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Redesign or Rebuild? Which Does Your Website Need?

Chris Osterhout SVP of Strategy
#Ektron, #Design Advice, #Discovery
Published on September 12, 2014

You might think you just need to do a visual redesign of your site, but do you need to dig deeper and rebuild the site's code?

We often use the term “website redesign” as a catch-all for any website design and development project, but we’re aware that this might cause a little bit of confusion about exactly what a website redesign entails.

The topic comes up often, since technology is continually advancing and aesthetic trends shift regularly, so our clients often come to us to talk about redesigning their site, but while they might be looking to update their site visually, what they really need is a rebuild of the site’s code. But what exactly is the difference between a redesign and a rebuild?

Redesigns are Complicated

The biggest misconception about website redesigns is that they usually only entail a simple visual update. We often hear people say that they would like a “light re-skin” of their site, updating its look and feel to better match current trends. However, this sort of superficial approach to a site update can ignore underlying issues with user experience, navigation, and site performance.

What people don’t realize is that even what seems like a small update to a site’s visual design can require some major updates to the underlying code. A true website redesign is a multi-phase process, involving discovery and design in addition to technical frontend site coding, with a full consideration of the technology that the website is built on.

How Does a Redesign Differ from a Rebuild?

When working with clients to determine the needs of a website redesign, we often find that in order to address a site’s needs and ensure that it is meeting the company’s business goals, it needs much more than a simple visual update. What is often needed is a rebuild of the site’s code. This can be a multi-faceted process, involving one or more of the following types of updates:

CMS Replatform

When determining the needs of a site, we may find that the CMS on which it is built needs to be upgraded, or we may recommend moving to a different platform entirely. The process of upgrading the site or migrating to a different platform requires extensive technical work to ensure that it will function correctly without any errors.

Technical Rebuild

A website redesign project may require the implementation of any number of new functionalities, such as our SuperTemplate, a new search service, eCommerce functionality, integration with a Marketing Automation Platform, or improving the site code to be more scalable and flexible. Implementing these functionalities requires developers to delve into the site’s code and often rewrite it from the ground up.

Frontend Rebuild for Responsive Design

As the use of mobile devices to access websites continues to grow, it’s important to make sure your website is accessible to everyone, no matter what device or screen size they are using. Any website redesign should take mobile users into account, preferably implementing responsive design. This requires a rebuild of the site’s CSS/HTML to accommodate for website fluidity at different screen widths.

What’s the Best Approach?

A website redesign often requires a rebuild of the site’s code, involving one or more of the updates described above, but the reality is that visual/UX redesigns and rebuilds don’t have to be done together. This is especially true for extremely large sites, for which a full redesign and rebuild can be a multi-year project. In some cases, it might make sense to perform the redesign and rebuild as separate projects, or to take an iterative approach to site improvements.

Whatever approach you choose, it’s important to understand the needs of a site’s users as well as the technology that drives it, all of which is essential for maximizing a website’s ROI. Do you want to learn more about how we can help you understand every aspect of your site and determine how a redesign/rebuild can help achieve your business goals? Please contact us to speak with a Solutions Engineer, or feel free to leave any questions you might have in the comments below.