Identifying when to enact a website redesign vs incremental updates, Part 1 – Assessment of Current Website

image of a laptop showing a colorful design being created

Welcome to Part 1 of our comprehensive 3 part series on ‘Identifying when to enact a website redesign vs incremental updates.’ In this series, we delve into the strategic decisions which guide your online presence, exploring the critical factors and considerations that influence whether to opt for incremental updates or embark on a transformative redesign. We’ll guide you through a step-by-step journey to help you make informed decisions, starting with an assessment of your current website.

In today’s ever-changing digital landscape, your website stands as a vital touchpoint between your business and its audience. As technology continues to advance, design trends shift, and our online interactions evolve, the question eventually arises: Is it time to refresh your existing website or embark on a complete redesign? 

By navigating what it means to assess your current website status, as well as factors which could influence your decision, it’s possible to determine whether a strategic update or a comprehensive redesign is the right path to ensure your digital presence remains engaging, relevant, and effective.

Assessment of Current Website

Before exploring the future of your website, a good place to begin is to review the state of your current website design. This helps to evaluate any existing pain points among users and admins, analyze the present content’s relevance, establish future design goals, and examine the website’s technical performance. 

When reviewing the foundation for the overall design of a website, we often use the term theme, which determines the global appearance and functionality of a site while managing its front-end design. 

User Experience Evaluation

Analyzing user feedback, reviewing engagement metrics, or assessing mobile responsiveness are some crucial steps towards ensuring the long-term sustainability for your current theme. It’s important to understand how your website is currently performing in order to determine how to best move forward with its next evolution.

Analyze user feedback and complaints

Evaluating your user experience requires looking at your website from two different perspectives: your website users and your administrator & editor team.

Whether from a contact form, social media inquiries, or response to a newsletter, you might have already received feedback from users who interact with your website. This is valuable information! For example, is your website serving readers with useful search results pages? Are customers able to apply their coupon codes as expected? By carefully studying this feedback, it’s revealed how your audience uses your website, which helps to demonstrate what areas are most effective, and where there are areas for improvement.

RELATED POST: Site search: Tap into your audience’s hidden voice 

Beyond your frontend users, your website admins and editors are also interacting with your website on a regular basis. Check in with your team to see what suggestions they have regarding their workflow. For example, are they able to easily make updates to the website, while publishing content, and collecting meaningful analytics? Pinpointing these types of improvements will help show the areas to best prioritize with your upcoming changes.

Review user behavior and engagement metrics

Reviewing user behavior and engagement metrics such as bounce rate, time on site, and conversions helps to showcase how users interact with their content. A high bounce rate indicates that users are leaving the site quickly without exploring further, while a low time on site might suggest that the content is not engaging enough. By examining these metrics, areas for improvement can be identified to increase user engagement. 

For example, while reviewing analytics, it may be revealed that a particular category is driving a majority of traffic to your site. This may be a strong case for a landing page category that needs to be showcased in a way that your current theme doesn’t currently offer. Or, the analytics may reveal that some of the links in your menu aren’t very popular, and it’s time to rethink your menu architecture, which can more easily be accomplished within your current theme. 

Assess mobile responsiveness and cross-browser compatibility

A final component of user experience evaluation is to review your site’s mobile responsiveness and cross-browser compatibility. 

Given that we are unable to regulate how a user chooses to access your website, it’s important to check that all methods of engaging with your site offer a reasonably similar experience. The goal here is to ensure that whether your user is on their mobile phone, a widescreen monitor, or anything in between, your site adapts gracefully to different screen sizes, loads quickly on all devices, and functions as intended. 

Similarly, cross-browser compatibility ensures that your website acts consistently across popular web browsers. Again, the focus here would be that the design, the performance, and the functionality all flow seamlessly across today’s modern browsers. 

