Doing several, major redesigns instead of a continuous website improvement is not only a lot of work, but did you know that it can also be a dangerous strategy to adopt?
Even when intentions are good behind a one-time major redesign, not everyone likes change. It also takes time for people to adapt to new thing they see and only time will tell if things will pick up or not. Hence, the essence of doing incremental yet continuous website improvement.
In this article, we will discuss this effective website redesign strategy by contrasting it with the old redesign approach, the nine benefits why it works, why it must be adopted, some challenges that can be met along the way and an overview of its steps.
Old redesign approach VS. continuous website improvement
The old website redesign approach is a strategy widely adopted by many businesses and creative agencies. The process starts off by diligently itemizing the different elements to change on the website and the nature of the change to implement. However, an essential part of the process is left off – the risks that each change can potentially create.
A good rule of thumb to remember when redesigning a website is for every change you create, there is a risk involved. And to know the risks, it is critical to have a risk-mitigation system in place – a process that includes a clear understanding of your target audience, mapping out design changes based on the conversions it can produce, creating controlled split tests and studying insights from your data whether to keep the design change or not.
A structured risk-mitigation charting similar to the above illustration is crucial as it will be easier for you to track the effects your design changes create. And this, accompanied by a less revolutionary, structured and iterative design method called continuous website improvement is the best approach to adopt for your web design improvement needs.
As the art and science of doing strategic split testing to ensure all design changes you implement lead to a boost in conversions and revenue, continuous website improvement also promises a better site experience for your visitors.
Benefits of doing continuous development
If you are doing a site redesign or just planning for one in the near future, consider a continuous improvement for your approach. Here are nine reasons why you should.
#1 It is faster than the traditional, revolutionary approach
Did you know that the old redesign approach can take more than a year to implement?
Some companies even take five years and this applies especially for big brands where designs need to pass through multiple approvals prior to implementation. Add in another six months to fix the dramatic drop in conversion rates.
Lean continuous improvement does not follow this problematic pattern. Rather, it creates a system of step-by-step improvements so your website always leads the race. It is faster to implement changes . Even the boost in conversion rates is faster as well.
#2 Because design is largely a subjective matter
A good reason why redesign takes such a long time especially for big brands is because design is a matter of personal taste. What gets approved by one committee may not be the same for the other committee. The subjectivity also applies among designers whose preferences are unique from one another.
Continuous website improvement are all based on analytics and split testing – the two main lights that objectively drive all design decisions. When there is no room for subjectivity, it is easier to finalize redesign decisions.
#3 Creating too much too soon can be confusing
Doing major changes makes it a challenge to identify what specific changes resulted positively or negatively towards your conversions and revenues.
For instance, you’ve finally added a guest checkout option and saw a major lift in your conversions, but you discovered that the new design of your checkout page is increasing your bounce rate. The positive changes you are expecting may be counterproductive and can be confusing to deal with.
Moreover, creating rapid changes can be confusing and can lead to disappointments.
In 2013, Yahoo! Mail decided to give its email platform a facelift twice in less than a year. This was met not only by a public uproar to bring the old design back, but even Yahoo! employees opted to stop using the service due to the drastic changes in user experience and features.
The first redesign only updated the platform’s look and feel, but the second redesign took away some beloved email features like sort-by-sender and tabs.
This is the Yahoo! Mail redesign in 2012.
And this is the redesign in 2013.
When your users get upset when encountering too much changes too soon, you can expect a drop in loyalty too.
#4 The success in making a major redesign can be deceptive
Although you have managed to boost your conversions and revenues when you revamped your website, there is sadly no room for you to make more improvements.
Continuous website improvement facilitates ongoing optimization for even better conversion rates and revenues. It’s not just about making constant improvements to your site, but also fixing problematic areas before it gets big. This method allows you to adopt the latest recommendations for the best user experience possible before it gets outdated.
#5 A redesign is not the solution that will end all your problems
It is possible that the reason why your site is not converting and your revenues are not increasing is not due to poor website design. Your entire business model may be flawed, the quality of your products may be failing or your customer service is becoming poor. Many think redesigning their site will be the ultimate solution and unfortunately, it is not often the case.
#6 A major redesign foregoes two important elements
And those two important elements are user feedback and your analytics data.
Most do-overs are fueled by trends or what competitors are doing, which fails to take into account how users actually feel about your site. Not incorporating consumer feedback is a major no-no to your stakeholders and to your business.
Similarly, a revolutionary redesign also overlooks your most precious analytics data. Before applying major changes to your site, analyze the current state of your website and based on your data, identify the areas that must be improved.
#7 Continuous development keeps sites fresh and modern
A danger when doing one major site revamp at a time is your site tends to look old compared to its competitors. Especially when there are new industry conventions that are great to apply on your site, you miss that chance when you follow a revolutionary redesign approach.
And should some trends not work out for you after adopting it, continuous improvement allows you to rollback and make the necessary changes to your site.
Marks & Spencer reportedly spent time and millions developing and redesigning their new website, but by the time it launched, it was already outdated.
Moreover, its online revenues dropped by 8.1% following the launch of its new website. Keep up with the general pace with a lean continuous improvement approach.
#8 A major overhaul to your design may put your SEO rankings at risk
You have worked years for your organic traffic and you stand to lose what you have invested when you take a nosedive doing haphazard do-overs. Definitely one of the negative and major impacts of a major redesign is losing your SEO rankings and your domain authority, which leads to a dramatic drop-off in your traffic and revenues.
