When it comes to updating your business website in a timely manner, the one rule is this: There are no rules. That’s according to Christian Riggs, president of Riggs Creative Group, a user-experience design and website development firm in San Diego. Riggs says that deciding whether to update, redesign or reengineer your site should depend entirely on your business goals, objectives and economic considerations, rather than on some superficial time frame pulled out of thin air. We asked him to explain.
Q: Why would I redesign the look and feel of my website but not rebuild it?
A: A variety of factors can make a redesign worth considering, but here are several that almost always require an update. You’ve got new branding and color standards, and you need to make sure your new look extends to your website. Your bounce rates are extremely high, meaning people visit but few convert; a well-thought-out redesign can turn this around. Or your business has grown, and plans call for new products and services; your site’s design may need to reflect that change. Last, your customers complain about your site, claiming that it looks outdated or doesn’t work well.
Q: What developments might require me to re-engineer my website from scratch?
A: The most important one is if your current site doesn’t adapt to mobile device screens. Fixing this is an absolute must in today’s mobile-driven world. Another would be if your site was originally built using Flash: Apple’s iPads and iPhones don’t support Flash. That’s reason enough to rebuild, but there’s another reason: Flash can slow your site down.
Anyone in your company should be able to learn and use your content management system (CMS) to update your site. You shouldn’t have to hire a programmer to make simple changes and fixes. Along those same lines of keeping things simple: If your site takes forever to load, you need to reengineer the backend. Nobody puts up with long waits anymore.
Q: Should I invite my customers to be part of the redesign process?
A: Yes! Customer opinion and feedback give you the kind of insights that convert visitors into customers. Start by asking what they think of your proposed design and if it appeals to them. Then ask about the problem they’re looking to solve and if the information they need access to is easy to find in the new design. After you relaunch the site, ask them again if they like it. If they say no, address their concerns through incremental design enhancements, which your new site should allow you to do without starting over.
In short, you want to follow the lead of sites like Apple.com and Amazon.com, which rarely undergo complete facelifts. Instead, their sites evolve over time using an iterative process that results in near invisible refinements that have the bonus of maintaining the user experience that customers know and like.