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Income fell by about 20%.
I went back to the old design and everything returned to normal. The design is nuts & bolts. I attribute the success of the site to the design - there's nothing distracting from the point of the site. It's not pretty but it sure does get the job done.
Developing a look that is clean and clear about who you are and what you have to offer, has intuitive navigation and confidence builders, has useful intelligent AND functional tools, loads fast and works in at least the latest generation of the top browsers, and doesn't require serious pruning to get there? Invaluable.
Will every redesign do that? No! You need to test it, there are numerous tolls/services out there that will let you test different changes in the same time period (A/B testing & multi-variable testing). Test what works, and use that for your new design.
Doing a redesign out of necessity or improvement is.
For example, I am currently redesigning my main ecommerce site. It needs it. It needs a shopping cart, for one thing. Also, there are pages that don't look like the other pages. The name isn't even consistent throughout the site. I mean, same parent name, but the subname varies.
The new design will be not terribly unlike the old one, except that it will have a shopping cart, add new features and additional content.
I don't want to substantially change what I have, as I have a number of pages that are in the top ten of search engine results, some at #1. So, I am trying for a more attractive and consistent design, while not substantially changing the layout or text.
I hope that this will help increase sales. I think not having a shopping cart hurts sales.
On the flip side, there is an ecommerce site that I used to visit almost daily and purchase every few days. They redesigned their site earlier this month. Since then, I have visited only a couple times and haven't bought anything. I haven't even been there to check out the weekly freebie. Their new design is very hard on the eyes, and you get a headache if you spend too much time there. I am not the only one who has made this complaint either. Very poor design choice they made. And, not withstanding that, they also made the site more difficult to navigate by putting more pages in your way of getting to what you want. Stuff you used to be able to access from the front page (or any page) now requires going through two or more pages to reach.
I think you need to approach any redesign from the standpoint of what it does for the customer. Redesign if it benefits the customer. Don't redesign to add fancy graphics or whiz bang stuff you want to see; don't redesign because you're bored with your site.
If your site is slow you lose. We had a shared server thru Datapipe. Most of the time it worked fine, but other times it slowed to a crawl and or glitched. The problem with a shared server is no matter how well you have cleaned up your program, you are limited by the worst site on your server.
We paid the bucks for a dedicated server and within a week our sales increased 10%. For us the payback was 20 fold the cost. Now our site is very fast and we never have down time unless we mess up..
From an art-school-commercial-art application viewpoint, it is the positioning of objects within a rectangular space, application of a color scheme, and the combined psychological and emotional impact on the viewer.
For a website, design elements also include the navigation scheme, usability, document structure, content that compels the user the explore the site, and other functional elements not present in a flat printed design.
So a "redesign" in the first case is next to worthless, if the redesign involves the second, the improvements can be dramatic.
Sales went up too. I will second the concept that site face lift can mean more than cosmetic changes - mine looks the same, just a little cleaner to navigate and it made a lot of difference. I think I was too close to it for years to realize the problems that my customers were having.
I think part of the problem here is the interpretation of what "design" means.
From a small thread like this it's interesting to see just how much the interpretation of design does vary. I guess I have a bit of an underdeveloped (or overdeveloped depending on how you look at it) sense of what design is.
I do all of my own work from the bottom up and my self-admitted weak-spot is what I consider to be "design". Being that as it is - I usually work on design last.
To me a site's design is its visual appeal and even more so the feelings that it arouses. You know that feeling you get in the very first second when you see a site for the first time? To me the site's design is the catalyst for that feeling. You haven't yet experienced the site's navigational structure or even its content, but you've already got a feeling about the site as a whole because of its design.
I look at my projects in multiple areas of infrastructure, content, navigation, design, and sometime even break marketing out into its own category. If I tried to look at all of those things as one entity my head would explode.
infrastructure supports the site or the application and facilitates the purpose of the site. Infrastructure is what I consider to be the most vital feature of a site. Infrastructure would include things like a shopping cart/checkout system, a search utility, CMS, live help, etc., etc.
Content lays on top of the infrastructure and is vital to convey the message of the site or application but not necessarily deliver it…. err…. if you get my drift. Content is delivered by infrastructure in the most efficient and user friendly way.
Navigation lays on top of or is integrated with infrastructure but is dictated by a site or application's content.