Failing to consider the effects of adding, removing, and updating pages and its different elements can backfire into a disaster if you are not careful. Also, it will take you years again to recover your traffic and your users or customers.
Digg, a news aggregator website, lost a significant amount of traffic after the site went through a radical redesign back in 2010.
It is tagged in history as the “textbook example for how to alienate your users” because from 40 million unique visitors monthly, its traffic dove into free fall by 26% in the United States and 34% in the United Kingdom after its new website went live.
Clearly, the non-consideration for its pages’ and its associated elements’ SEO rankings plus the usability that was already making its users happy was to be blamed.
#9 Iterative changes is simply the way to go
Optimization will always be the safest route to take when redesigning your website. If you are a loyal Amazon shopper, you will notice that they are not a fan of radical redesigns. A proof of this is how its current web design does not look that different from its version five years ago.
This is the Amazon website a few years back.
And this is how it looks right now.
All the changes Amazon does on their website are all iterative, meaning they improve their website based on data and repeated testing. When they make changes, they know it works because they’ve tested it a bunch of times. They know what’s not working, what’s working and how to make it better.
Change is good, but radical change is not.
Challenges to be met along the way
Despite the benefits of continuous development, there are also some challenges you can expect along the way and make sure to prepare for it well.
Continuous website improvement requires a lot of patience. In exchange of long term wins, there is, sadly, no instant gratification with this method. While you may want a major visual improvement to show your customers and your competitors that you are on-trend, it is critical that your visuals are also functional.
These incremental and iterative changes may not be that glamorous, but it certainly does make up for long-term results.
This method requires tons of testing and studying of your analytics data. And beyond that, it also takes a lot of effort to convince other people to take the slower and more methodical route to website improvement that may take time to complete.
Continuous development may lack the wow factor that revolutionary redesign proudly offers, but at the end of the day, split testing your website and improving it is best done feature by feature, one step at a time.
In 2015, CNN rolled out its website redesign, but it was met with a lot of negative feedback from its users.
According to the news site, the updates it will implement will cater to its readers on social media and mobile. However, this was hardly ever achieved due to the fact that their new homepage took 21.5 seconds to load, which is not at all favorable whether a reader is on a desktop or a mobile device.
Another reason for the backfire was the images it used were too large, reducing the number of headlines that should ideally be appearing above the fold. Especially for mobile users, this meant waiting patiently for articles to load and scrolling down the page a lot, spelling a huge usability issue. And also overall, the navigation was reportedly not intuitive at all.
Repeated testing, a closer study of its analytics data and incorporation of user feedback could have saved them from this disaster.
It’s hard to make a budget for it. Since the work of continuously improving a website is ongoing, it is impossible to predict a flat rate cost or how much money will be spent for it after the work is completed. But since split testing impacts site performance, usability and revenue, money spent for redesign and money earned should be closely tied.
So should continuous improvement be abandoned? No because it creates value and competitive advantage.
How continuous development is done
The steps towards lean continuous improvement is similar to how you run your split tests.
Step 1 – List down your conversion goals
List down all actions you want to contribute to your growth.
Of course, for ecommerce, some popular conversion goals would be successful checkouts, adding items in wishlists, recovering abandoned carts and phoning in customer service. Some other conversion goals you may have are free trial sign-ups, newsletter subscriptions, new user registrations and referrals.
Step 2 – Check your analytics data for underperforming conversion goals
Your analytics data is the best reference to see whether your website is supporting your conversion goals or not. Ensure your analytics tracking code is properly installed so you are getting the correct data.
Based on your data, you might discover that your abandoned checkouts are high, your product pages have high bounce rates, your new user registration is pretty low or your forms have high drop-offs.
Step 3 – Match your conversion goal with a website element and redesign it
Do this one conversion goal at a time.
For instance, you discovered that your number of new registered users is low. A conversion element that you can redesign to fix the low count can be shortening your registration signup form, marking required form fields with an asterisk, briefly explaining the information you want to receive, changing the color and text of your submit buttons, etc.
Step 4 – Create a test version of your chosen element
For instance, you’ve chosen the length of your registration signup form. Your existing form length will be your control variable and the shorter version will be the test variable.
Step 5 – Conduct your split test and identify the winner
Use your split testing tool of choice. We have enumerated some good choices here.
After running your test, review your test analytics and it will reveal the winning variable. Your data will assure you that proceeding with the change will lead to a boost in your conversions. If your test variable did not win, you need to come up with a different redesign approach.
After step 5, repeat the above steps all over again.
If a particular update you implemented needs to be reworked, you do not have to worry about the losses. Since the update was so incremental, the losses you gained will pale in comparison if you adopted the drastic method. Reversing the change is easy.
With all these discussions on continuous website improvement, when should you consider doing it?
- If you want to maximize your ROI while minimizing your risks.
- If you want to improve the function and performance of your site along with improved aesthetics.
- If you want to stay ahead of the competition and not be stuck with an outdated website.
- If you don’t want your redesign to backfire. Continuous development is a solution to see fantastic results and a boost in your revenue and conversions.
- If your website’s current look and feel is good enough and there are no reported technology issues that need fixing.
- If you have a lot of visitors returning and they are used to your existing website design. Also, if their feedback is important to you.
- If your site receives significant traffic and it is enough to run at least one split test a month.
Be smart about redesigning your website. Use data instead of your intuition. You may be starting slow, but you are continually optimizing your website – the ideal method to boost revenues and conversion rates with confidence.