Neglecting these elements can lead to frustrating user experiences, hindering engagement and conversion rates. If a call to action can’t be engaged from a mobile experience, for example, your website could be missing out on countless conversions. Prioritizing mobile responsiveness and cross-browser compatibility ultimately improves your website for all experiences. Understanding the scope involved with these improvements can provide clarity on whether to employ a series of updates or a total website redesign.

Content Analysis

In addition to collecting feedback from users, evaluating your current content is an equally important area to review. Evaluating your existing content is a critical first step. Just as significant would be to identify outdated or obsolete information that is no longer relevant. The other major element of content analysis is to consider the organization and structure of content, to ensure that it is clearly and readily found by your audience. 

Evaluate the existing content

A group of teammates reviewing existing content as part of a website redesign evaluation

Given how vitally important content is to a website, evaluating your existing content for both relevance and accuracy is a crucial aspect of the review process, as its effectiveness directly impacts user engagement and search engine rankings. Begin by conducting a thorough content audit to assess the quality and timeliness of your current information. Are your articles, product descriptions, and images still pertinent to your target audience and industry trends? This is also a good opportunity to cross-reference your previous analytics review to see which articles are performing best for your site.

Identify outdated or obsolete information

While reviewing the relevance and accuracy of the existing content, you will inevitably come across outdated or obsolete information, as well as broken links and missing pages. Inaccurate content not only diminishes your website’s credibility but can also lead to missed opportunities for growth. Identifying this misaligned content will expose areas to refine in order to ensure your website reflects your current organizational mission and delivers the most up-to-date information.

Consider the organization and structure of content

Having meaningful content is only one piece of the puzzle. Making sure that your audience can access it is just as important. Start by assessing whether your current content is logically organized and intuitive to navigate, which should be best examined through the use of actual user testing to avoid bias towards one’s own content. 

Examples of things to watch for would include if information is readily accessible, or if users have to dig through cluttered menus or excessive layers of pages to find what they need? Are appropriate landing pages being used? Are your funnels optimally working to increase conversions? Your website’s layout and navigation play a pivotal role in maintaining a clear and consistent user experience. Balancing that design & functionality against the need for structural improvements will be key in making the right decision for your website’s evolution of either incremental updates or a complete website redesign.

Visual Design and Branding

Next up in your evaluation should be the visual design of your site against your company branding. Here, you’ll want to assess the alignment of the current design with your brand identity. Additionally, it’s worth evaluating the use of color, typography, and imagery across your theme and content to determine if your design elements are consistent and appealing throughout your site.

Assess the current design with your brand identity

Reviewing brand design as part of a website redesign assessment

Your website is often the digital face of your brand, and it should reflect your brand’s values, messaging, and visual identity cohesively. Start by evaluating whether your current design accurately represents your brand’s personality and message. Is the color scheme, typography, and overall aesthetic in harmony with your brand guidelines? Did you recently update your brand, or is it planning to do so in the near future? 

Integrating significant brand changes, such as a rebrand or a shift in messaging, is oftentimes an indicator of the right time for a new website design to properly ensure consistency and authenticity. Conversely, if your current design still aligns with your brand but only needs minor adjustments, an update may suffice to keep your website in line with your evolving brand identity. Striking the right balance between consistency and adaptation is crucial to maintain a strong and coherent online presence.

Determine if the design elements are consistent and appealing

A careful examination of the consistency of your design elements, as well as their current appeal, would be next up when reviewing your visual identity. Consistency is vital for creating a cohesive and professional online presence. Evaluate whether your website’s design elements, such as fonts, colors, graphics, and layout, maintain a uniform and visually pleasing appearance across all pages and devices. Inconsistencies can confuse visitors and detract from the user experience. Additionally, consider the appeal of your design in relation to current design trends and user expectations. 

Does your website still look modern and engaging, or does it appear outdated compared to competitors or contemporary web standards? If your design elements lack uniformity or fail to captivate your target audience, a website redesign may be necessary to refresh your brand’s image and enhance user engagement. Conversely, if your design elements remain consistent and appealing but need some minor adjustments, an update could be a more efficient approach to keep your website looking fresh and relevant. Balancing consistency and visual appeal is essential to make an informed decision in this regard.

