Radical vs incremental website redesign

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When it comes to website redesign, you have two paths you can take: the radical and the incremental. In the radical approach, you overhaul your website in one go. Alternatively, the incremental approach requires you to make individual changes and test to see if they work. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages.

If your company is going through some major changes, you may benefit from making radical changes to your website. Your shiny new website will reflect the significant shifts your company went through in terms of branding, products, or services. The radical approach may also work if your website infrastructure relies on old technologies that have become outdated.

Whether you have a large or small enterprise, there’s one major problem you face when it comes to making wholesale, simultaneous changes to your website: should the redesign perform poorly, it can be difficult to identify the changes that caused the issues. This is a larger financial risk for big companies.

On the other hand, small business owners commonly keep their web designs static for much longer, allowing them to become dated. Thus, a complete website redesign is far less likely to cause the same negative impact. It is highly beneficial to update a website to meet modern day expectations. A radical approach can work for small businesses because it’s highly unlikely to perform worse than the previous design.

Small business websites can gain much from the process of continuous experimentation outlined in my latest e-book “Small Tweaks, Big Impact Websites”. The incremental approach to websites makes it easier to assess the effects of individual changes and helps avoid lengthy periods between design reviews. Large corporations that have many layers of bureaucracy can’t get things done as quickly. Use this to your advantage.

If you choose to take the incremental approach, take the learnings from your past experiments and use those learnings to the best of your ability in the redesign process.

Should you choose a wide-ranging redesign, start your process with a research plan. This plan involves both generative and evaluative research. There are shortcuts that small businesses and start-ups can take in this part of the process, and that’s also covered in the e-book. First, it’s vital to understand the difference between generative and evaluative research.

Generative or evaluative research?

User research comes in many different categories. For the purpose of website redesign, we’re going to look at the difference between generative research and evaluative research.

Generative research takes you inside your user’s world. It allows you to get a grasp of the problems and the challenges they face. The more you understand your user’s world, the better the insights for your new design. This research can be lengthy and expensive and whilst large companies may have the resources to conduct this type of research, it may not be viable for the small business operator (at least not following the same process).

If this is your position, a streamlined and simplified approach may be the smarter option to take. Simply asking your best customers or clients what they are looking for in a company website likes yours may give you enough insights to move forward.

If your relationship with your best customers is strong, you can keep it conversational and glean some interesting insights to consider for your website redesign. If their feedback is consistent, you’ll quickly realise these aspects of your redesign are the key ingredients to its success and will be paramount to helping you attract more valuable customers or clients.

Evaluative research, on the other hand, typically uses quantitative methods to check the effectiveness of a design. In other words, evaluative methods use numbers to measure and validate whether your redesign has solved the problems that initially brought you to this point. Evaluative methods can include heat maps, mouse tracking, A/B testing, navigation testing, and usability testing.

Large companies will likely have the research budgets to conduct evaluative research prior to a new website launching. Evaluative research can be expensive. You’re likely to exceed your budget if you attempt to go to this level of research before launching your site. As a small business owner interested in optimising your website, your budget may only allow for evaluative research at a later date after the website redesign has launched. A viable option may be to do this as a secondary project or an ongoing monthly program.

Evaluative research can also considerably hinder your redesign. Your new website may be sitting there waiting to launch while available technology and design styles evolve. A lengthy research process means your website redesign may become outdated before it’s even finished.

Evaluative research is perfect for those planning a design facelift. It supports providing improvements or enhancing existing websites without a complete overhaul. Unlike large corporations, small businesses can afford to move quickly with what they learn. You can get your website designed, launched and tested in the real world much faster than large corporations.

Large corporations have their own advantages beyond large budgets: they have more exposure and therefore more website traffic than small businesses; they possess a wealth of data to work with, enabling the marketing and design teams to identify patterns in how users interact with a website; they can use a combination of Google Analytics, session recordings, heat mapping, and other methods that can uncover repeating patterns related to design and content. This level of data isn’t available to small businesses, nor are the resources available to invest in analysing the data to the same scale.

Large corporations typically want to hear directly from users—especially from different personas. The marketing team may interview various stakeholders, gathering intel from tweets, helpdesk calls, and other sources. As a small business owner, focussing on key customers enables you to also focus on information most likely to attract similar, desired clientele.

Large, successful corporations are doing the research. Small businesses can benefit greatly by modelling on them. Review websites most aligned to what your business does or those that share your target market and adopt trends into your own website redesign. You may rely on some assumptions and educated guesses based on what you see is working for others. Consider how to apply those elements so they work for a business like yours.

Check commercial website template providers and sort available designs by their popularity and your industry. templatemonster.com is a good option, though there are many others. A design’s popularity will give you some insights as to what others felt was a good design match to suit the marketplace. Don’t be tempted to purchase a template and try to manipulate it to suit your needs unless your budget is super tight. It’s far better to custom-create the design based on your specific needs and aspects of what you pick up from reviewing templates and other websites, and in doing so, optimise your website for performance and speed.

While not fool-proof, the hacks and shortcuts outlined in “Small Tweaks, Big Impact Websites” improve your chances of success. Without doing the research for your own business, you will need to make assumptions based on what you can see is implemented in other websites. Ultimately, their research informs their website designs. Leverage that research to boost engagement and increase high-converting strategies in your own website.

I encourage you to download “Small Tweaks, Big Impact Websites” today to find out more about the User Experience (UX) hacks that could work for your website.