How To Determine if You Need a Website Refresh or a Complete Redesign

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4 Minute Read

It doesn’t matter how nice something is. The longer we look at it, generally the less we like it. That’s why we repaint our walls, swap out our furniture, update our wardrobe, and change our hairstyle. We get bored with the same old thing.

The Mona Lisa is arguably the most exquisite piece of art ever produced. Yet, we can imagine da Vinci getting tired of it and stashing it back in his studio in favor of a painting of dogs playing the Renaissance-equivalent of poker.

Fashions change. What that was once cutting edge slowly slips into mediocrity and eventually finds itself outdated. Nothing lasts forever, and everything is in flux. It’s enough to make even the most optimistic person throw up their hands in nihilistic exhaustion and embrace the abyss.

The unfortunate reality is that nothing is exempt, including your website. At one point, animated GIFs and text in 15 different colors were considered the pinnacle of modern web design. Now only the most ironic of hipster destinations can pull this off.

If your website isn’t exciting customers the way it used to and it feels as if it’s beginning its slide into obsolescence, you might imagine a complete overhaul is in order. But that might not be necessary. If its bones are still good, you might be able to refresh its look with a new color palette, updated images, a font change, and a few other minor modifications.

Knowing when a refresh is adequate and when a complete redesign is warranted isn’t always easy, but there are a few helpful guidelines to aid your decision. We’ll discuss these and offer suggestions for when each is most appropriate.

When a Refresh is the Right Option

If you and your visitors are generally happy with your website, but it’s beginning to look a bit dated, a refresh can breathe new life into the design without incurring high costs.

And the cost is often a deciding factor when looking at a refresh vs. a redesign. Changing colors or increasing the size of buttons won’t set you back very much. If you don’t have a lot to spend, a refresh may be your best bet. Total redesigns generally require a more significant investment. If you don’t have it available, a refresh can be a decent middle ground.

A refresh can also be appropriate if you’re just looking to tweak items for SEO purposes. You can alter copy and optimize other elements without significantly changing your website’s look, feel, and structure. In many cases, this sort of refresh can be an ongoing affair. You might change a few things, test for conversions, and then tweak some more. Incremental revisions, along with robust analytics, can help drive results.

A redesign is warranted when multiple elements of your website are performing poorly. But if there’s only one area that needs help, a refresh is the better place to start.

Maybe your site’s messaging isn’t connecting with your customers as well as you’d like. You can alter your copy without changing anything else. If your branding has changed, you can revise your color palette and swap in your new logo while leaving the rest of the site intact.

If your CMS is serving your needs well, allowing you to add elements without any hassles, and if your load times are good, there’s little reason to change what’s under the hood. To give an analogy, if your car is dirty and the paint is flaking off in places, but it still runs well, gets decent gas mileage, and rarely breaks down, would it make more sense to buy a new car, or just give it a good scrub and touch up the paint?

When a Redesign Is the Smarter Choice

To extend our car analogy, let’s imagine that our fictitious automobile leaks oil, overheats, has a failing transmission, and randomly opens portals to a plane of infinite suffering. Are a new paint job, some kitschy seat covers, and a pair of fuzzy dice likely to rejuvenate your ride?

When a website suffers from multiple issues, particularly structural problems like an outdated or non-functional CMS, a new font and a pop of color aren’t going to help. In this situation, a redesign is not only warranted, but it can also be a more cost-effective option.

That’s because the sort of incremental changes found in a refresh won’t get to the root of the problem. It’s lipstick on a pig. You’ll end up spending a lot of money on piecemeal changes and still be stuck with a poorly performing website.

As mentioned earlier, a refresh can be a good option when your branding changes slightly. But for more extensive rebranding efforts, a complete website redesign is often a better choice. Changing your website’s colors to match your new logo may not be a grand enough change when your corporate identity shifts radically. It’s better to start over from scratch, creating a truly unique user experience that matches your new brand direction.

A redesign is also called for when a business has outgrown its old site. Your CMS might still work fine, but it doesn’t allow you the level of customization you need. Or maybe you’ve added a new line of business, and your current design doesn’t accommodate the required content. A website is a tool. When it no longer helps in the ways you require, it’s time for an upgrade.

Time is often the greatest driver of the choice between a refresh and a redesign. If your website is only a few years old, an update is an excellent choice to reinvigorate it. The older your website is, the more likely it is that its design has grown tired, its technology has aged out, and its performance is flagging. If high bounce rates, low conversions, and a dull UX are plaguing your website, a redesign is the best choice.

Whichever Option You Choose, We Can Help

A quick rule of thumb might be this. If your website generally works well but needs a bit of spiffing up, go with a refresh. If you’ve already refreshed a few times, or if there are deeper issues at play besides basic aesthetics and content, choose a complete redesign. If you’re not sure, give us a call. We can offer guidance to help with your decision. Whichever way you fall, we can handle the execution. Let us be your lifeline against the crushing ennui that accompanies an aging website. For when you gaze for long into a tired design, the tired design gazes also into you. Nietzche didn’t say that exactly, but we’re pretty sure that’s what he meant.

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