Think before redesigning your website

by Martin Reed on 10 March 2007 in Articles

So you have your website running, you are building up a decent community, your users are generally happy but you feel it is time for a site redesign. Sounds like a natural progression for your site, right? Well … perhaps.

Time and time again I have seen sites herald in a new design which is plainly awful. Often the owner of the site will insist that the new design is fantastic, even if the users disagree. After all, the chances are you are the person who has slaved for days, weeks or months on the new design – and then your visitors simply do not understand the greatness of the new look!

First and foremost always remember – your visitors are the key to your success. If they are not happy they will go elsewhere. Some small concerns are only natural if a site has been massively redesigned – often your users will get used to such changes. However, if a huge overhaul does not go down well and users are still complaining weeks later then something needs to be done.

Ideally you do not want things to reach this stage – it is important to plan a new design time and time again before even starting to put it into action. Ask yourself the following key questions:

  • Why do you want to redesign the site?
  • How will the redesign improve the user experience?

A redesign should be done for the users – not for your own ego. Sure, your website may not be the most attractive in the world but if the users love it, and it is still attracting an increasing amount of traffic perhaps it is not as bad as you thought. You also need to keep your search engine positions in mind when undergoing a redesign. You may rank great in the search engines right now but how will this rank be affected after the redesign?

If you are running a community website, it may be a good idea to get your users involved in the site redesign. For example you could post mock-ups and invite comments from your users. This way, not only do your members feel more involved in the community but they are also likely to aid your design from a user’s perspective.

In conclusion I would always say that redesigns can be a positive thing – if done in the right way and for the right reasons. Your site’s design is a reflection of your online brand – tinker with this only after much thought and planning and always remember – your site must always benefit your users, not your ego. It is no good having a website that may look fantastic but that your members find impossible to use.

Go ahead and do that redesign, but make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons and make sure that you do it properly!

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Tom March 13, 2007 at 9:05 am

Having recently undergone a redesign of one of my own sites, I felt the need to comment here.

My site had been up for a few years now, and a redesign was sorely needed. Not because it was in need of a new look (though it kinda was…), but because the HTML markup was severely outdated. Tables nested within tables nested within more tables. Tables for layout, more tables to set margins, you get the idea. Not only was it stifling my SEO, it was impairing loading times and jacking up the bandwidth bills.

If you have one of these dinosaurs still roaming your webserver, it’s time to consider a redesign. Semantic use of HTML can vastly improve user experience on many levels.

By decreasing the ratio of code to content, you will lower the byte size of your pages. The pages will load faster, especially for dialup users. Your bandwidth costs will decrease. I was able to lower my own bandwidth usage by about 70% thanks to a redesign.

Non-visual web browsers and search engines will be able to make better sense of your pages through semantic use of HTML. Learn how to style heading tags (, , etc) via CSS instead of < b > tags with a fontsize of 42 pixels. Format your text into paragraphs with the tag instead of excesive line breaks.

Just a few things to keep in mind when redesigning a site. Not only will these tips improve overall user experience, they will help your SEO efforts as well. Sometimes obtaining a good rank for relevant search terms is the best source of traffic. And getting more people to your community can be the greatest improvement to your visitors’ user experience that you will ever make.

Martin Reed March 13, 2007 at 12:14 pm

You are right about the advantages of good coding – I still need to get around to making the coding tableless for my main site however because most visitors will not know if a design is coded in tables or not it really drops it down my list of priorities! No doubt I will get around to it soon though!

Jonathan-C. Phillips April 7, 2007 at 9:28 pm

Great article! I’m actually working on a redesign, and i try to always work on things that i think will help the users experience. The design i have right now is kinda simple, it does the job, but i want something that will be more “sticky” :)

Martin Reed April 7, 2007 at 9:50 pm

Hi Jonathan, welcome to the blog. I am glad you enjoyed the article – hopefully it will make you consider usability above all else when it comes to your redesign!

Alberghi October 1, 2007 at 11:20 pm

On redesigning website you should pay attention on url of your website , because you could loose .. the importance of your website sometime.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 3, 2007 at 8:52 pm

Alberghi – I would imagine that a redesign wouldn’t include a change of domain name but if it did then you’re right – it is essential that you choose a good domain name.

abbigliamento October 27, 2007 at 5:26 pm

I think redesigning website should not affect on your serps position but sometime you could loose your visitors.
As Says ALBERGHI pay attention when change urls.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 29, 2007 at 9:33 pm

abbigliamento – I think a redesign really can affect your position in the search engines rankings; particularly if you are changing the text on your pages, the layout or the file structure. It’s just another thing to bear in mind if you decide to go ahead with a redesign.

Scarpe Hogan September 15, 2008 at 12:14 pm

Even a simple redesign without changing the domain could affect a site’s position in the serps, in my opinion, because robots could not like the new code. If a site ranks well i should never want to touch it!

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 6, 2008 at 8:30 pm

Scarpe – Very true! I would be nervous to redesign Just Chat, simply because it ranks so well for my preferred search terms!

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