Myth #11: You need to redesign your website periodically

To many, a redesign means revamping the look of a website in the hope that it will increase conversions and attract new customers. In fact, such projects are often counterproductive as user feedbacks on numerous redesigns proved that users hate change, even if the new design is clearly superior to the original.

For a redesign (or realign) to be effective, it must stem from the understanding of what does and what doesn’t work on the current website, and how user needs have changed since the last redesign. In most cases, it is sufficient to make minor changes in the user interface. Google, Yahoo, Amazon and a bunch of others follow this strategy with great success: you can hardly see significant changes on their websites though they’re perfecting their design constantly.

Why to avoid radical redesigns:

  • Jared Spool calls changing a product to a completely new design the Flip-the-Switch strategy. This is “the most ineffective way to get major changes into a design” – Extraordinarily Radical Redesign Strategies.
  • Cameron Moll explains why designers should approach redesigns very carefully. Designers should consider the business reasons and the switching cost for users in the first place, and also decide whether minimal changes would suffice. A brilliant article on the rationale of redesigns: Good Designers Redesign, Great Designers Realign.
  • Jakob Nielsen says that it’s totally normal that stakeholders would welcome a fresh design after the original UI got tired in their eyes. Users, on the other hand, prefer familiar designs as they want to locate everything easily, get things done, and leave. – Fresh vs. Familiar: How Aggressively to Redesign
  • When Facebook redesigned its homepage in 2010, users despised it, just as they hated when “News feed” was introduced in 2006, which constitutes now the very core of the service.
  • The redesigned menu interface of Microsoft Word 2007, the ribbon, was clearly superior to the 20-year old classic Word menu. Still lots of people sent complaints to Microsoft and raved on blogs.
  • “Don’t redesign just to do something new, redesign because you have a better answer to the question.” – warns Paul Scrivens
  • Jared Spool argues that all-at-once redesigns are to be avoided because they are costly and very risky. Instead, he advises an incremental approach that is flexible to business changes. – Avoiding Redesigns (podcast)
  • Louis Rosenfeld summarizes it clearly: Stop Redesigning And Start Tuning Your Site Instead