Let's face it, we have all seen them; sites that were built 5 or 6 years ago and actually do more harm than good to a business's image. But how often should a company redesign or rebuild their web site?
There's no single answer but there are a number of factors that affect the decision. The important ones are:
- What type of business are you?
- Are you changing your overall branding?
- Have you moved into a new market?
- Is there some new functionality that would enhance the site's performance?
- Is the site currently performing to its potential?
- What is the cost of the redesign and development?
- Is the budget available?
- Will you get a return on the investment made in a new website?
If we look at each of these in turn:
What type of business are you?
There are certain companies, such as fashion related businesses, that will certainly need to look at some level or redesign on a yearly, if not seasonal basis. It's important to their brand identity to be seen to be up to date. However, an engineering company that had a strong hold on a niche market would not have that need and could therefore ignore this factor when considering a redesign or planning the marketing budget.
Are You Changing Your Overall Branding?
This is something for every business. When looking at the overall brand identity of your company, it's vital to have a good level of consistency in all branded material. This includes the website and should, without a doubt, be an important part of the rebranding process. The level of rebranding, along with other factors mentioned in this article, will dictate the extent to which the site needs to be redesigned.
Have you identified a new market into which you can move?
This is potentially one of the most important factors that may lead to some level of redesign or enhancement to a company's web site. If you are aiming at a new market segment, or have new products that appeal to customers previously not attracted, one of the fastest ways to become visible to them is online.
I think, with this factor it's important to emphasise that we aren't necessarily talking about a complete visual redesign. It may take the form of new functionality, or simply a refresh.
Is there some new functionality that would enhance the site's performance?
With the speed at which internet technology moves it's almost certain that within 6 months of a site going live, there will be new technology or techniques that could enhance the site. However, before running for the company chequebook and commissioning a developer, it's worth thinking about how it will enhance the site and its revenue generating potential.
It may do so simply by giving the user a better experience. Making the site more intuitive will put users in a more positive mindset when using it and therefore more inclined to spend. It may be a more direct approach to revenue generation such as adding ecommerce functionality to a site that was previously a more static presentation. Both are valid reasons for undertaking an enhancement or redesign. However beware of the ‘because it's new and cool' factor unless your company has that same appeal in its brand.
Is the site currently performing to its potential?
This is probably the most common reason for undertaking a redesign. However, a redesign is not always the right solution.
It's important that, once you have realised that your site is not performing as it should, you analyse its activity and try to identify where and, if possible, why it is under achieving. It may be that the marketing of the site is letting down what would otherwise be a highly effective marketing tool. It may be that its message is unclear or aimed at the wrong demographic group. The first is not necessarily a redesign problem, the second may be. Either way, it is important to know what is wrong before trying to fix it...
What is the cost of the redesign and development?
We are all aware that in the credit crunch budgets are far from limitless. It is important that you, as a potential client have an idea of your budget and also what you can realistically get for that budget.
It's also worth considering the total cost to the company rather than just the cost of the design or development work. In the same way that IT resources are said to have a TCO (Total cost of ownership) which takes into account factors such as support, maintenance and the cost of the person working with it, a web site has similar associated costs.
Some things to consider in this area are:
• Hosting - do you need extra hosting facilities for the redesign?
• Down Time - will the current site be off line for any period? Don't forget that web sites can be viewed anywhere in the world 24 / 7.
• Additional Development Costs - factor in some contingency, particularly if your designer or developer will not commit to an absolute fixed price.
• Domain Name - Unless included in your hosting package you will need to own one, possibly more. These are an ongoing cost for the site.
• Maintenance Costs - This may be a professional designer, or one of your own staff (or you!), however the cost of the time will need to be factored into a site's TCO.
• Marketing Costs - online marketing of your web site is vital. Online marketing is a vast subject area. This will be covered in later articles, but don't forget it when factoring the site's TCO.
Is the budget available?
This is an easy one. Yes or No. Or perhaps not...
We all have champagne tastes and would like the funkiest site just like the one that our own industry's market leader has. The truth is, they have that site because they are the market leader and, most likely, have a huge budget. However, there are often more simple solutions that have a much lower price tag, while achieving very similar results. If you have a limited budget available it's worth being honest with your project team (designers & developers) about your budgetary restraints. This will allow them to pitch at the right level and give the whole project a more open and honest communication style throughout its life.
It is also important to be realistic in your expectations. You know that you're not going to get a complete flash site with specifically shot video footage for £500, or even £2000... You might for £20000. It's worth, a) doing the research to see what you will get for your budget, b) looking at what you really want and getting a true idea of what it would cost. The final project will usually be somewhere between the two.
Will you get a return on the investment made in a new website?
This should be the factor that overrides all the others. Is it going to make more money, if so how long will the payback period be?
For sites that directly generate sales through some kind of e-commerce functionality, this can be relatively easy to calculate. For non-e-commerce sites it is more complex to quantify effectiveness. While people may come to you and purchase face to face, did they find you through the web site?
How old is your current site?
My final reason here is the obvious one. How old is the current site? If it's less than a year old, it probably doesn't need a change, certainly visually. If it's 5 years old it will almost certainly be looking tired compared with a large number of sites.
This factor shouldn't be the sole reason for redesigning your company's web site, but in truth, it's probably the catalyst for starting to review it...
So, in conclusion, there isn't a sensible way to state how often a company should redesign it's web site, but hopefully you will now have a greater understanding of the factors that should be looked at before making a final decision.