Design is an aesthetic representation of a site or applications message that is dictated by its content. Design is an artistic rendering (probably why I struggle with it) of a site's ultimate goal. Design is supposed to give you "that feeling" when you look at a site. That feeling may be "I feel comfortable buying" or "I believe this is a credible source".
I came back to a light CSS version of the ugly and simple site and the traffic, rankings, positioning and etc came back.
As for procedures, what works for me is to receive the payments and then ship. The electronic thing didn't worked quite well. To be honest I felt quite frustrated with this but I read a nice advice at this site:
"keep all your files when redesigning, in case you have to go back"
it is also debatable...
im suprised that no one brought up "it depends on and is different for everyone...." kinda the general answer to many of theese posts, as there isnt a turn-key solution to a successfull ecom website. (if there was we would all be too rich to care about the comments in this post)
I just finished architecture school, and from that i see "design" to be a combination of things, working in harmony to make a statement of what your argument or concept is. If your 'design' is convincing, then you win, else, 'back to the drawing board' And the eye candy in the final presentation of your design is one small piece to the puzzle. theres the concept, utilization of tools, methods, reasoning, revisiting the concept, illustration, presentation, and then revisiting the concept. I used to only be good at the final presentation, thinging that i could superficially convince an audience with stunning visuals. I almost failed. Then, i learned about how to develop a concept, got As ever since. See, if theres nothing backng it up, game over, Also same for a bad presentation to a good design, or the wrong audience.
analogies aside, whats importaint is the big picture; the puzzle that consists of all the dependent pieces. ya a facelift would be great but whats behind it. And if your site is very logical, with excellent traffic and product offerings but with a bad aesthetic, then do a facelift...
last thing... with that said, it is a shame that some will go to an 'ugly' design, thats really making our interent ugly, and one day that ugly site will be competing with an elegent site that delt with all the unseen "design" issues the ugly site missed when it was improved; and adventually will win. mediocracy is not the answer, with that logic its game over.
you should do everything you can to make your sites argument convincing, selling the products, or service signups, whatever --- if your more elegent design is doing worse, then figure out what is missing, and not settle on what seems to work for the moment.
Some people prefer to buy from small family run businesses or local businesses - generally, it's uglier sites give that impression. They like to help smaller businesses. You expect an in-house design from "Smiths Wool and Material Shop".
Other people prefer the safety of buying from a larger company and prettier sites give the impression of being large. Or if you are selling high value good. You would never expect Rolls-Royce or Apple to have an ugly website.
with that said, it is a shame that some will go to an 'ugly' design, thats really making our interent ugly, and one day that ugly site will be competing with an elegent site that delt with all the unseen "design" issues the ugly site missed when it was improved; and adventually will win.
No, it won't. If the "elegant" site overlooks the prime directive, to provide the most serious and comprehensive solution to the customer's problems, the "ugly site" will still win.
Look at craigslist. Plain text, zero graphic adornment, intentional "ee cummings" non-use of capitalization, it can easily be named as one of the "ugliest" sites on the Internet - but has what, 500K views per day? Why would such a dry presentation equate to outstanding success? What about the big G? And why do neither appear to have any intention of providing an ego-boosting "facelift" at any time in the near future?
It's simple: people crave content, not pretty graphics. They want to make a purchase online without feeling stupid because they can't navigate through Mystery Meat. They want to gather information, get free stuff, self-educate, collect pictures of their hobby stuff, share ideas, connect with other people - do you see "look at pretty websites" anywhere in this list? :-)
I would bet BMW's would sell just as well with no adorment at all on their site. Flashy car sites do more to massage the egos of corporate managers than the end user. Honestly, if you want a BMW, what are you going to their website for? (lawman, chime in here! :-) ) Flash demos? More pictures of what you already know about BMW? Maybe functional features that allow you to customize your ride, pricing and contact numbers - none of which has to do with visual design.
Exactly, this is the key thing. As long as it works, you really don't need to make it pretty. The most successful sites on the internet all look dull and haven't had a facelift in years (google, ebay, webmasterworld...) but they have everything where it's clearly accessible. In some ways keeping their formats the same actually encourages customers because the sites feel familiar and reliable, which makes customers more confident about returning.
Customers appreciate visual stuff appropriate to what they're doing. If they're buying food in a real shop they're more likely to buy from an ugly but very clean store rather than a well-designed but dirty store. Online, customers will buy from a site with a wide range of well organised goods rather than a badly organised pretty site.
