Beantin

James Royal-Lawson

The complete website redesign: why you should avoid it

Never do a complete redesign & rewrite of your website in one go.

Many companies are still locked in a 3-5 year redesign cycle – a point is reached when the unhappiness with their website reaches such a level that a total redesign is ordered.


The website redesign cycle

While we’re at it

A “while we’re at it” attitude comes into action.

While we’re at it…

  • we’ll redesign the look of the site…
  • we’ll change the interaction design…
  • we’ll rewrite all the content…
  • we’ll change the navigation and structure…
  • …and what the hell, we’ll change CMS while we’re at it too.

Sounds like a good idea doesn’t it? Well, not really. There are very few situations where I’d advise an organisation to do a complete and utter redesign, rewrite, and rebuild of their website all at the same time.

Much more complex

Not only do all those changes executed at roughly the same time require quite a sizable heap of cash, they also increase the complexity of the project by several orders of magnitude.

The increased complexity often translates into; the overunning of the project in terms of both time and money, poorly researched decisions, difficulty in making sensible decisions.

Furthermore, we’ve got the poor old user. If your repeat visitors make up a significant segment of your visitor base, consider what a complete re-working of your site will do to their world.

Search Engine impact

Finally, the big one. Something regularly under appreciated is just how symbiotic the relationship between your website and the internet really is. Everything you publish is analysed and indexed by the search engines. Other sites link to your content – perhaps many of them deep link to content beyond your index page.

Digital fingerprint

This presence, your old website, is a digital fingerprint. Google webmaster tools (and similar services) can give you an idea of what that fingerprint looks like.

What Google (and other search engines) think about your site is made up from all the words you use across all the pages on your site, its URLs – as well as; page titles, internal links, incoming links, the anchor text of all those links, and numerous other signals.

If you rewrite all of your content, change all your URLs, and redesign all your pages – all at the same time – how do you think that impacts on your fingerprint?

Minor surgery

So if a complete redesign – a full monty – is out of the question – what should you do?

Minor surgery, rather than heart surgery. Tweak. Constantly evolve. Change a few pieces at a time. Measure and test how well those pieces work. Adjust them, rewrite them, tweak them. Measure again.

Support network

If you for whatever reason can’t avoid the big bang, or you come onboard too late to steer the ship clear of the iceberg – then make sure you’ve got the right support network. The complete website redesign is the biggest challenge web management can throw at you.


is a freelance web manager and strategist based in Stockholm Sweden.

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