Technical Performance

The final aspect of assessing your current website includes examining the technical performance of your site. This is the time to check website speed and load times, evaluate security measures, and review the compatibility of plugins, & third-party integrations. Understanding the needs and performance of your current infrastructure helps to showcase the health and sustainability of your site as technology continues to update and evolve around it.

Check website speed and load times

Coworkers reviewing technical performance as part of a website redesign analysis

In today’s want-it-yesterday landscape, there is little patience for slow-loading websites. Start by conducting performance tests to assess how quickly your website loads, both on desktop and mobile devices. Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a great resource here that includes in depth results for Performance, Accessibility, Best Practices, and SEO. 

As part of your evaluation, if you find that your site consistently lags or takes an excessive amount of time to load, it’s a strong indicator that user experience and search engine rankings are also being negatively impacted. In such cases, thoroughly evaluating the underlying infrastructure and code should help to reveal the weak points. For example, it’s possible the current theme is responsible, particularly if it is running unnecessary scripts, if the scripts load at inopportune times, or if there are other examples of theme bloat or complex structure. When this is the case, updating to a modern theme, with an emphasis on best practices for modern coding practices, can help deliver a fast and responsive experience to your audience. 

Evaluate security measures

Another crucial aspect of assessing your website’s technical performance would be to evaluate its security measures. Start by assessing the strength and effectiveness of your current defenses, such as firewalls, software updates, antivirus software, and regular security audits. If your website has suffered security breaches in the past or lacks the latest updates, it indicates an immediate need for action. Taking action to update your website’s security protocols and verify the presence of a valid SSL certificate might suffice in mitigating the issue. However, if existing security issues are deeply ingrained, stemming from outdated software or an insecure architecture, a complete website redesign may be necessary. Ultimately, the safety of your website and user data should be a top priority when making this decision.

Review the compatibility of plugins and third-party integrations

To wrap up your technical performance review, it is also necessary to consider the compatibility of plugins and third-party integrations in your website. Over time, as custom functionalities are needed, and new features are incorporated, plugins and integrations are continuously added to websites. However, as technology evolves, so do these tools, and they may become outdated or incompatible with newer versions of your website’s platform or other components. 

Upon review, if you find that your existing plugins or integrations are causing conflicts, performance issues, or security vulnerabilities, it clearly indicates that action is required. In some cases, an update may involve replacing or updating incompatible plugins. However, in more complex situations, a redesign might be necessary to rebuild your website with more modern solutions that ensure smooth functionality and optimal performance. For example, if your website’s frontend is relying on a plugin that isn’t compatible with modern versions of PHP, then finding a replacement solution will have deeper ramifications beyond changing to a new plugin. Ultimately, knowing that your website’s ecosystem of plugins works seamlessly is essential for delivering a reliable and user-friendly experience to your audience.

Wrapping Up

Upon completing the assessment of your current website, we see how a thorough evaluation of the user experience, content, visual design, & technical performance is not only a reflection of your commitment to a memorable online presence but also the catalyst for a successful web strategy. 

User experience evaluation ensures that your website remains engaging and user-friendly, enhancing visitor satisfaction. Content analysis aligns your messaging with your audience’s needs and expectations. Visual design and branding evoke a memorable online identity, while technical performance guarantees seamless functionality. With these facets in harmony, your website becomes a powerful asset that represents your brand with excellence. 

The decision to perform a series of updates or a complete website redesign is not only about the present but about securing your digital future, keeping pace with industry trends, and delighting your users. By understanding your current website’s strengths and areas for improvement, you embark on a transformative journey toward online success.

As we conclude Part 1 of our series, we’ve only just scratched the surface of the intricate decision-making process surrounding your website’s evolution. Stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3, where we’ll continue to explore the many factors which shape this pivotal choice, including the factors influencing the decision and the decision-making process itself. Don’t miss the upcoming installments, and let’s navigate this digital voyage together.

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