Try getting a friend who isn't that good with computers to use your site. Don't interfere or say anything, just watch all the mistakes they make, and then try to streamline the site so your friend finds it quicker and easier to navigate.
Greg Dyke, the former head of the BBC, said that when he was making programmes aimed at a mass audience he always asked himself "would my mother enjoy this?". When you're doing a site, ask yourself if your mother (or father for that matter) would know how to navigate it.
As long as it works, you really don't need to make it pretty. The most successful sites on the internet all look dull and haven't had a facelift in years (google, ebay, webmasterworld...) but they have everything where it's clearly accessible. In some ways keeping their formats the same actually encourages customers because the sites feel familiar and reliable, which makes customers more confident about returning.
Honestly, if I woke up tomorrow and webmasterworld had a new design, I'd be a bit miffed. Generally, people resist change. I've come to enjoy this quirky but fast loading graphics light design that doesn't look pretty but does its job well: serving up great content.
It's not how your site looks visually, it's the content and the clear organization and presentation of the content. As an example, there'd be no extra point in having alpha transparency applied to the little yellow triangular "you've posted in this thread" markers or deciding to give all the table elements tiled graphical backgrounds. In fact, some of the stuff that designers do to pretty up a site, like replacing text with icons, can just be confusing.
However, I think there are several compelling cases for redesign: lack of continuity, user requests, and refactoring.
If part of your site has one design, and another part has a different design, or each page has completely different fonts, buttons, colors or link styles there's a clear problem. You do need a unified design. If elements have been hacked on without much thought to the original design, that could also be a reason to update the design.
Of course, your users might be signaling that they'd like to see a redesign. Maybe it's hard to access a section, or you've outgrown your old menu design so it doesn't fit on one screenful. Maybe the focus of the site has shifted and the old logo or layout isn't appropriate anymore because users have to go hunting to find the stuff they want.
Finally, you might want to consider refactoring your existing design. A new content management system could be just what you need to rapidly add and update content, but rather than trying to hack it into old table-based layouts by simply adding some css here and there, you could create a modern design that closely mirrors your current site but gives you additional functionality. This might include replacing graphical buttons with CSS styled buttons that look the same, or changing your fonts to use "em" rather than a fixed size.
Quite often a site can be made much better to use without spending a lot of time or money on the facelift side.
--it's not so much about how visually stunning the site is, it's about usability and the information within--
...is something far too many designers and "corporate we need a website" people fail to realize.
[edited by: Wlauzon at 2:51 am (utc) on July 8, 2007]
I've come to enjoy this quirky but fast loading graphics light design that doesn't look pretty but does its job well: serving up great content.
Well said! - though how many here are using a custom skin or custom style sheets?
Do you think a new/fresh site with 'functionality', but no look, will hold them forever if it stays ugly and offers no easy out?
I'd say it used to, but not any more. If we can work out settings that improve our use of SE/WebMaster sites then how hard is it for Jane Doe/Joe Bloggs to work out how to improve their favourite ecomm sites.
I quietly change settings of sites I don't like to look at, but want or need to use - perhaps I should tell the site owners.. or perhaps they'll be here in a few months asking if they should try a face-lift?
if no one cared about form, (in that function is all that mattered) then almost every site would be out of the box shopping cart software. doesnt work that way. Does everyone have a yahoo store? with their ugly left menu from their sitebuilder program. NO there are more firms that do shopping cart custimization then sell shopping cart software i would guess
the amount of energy you put into something is reflected in how well it is excecuted; a presentation with little preperation will most likely be a disaster, and it is the compassion, determination and creativity that pushes one to produce an excellent presentation, even if their not paid for the extra time. Its that energy level which becomes noticed and admirable.
Your site is an identity, it is what you are, or are doing. It should be the best. Aestheticaly, usability, function, every piece of the puzzle should be complete, and not because it directly influences immediate sales, but is a reflection of your efferts and existance
be proud of what you do
I'm always amazed at how much nonsense some of the biggest corporations put into their sites... Most of which they were sold on by marketing people no doubt.
I'm not so sure about it being pushed by marketing people. I'm always having a battle with owners over creative. I got asked for blinking text just this week. Big push for "put some flash on the site". I ask myself, and the client, to what end? "You're always going on about load times and slow internet connections. It needs flash."
I'm in the process of updating my main clients site. It needs it. It's outgrown the design/navigation/structure. But I really don't want to ad blinking text and spinning heads.