whenever I get tempted to make radical changes to a client's ecommerce site (and some of the sites we inherited could *really* use it in my own opinion) I try to keep in mind how I feel every time I go into my local Sam's Club warehouse store, and they've completely reorganized all the aisles, and almost nothing I want is in the same place as it was the last time I was there. Really ticks me off, and takes a lot more time - and since I don't like shopping to begin with, it makes everything much more unpleasant. So I tend not to go there unless there's something I really need and can only get at Sam's.

I imagine I'd feel the same way about about a website that changed too radically too often. In fact, I can think of one that does - and I don't use it anymore at all.


 4:19 pm on Apr 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

Too many times have I designed a site that I thought was a *work of art* only to have it nit-picked by the client. I guess the idea is that MY version would look soooo much better in my portfolio than the watered down version the client wants. There are times when a delicate persuasion of the client's mind is in order, but most times you have to take a step back and realize where the paychecks are coming from.


 4:37 pm on Apr 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

100% is nowadays not the best option
why: reading a page 100% width on a large monitor is a pain for the eyes, to the point that 1,2,3 you loose interest and click away...
a nice fluid design is built around a mini/maxi
so it looks good from X width to X width

Quite true, but there are (sometimes) ways around it. I have yet to find a perfect solution, but often just keeping the main "reading area" down to a reasonable size works.

It has gotten harder recently with the wide range of devices that access the internet, so we are looking at changing to a semi-fluid design, where it looks good from 600 to 1300, and is at least not broken at others.


 5:02 pm on Apr 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

It is very risky to make such a huge change to your site. You have to understand most people are terrible with computers. They fear using them, they fear 'messing up' something. For them, getting comfortable using a site is a big deal. Once that happens you don't want to go and make big changes, forcing them to re-learn how to use it.

Depends on the industry of course, but if your site is more B2C then you will face a potential backlash for awhile. Assuming your new version is really easy to use you will be fine in the long run. But it will likely be a bit painful in the short term.


 5:29 pm on Apr 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

Is it possible to roll out the changes gradually?


 6:52 pm on Apr 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

Can you get some people in "off the street", as testers, and get them to try both designs, and marking them both for various factors?


 8:07 pm on Apr 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

Oh, we're tech saavy enough around here, that's for sure. But you should have seen the disgust and contempt shown around here when the cPanel changed their WHM. And, 95% of our clients wanted to revert back to the X after looking at the X3 domain cp's.

Updates aren't looked upon with much favour, both on the client and admin side.

Humans don't care much for change. Change puts them out of their comfort zone at times.

As far as redesign and how often? Well, that would depend on the client, but we suggest no less than every 18 months and no more than every 24 months.


 9:12 pm on Apr 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

When designers make a new site these days, they aim for the Web2.0 look. That is today's fad.

However, I have noticed that established Web1.0 sites don't turn into Web2.0 sites. It is not worth it. It doesn't work. Being Web1.0 exudes history, tradition, quality - a sense that the site has been around since the start of the internet, and will therefore stick around forever. Why throw that away?


 12:48 am on May 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

So, what's your take on it? How often should we redesign and/or upgrade our websites look and feel, functionality, usability, etc?

The answer to that is simple. When something isn't working, you change it. When you think you can make something work better, you change it. When you're not sure, you test it. The reality is, clearly, far removed from this ideal, but that's the real answer.


 4:19 am on May 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

A website redesign for a working site should be about changing the clothes, not changing the body. Preferably, people who see the new site should not notice it as redesigned, just as 'somehow nicer'. Over time, multiple clothes changes bring gradual change to the body.

"Wow, everything is so big now, can we have it small again?"

"Can you make the fonts smaller again?"

If it was readable at the old size, then why does it have to become larger? Those who need a larger font to read it will already have a low screen resolution or be able to zoom the text. I suggest keeping the old font size, but defining it and the rest of the site in em so that it is easy to scale.

"It fills my entire screen, I want it centered in the middle."

I think I agree with your client here. I hate sites which fill the screen when I use a large monitor. For a small monitor I don't mind. Compromise by setting appropriate maximum width limitations, again in em so they scale up with the zoom.

"Why the Expand/Collapse options? Can we have the long scrolling pages again?"

Agree again. I can't stand expand & collapse for content. It is putting extra unwanted things to do just to see the text. Go back to reading the HTML specification and use named anchors.


 6:12 am on May 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

Split testing... Or Multi-Variate testing... It really depends on what makes your client money. And also keep in mind the traffic to the site. Can it bear out testing without having anyone get laid off while you get things dialed in right.

I always tend to err to actual sales over what the business owner thinks they want. If thats too much for them then test to prove who's right and be prepared to be proved wrong sometimes, its harder to take than you think...


 10:40 am on May 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

slightly off-topic, but still:

you only have so many minutes left to live. You know how to make sites rank, you know how to make them make money. Don't waste your times trying to convince customers. Do your own stuff and you can do whatever you want.


 7:54 pm on May 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

We have been making a major site update every year, our company has 3x the traffic of our next nearest competitor. We have increased our conversion rate with every new update. After we finished our last site redesign (using rails) we have switched over to constant iteration and multi-variate testing. If a site has good monetization than you should never stop updating, it's worth ever penny and costs no more in the long/short run. The business cycle is shorter than ever, and multi-variate is the only good way to stay current on the cheap.

Also, multi-variate is great because it allows people to really see the conversion difference, it's a great selling point.

Now, if a site doesn't monetize and is just "there because everyone has to have a website" then dangle the carrot of real measurable bottom-line change, and if they still aren't on board, just do exactly as they want and let them sink themselves.


 9:06 pm on May 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

Depending on the age of the design, change is not always good. I have one customer that has changed his design four times in four years because he is impatient. He thinks since you have a web site, people should be flocking to it immediately, and if they don't, there must be something wrong with the design.

Also, I read somewhere in WebmasterWorld that it is estimated that a design change to an e-commerce site will only increase traffic less than 3%. Does anyone recall that post?

In the end, my sentiment is - If it ain't broke, don't fix it!



 5:24 pm on May 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

This is the reason I got out of site design and seo. They hire us to make them a success because they known nothing about our field. Then, they buck us every step of the way when we do exactly what they need to succeed and try to tell us how to do a job, they know nothing about. While the money was huge, so too was the frustration. I can NOT and will NOT do something I know is wrong. It is not in my nature. Unfortunately, giving people what they want, involves breaking that rule.

That is why I decided to take my expertise, and work to make some sites for myself and put all my energy into running those sites. I am now much happier, work less harder, have SO much less stress, and am making consistent wages at a comfortable level.

I have only two clients left, one has been a client for many years, and has become a friend. This is only because he listens to me and his business growth consistently every year.

The other was an associate who needed help after I quit design, and he is a pain in my neck alot of the time. Rarely does he listen to me, and forces me to do things I know is wrong. He is largely a charity case, a not-for-profit. It is the only reason I accepted him. I have watched as his website traffic has decline to less than 100 hits a day. All because he made ONE major mistake in a critical decision and has refused to listen to reason. He wants to know why his site traffic has declined, I tell him, and remind him I advised against that mistake. He becomes quiet, and goes away until we revisit the problem AGAIN a few months down the road. It is like groundhog day.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink. Deal with it, or get out, as I did.


 4:29 am on May 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

I dont think there is need to update your static site quite often. I like to redesign it sometimes when I feel that its really needed to do so

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