Heretical Ideas – Stop Redesigning

May
12
2011

white dirty garbage truck on the streets of Melbourne (feb 2011) garbage man hangs off door talking to the driver

If you work with a client long term or are part of their internal team chances are you will see a number of redesigns of a site.

Over the years I have come to question why we constantly redesign things every few years.  It’s usually a change in directional branding, a  facelift.  As if a website is just a fashion accessory that must be changed as the trend of the season passes by.

Problem is to often I see the same mistakes being made time and time again.   The same old issues reoccur, as the central cause; lack of audience conversation and engagement is ignored.

All the corporate knowledge of one design is often thrown away as the new design comes in.   Resources are wasted as we rebuild and redesign the same old wheel, just this time it will a green with a pink flavour.

Business Fashion Take

Now I can understand why sometimes you need to seriously redesign the visual elements of a site:

  • It gives a clear break from the mistakes of the past
  • A distinct rebranding or look allows for a change in attitude
  • Modernisation of the look and feel to match the latest trends
  • Allowing for a reworking of a site to make it more flexible to future changes
  • Take advantage of the latest technology
  • Allow for integration of secondary service like social media
  • Take stock and inventory of the site and review it’s direction

However just consider the audience for a moment.

Audiences Fashion Take

A good deal of the time the audience and users of a site are not on the same page as the business:

  • Major changes are a pain, you can’t find anything
  • Confusion over changed branding
  • Apprehension over use of new technology
  • Fear of breaking elements of the site
  • Loss of previously saved information

The Alternative – Transforming Design

What we need is an alternative to the endless and costly redesign process.

A redesign should be realigning the site back to the core values of the business and requirements of the audience.    In the old  days of web design this would mean a complete redesign.

We now have “easy to use” template based CMS, use of rapid design frameworks for responsive design with a solid but very flexible multiple platform interface.   This gives us a lot of freedom and the ability to make wide ranging minor changes as we go.

Sure you can still plan and design the concepts for a redesign in one go.

But the key here is to roll them out in stages or as a slow piecemeal redesign of elements of the site.  Any design needs to be adaptable, flexible and agile to the responses.

Combine these minor deisgn changes with A/B and preference testing and you can very easily determine which direction is the better in terms of usability.

This will result in a slow change of a site overtime, they can be fully qualified as soon as they occur.   You can expect that over a year a site will morph from one design to another.

A kind of gradual morphing, transformation.  A transforming design.

The Advantages

There are distinct advantages to using a transforming design process:

  • The budget is spread over a greater time period,
  • There is a easy acceptance from the users,
  • Rapid and responsive to issues as they arise,
  • Rebranding can be rolled in slowly and morphed to a new direct as required,
  • Sliding integration of older marketing campaigns with new ones.

Something to consider using transforming design, instead of the usually slash and burn redesign.

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5 comments

  1. I reckon this is fairly close to what Louis Rosenfeld was advocating in his recent UX London talk titled “Redesign Must Die” – here’s the slide deck: http://2011.uxlondon.com/programme/redesign-must-die/

    Makes good sense to me.

  2. Well, I’d like to take this advice. As a freelance designer my self, it sure is difficult to please the customer.

  3. Not a heretical idea at all; I remember Cameron Moll covering these same ideas in his 2005 article ‘Good Designers Redesign, Great Designers Realign’ for A List Apart. Check it out for a designers perspective on the topic: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/redesignrealign

  4. HI Josh

    Yes the old realignment aspect is something I have been doing for a long while now. Often business sites just need a little realignment back to the core business and customer needs.

    What I’m talking about is more the slow implementation of a redesign over time to meet the changing requirements. It’s a little like having a vision of where you want the site to go and implementing it a little stage at a time. Hence avoiding that “big” redesign. This works very well for large or big budget sites with a dedicated team.

  5. Great article. Wish more clients understood this.

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