Change is inevitable! I know these three words are old, boring and have been overused at times. But, they still hold truth especially in case of Internet as it is one of the most volatile medium. What rises in a flash can disappear in no time. No wonder why most of the websites constantly opt for redesigns in order to stay in the game. Website redesign is now a thriving industry and it will be foolish of us to ignore the same. For various reasons, be it growth or the freshness that comes attached with redesigns, the Internet industry is changing inevitably. Are you up for a redesign or will you just sit back and let others pass by?
Stop Redesigning For Yourself!
I meant it! No matter what happens, don’t let yourself be the final judge of your work. You don’t redesign a website for your own comfort. You don’t replace the color of the button from blue to red just because you don’t like blue. You do it because you want your readers to appreciate the overall website redesign. You do it for your audience. Clear?
“Among the few I have indicated, is there no dynamic man of action, the rebel who will help determine the aspect of the collective expression of tomorrow? Ponder this question and know that to make beautiful creations for the sake of their aesthetic value will have no social significance tomorrow, will be non-sensical self-gratification. Every era contains the conditions for providing a rebel.” ~ Piet Zwart.
Next time, when you are up for a redesign, then before going live ask your friends and your family if the redesign will suit the situation? See, I know that it is impossible to come up with a group of users who will give you exact test results but you can get closer to it by pushing your horizons. Let me tell you a very interesting story. Though this is not related to website redesign but it comes close to the same:
Before launching Google Wave for the public Google released Wave for its own set of employees. These so-called Google employees testing Wave were a huge bunch of nerds who could relate with Wave for obvious reasons. Once the top brass of Google found that Wave was actually making waves around their campus, they decided to launch Google Wave for the general public. The result, as we all know it, was disastrous. Google assumed that their employees were like the general public that will use Google Wave after its public release. That wasn’t the case and henceforth Google Wave fell head first.
Get it? Don’t redesign a product keeping yourself in place of the audience. You will, for sure, mess it up!
Don’t Lose Your Website’s Soul
A 10 day old website can go for multiple redesigns without caring much about losing visitors or whatever but if its a website with a committed visitor base then the redesign must be seriously planned. Once you are sure that redesign is a must for your website then make sure that you opt for a design which changes the look of your website but not the feel of it. One must understand that the soul of the website is important for sustaining old user base even after the website is re-launched with totally new look.
A website redesign must not be such that the regular visitors have to spend extra time to understand the new location of their favorite content.
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It has been sometime since TechCrunch relaunched their website with a completely new look. During its first few days after the launch, TechCrunch did face some sort of backfire from critics due to the overuse of color green but soon the visitors found themselves very much in sync with the new design. What happened was that the visitors were so used to the old look of TechCrunch that they could not acclimatize themselves instantly with the new design but soon they felt that it was just the look (which wasn’t that bad after all) that had changed.
Cut Down On Useless Content
With time webmasters realize that some chunk of content can be removed from their website while another chunk can be pushed in. It is not easy to push such a change on the fly but the website redesign process hands over the opportunity to the webmasters so that they can analyze the content of their website. We must understand that content has a sort of shelf life. With time it gets old and becomes meaningless.
Remember that minimalism is the need of the hour and redesigns these days are seriously focusing on minimalistic presentations of content. Henceforth, content presentation must be considered while redesigning a website. Also, designers must help clients understand the importance of content and the overuse of same.
Don’t Copy Competitors
Sometimes we get carried away so much by our competitors’ success that we end up copying them. We assume, like kids, that if we create something which is exactly like our competitors then we will be successful like them if not beat them down. Well, that ain’t happening!
We must understand that readers have a personal liking sort-of feeling towards a website and it is this personal touch which keeps them attached with the website. If that particular website starts following others then what is the point of visiting this site? Instead, readers would prefer the original competitor. After all, it is the original that sells.
Don’t Lose Search Engine Rankings
Well, as a designer, it is very important for you to make sure that the redesign of a website does not affect its search engine rankings. Some of the reasons due to which a redesigned website might lose its search engine rankings are:
- The fresh site design changes “Title” text for every page. Change in this text means search engines will have to refresh their databases which might affect rankings of the website.
- The URL structure of the website is changed to something more helpful and SEO friendly. Although this might help in the long run but designers must understand that they will lose all the current search engine rankings once the URL structure changes.
- The interlinking in the new design shakes the original balance of internal linking. One must understand that linking to other articles within the same website is one of the SEO factors that Google takes into consideration. Well, if the designer comes up with a design which has more number of related posts in the new design then this will change the interlinking structure of the website which will affect the search engine rankings.
The Smashing Example!
No design article is complete without the mention of Smashing Magazine, the Mecca for designers. Let us start by checking out the look of SmashMag back in the year 2007.
Back then, SmashMag was just another design blog with the simple to understand blog-like look. With growth of SmashMag grew the request for a better design. SmashMag was smart enough to push their design to next level without losing the feel of their website.
There design in the year 2010 is the perfect example of a blog redesign where the logic behind the website stays the same while more space is given to the sponsors of the blog in order to squeeze in more money for the website’s benefit. Do note how SmashMag made no changes on the content. The only change was a small diversion from the original look of the blog so that regular readers don’t find themselves lost.
Next comes the latest of them all. The current redesign of SmashMag is another small diversion from its last design. The menu was optimized and another sidebar was pushed so that access to archives is easier. One must note that no compromise was done in the size of ads which benefits both, the readers and the sponsors.
The SmashMag redesign cycle is the perfect example of how webmasters can opt for redesigns without losing the real soul of the website.
Like every other section of the design industry, redesign has its own set of rules that must be followed. Although redesigning might look to be an easy task but it requires lot of planning and thought. I am not saying that your redesign won’t be a success if you don’t stick by these rules but it will surely give your new design the much required kick!