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Is big-bang website re-design really a bad strategy?

Lori Halley 08 August 2007 4 comments

In the latest issue of Gerry McGovern's New Thinking newsletter, McGovern argues that Web redesign is bad strategy. He adds:

A website redesign approach is usually embraced by organizations who are reacting to the fact that their websites have fallen into disrepair. Something is not working and the belief is that a nice redesign, some nice new graphics and colors, and perhaps the purchase of some fancy content management software, will solve it.

In the article, Gerry describes the approach of red-design as papering over the cracks:

"The cracks are a lack of resources to professionally manage the website on a day-to-day basis. The cracks are a lack of genuine customer focus, and a lack of continuous testing and evolution. The cracks are a lack of a rigorous review process to ensure that only quality content remains on the website."

The point he is making is that it is better to redesign your website on an ongoing basis. Even though you think your whole website needs redesign, if you look closely you'll realize that there are some things that do work and others that don't. For example, maybe your homepage has the right content for search engines and is attracting the right visitors but you lose them at your donation page. In this case, it's better to spend your time and effort redesigning that page as opposed to the whole website.

Gerry's article was informative, but it left me feeling a little bit unconvinced. What do you think? Should website redesign be an ongoing process as opposed to a big re-design project?

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 08 August 2007 at 9:00 AM


  • Michele Martin said:

    Wednesday, 08 August 2007 at 3:45 AM

    Soha, I saw this article, too. I think the point is well-taken that the organization must reinvent itself to go with the site redesign--that is, don't use a site redesign to paper over problems. But if the organization HAS reinvented itself, then I think a big redesign may be in order, partly to reflect organizational changes and partly to communicate to the organization's audience(s) that things have changed. After that, incremental changes make sense.

    If you start with incremental changes, I think you end up just building crap on top of crap. The whole point of systems change is that you end up having to change the whole system--not just tinker with it at the edges.

  • Matt Allen said:

    Friday, 10 August 2007 at 8:46 AM

    Michele is right. I work for ICM, www.icm.org. If you look at our website, you will see that it was created about 8 years ago. Since then, we have done well managing the site through updates on a regular basis, both with new technology and with new content. However, with limited staff working on the site and with limited knowledge of how to carry out a strategy for utilizing the web, we have been left with poor site traffic and limited benefit.

    It is clear that the web can be uesd for so much, and we have explored out-sourcing a major web strategy project to Digitaria. Such an investment would catapult us forward in a way that is much quicker, and much more impactful, then chugging along patching up an old site from the 90's. But, I would also make it clear that a major out-sourcing project must have the in-house staff on board with the project and the organization must have the ability to carry out a marketing strategy.

    In sum, the re-design is just one piece of the puzzle. But, it is an important piece that usually won't be found in-house.

  • David said:

    Saturday, 01 September 2007 at 11:33 AM

    There's an example of how incremental changes was better than a complete re-design.

    I recently read a case study about how CIngular customers kept on getting lost on the Cingular homepage.  The previous version had 8 choices with columns and drop down menus (maze like) for customers to go through.  So, Cingular simply narrowed that down to two choices: Business and Consumer.  They also got rid of the vertical scroll bar so everything was on the page.

    They kept everything else the same on the site (background, typography, colors).  

    I thought their incremental change was rather simple and free of the typical bureaucratic layers involved with corporations!  

  • Jason King said:

    Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 5:54 PM

    I think McGovern is absolutely correct when he says that websites should evolve over time rather than undergo periodic and drastic redesigns.

    But that advice isn't going to work for many, especially smaller, nonprofit organisations. They aren't likely to have an in-house web designer, reliable long-term volunteer support or a constant inflow of money to pay for regular revisions.

    The charities I work with often need drastic redesigns because 1) their site wasn't designed around a CMS and now they've realised they need one or 2) their site isn't standards-compliant because the goalposts have moved in the last ten years or 3) their first site was developed on next to no money but now they've secured funding to do better.

    But the situation is improving. The trend towards standards-compliant html, CSS layouts and extensible open source CMS means that it's easier these days to make changes to a site's look and functionality.

Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.

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