Before you can even start redesigning a website, you need to decide just how new the updated site will be. Will it be a complete rebuild or just a few tweaks here or there? Perhaps something in between? How do you strike the right balance between new and familiar?
You must decide whether the new site will be an evolution or a revolution.
There’s nothing wrong with an evolutionary approach to web design. By keeping what works and tweaking what doesn’t, the idea behind an evolutionary redesign is that we’ll eventually end up with the best design for the site.
Evolutionary design also has the benefit of retaining a sense of familiarity for your site’s users as it will look and behave similarly to the way it did before the redesign. In fact, depending on how often you evolve the site, users may not even notice the changes over time. This is important, as too much of a shocking change can cause users to withdraw.
At the same time, drawing out changes over a longer period of time is not always a good thing. If constant change becomes the norm, it will be difficult for users to have a sense of stability. This too can be the cause of user fallout.
There’s also the chance that an evolutionary redesign is simply not practical for you. The goal of any redesign should be to remove limitations and provide a clear path to achieve the site’s goals as best as possible. If the direction or goals of the site have changed dramatically, you may need to take a more dramatic approach to the redesign.
You may need a revolution.
There’s something refreshing about wiping the slate clean and starting from scratch. A blank canvas represents an infinite number of possibilities and unlimited potential. You can completely revolutionize the site its effectiveness for users.
A revolutionary redesign also allows you do away the preconceptions and limitations of the old site. My approach to design and user experience has definitely changed over the last 6 years since Archetyped’s last redesign. Why hobble the new site’s potential by clinging to dated concepts?
I admit that I am biased in that I tend to lean toward revolution over evolution. I don’t like feeling too attached to anything, so the fact that I am fond of Archetyped’s current design practically forces me to clear the table and start from ground zero. A completely new design would be fun.
At the same time, you must not forget the reason you are redesigning your site in the first place. In Archetyped’s case, one of the primary goals is to better support our growing community of users. Radical shifts in the site’s design and behavior runs the risk of alienating users.
The Right Choice
Ultimately, the right choice for any redesign is finding the ideal balance between evolution and revolution.
The sole purpose of a redesign is to fix what’s broken and to improve what works.
If something is limiting the site’s effectiveness, then going back to the drawing board and devising a completely new solution is your best option– revolution.
For example, in order to better support Archetyped’s community, the structure of the site will be changing drastically. Content will be relocated or removed altogether, new sections will be added, and some existing sections will be cut loose.
If something is already effective, then look at how you can optimize it further to make it even more effective– evolution.
Archetyped’s branding is clean and recognizable. The design will be updated for the new structure, but the much of the aesthetic will remain. This will provide a familiar face to the new site’s structure to help users “understand” how to access the new resources.
A Balancing Act
Every aspect of a redesign must be measured by how well it improves the experience for users and how effective it is at achieving the site’s goals. This may require parts of the site to be rebuilt entirely while other parts may just need a minor tweak.
The goal is to find the right balance to get the best of both worlds– part evolution and part revolution.
Follow the Redesign: New Episodes Every Friday
I’m opening up my design process and sharing everything as I post updates every Friday on the Archetyped’s redesign. I’d also love to hear about your own questions and experiences with redesigning your own site, so leave a comment and link below!