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The Myth of the Light Website Redesign

Chris Osterhout SVP of Strategy
#CMS, #Digital Strategy
Published on April 25, 2017

We share 4 reasons the 'light website redesign' doesn't actually exist and may end up costing you more in the long run than a full website redesign.

In today’s fast-moving digital world, the technologies you use to connect with your audience online are always changing. In order to keep up with the latest trends and available tools and features, organizations regularly plan to redesign their website, although understanding how often to do so and what should be included in a redesign can often be a complex undertaking.

In our experience, we’ve found that companies usually invest in a website redesign every 3-5 years, but many organizations have trouble formulating a budget for a redesign project, since they aren’t fully aware of what tools are available and how much work a redesign will involve. When people who don’t expect to be able to budget for a complete redesign talk to us, one term they often use is “light redesign,” with "light" being synonymous with “inexpensive.”

In reality, a light redesign doesn’t really exist (or, to use a popular catch phrase, it’s "fake news"). This might seem counterintuitive; shouldn’t it be possible to make some small-scale changes to your website without incurring too much cost? Unfortunately, those types of “quick fix” solutions simply aren’t possible. Let’s look at 4 reasons the “light redesign” is a myth:

1. It Takes the Same Amount of Strategy and Planning

When you’re planning any website redesign project, the first thing you need to do is figure out what exactly you need to accomplish with the redesign. This requires you to map out your design strategy and align it with your business objectives, as well as determine the key performance indicators (KPIs) for success. If you don’t take the time to perform this crucial step of the process, there will be no way to determine the ROI of your website redesign project.

Since this initial step is an essential part of the process, the same amount of planning and strategy will need to take place no matter how extensive you want your redesign to be. And since you’re taking the time to fully plan your strategy, you’ll need to be sure that you’ll be able to execute on the goals you create during this phase of the project.

2. Retrofitting Designs Tends to Cost More

When somebody asks whether they can do a light redesign, they are usually under the impression that they can make some simple visual changes to their site without the need for extensive modifications. However, what seem like minor visual updates can often require extensive design work, and this leads to the problem of how to fit the site’s existing content into the new design.

Trying to layer a new design on top of an existing site is akin to fitting a square peg into a round hole, and it can end up taking more work (and incurring greater costs) than redesigning the site from the ground up. Rather than struggling to fit a new design into a site that isn’t built for it, it’s better to start from the beginning, planning and building a streamlined site that is designed to meet your organization’s business needs.

3. You Can’t Shortcut the Content Planning Process

No matter how “light” your redesign is, it is likely going to include some changes to how content is presented, including updates to formatting and new types of structured content. You’ll need to make sure that both your existing content and any new content you create will fit the new format. This means that content planning is critical, no matter the extent of your redesign.

Since you’re going to need to invest in planning how your content will fit into your new site design, it’s better to do so as part of a full site design process, one that will ensure that your site’s design, content, and user experience are meeting its users’ needs.

4. You Won’t Get Everything You Want

If you’re planning to do a light redesign, you’re likely looking to avoid making excessive programmatic changes to your site, in hopes of saving on software development costs. However, if you’re only planning to change the site’s visual presentation, you won’t be able to take advantage of any new features that you would like to incorporate into your site.

Building new site functionality requires module development, so if you have items on your wish list like adding social feeds, integrating your site with your Marketing Automation Platform (MAP), or adding content personalization capabilities, a “light redesign” probably isn’t going to be able to provide you with what you want.

What’s the Solution?

As you can see, trying to do a “light redesign” isn’t actually going to save your organization very much money, and it’s likely to end up making your site more complicated and harder to use without providing you with the features you need. If you’re looking to update your site, it’s best to get your budget together to plan for a full redesign from the ground up.

However, while a full website redesign can be a significant investment, when done correctly, you can make it the last redesign you’ll ever need to do. Rather than repeating this process every few years, you can implement a strategy of iterative improvements, regularly updating your site to add new features and functionalities as they become available and making design modifications as needed.

This is an approach that has proven successful for companies who need to keep pace with the fast-moving digital marketplace, and it has been adopted by many software manufacturers, who release updates on a regular basis rather than putting out a new version every few years. By adopting this strategy, you’ll be able to ensure that you always have the tools in place to meet the needs of your audience.

If you’re considering a website redesign and want to know more about how Diagram can help you make this project a success, please contact us. We look forward to helping you build a successful digital strategy!

Image Credit: created using Vector designed by Freepik