Site evolution or the Big Bang of redesign?

The prevailing wisdom is that websites should be incrementally improved, but is that belief always correct or is there a place for major redesign?

I won’t lie to you, I am a huge fan of evolving websites over time, rather than going through a series of periodic redesigns every few years. This is something I have written and talked a lot about in the past, but let me briefly summarise my logic:

  • Periodic redesigns are expensive, because they almost always involve starting from scratch and scrapping previous work.
  • Periodic redesigns confuse users because so much changes.
  • Site evolution encourages users to regularly visit the site to check out new improvements.
  • Site evolution ensures a site is always running at peak efficiency, while redesigns only achieve this immediately after launch.

Lost marketing opportunities

It’s a compelling argument, but I will not pretend it is without problems. The biggest of these is that incremental improvements to your site do not provide the same marketing opportunities as a large relaunch.

Launching a redesigned site is a great way of generating excitement, both among existing users and new audiences. It is an opportunity to breathe new life into a tired brand and encourage lost users to re-engage.

Fine for in-house teams

Another major issue is the ongoing cost of continual site evolution. Although redesigns carry a higher one off cost, these periodic outgoings seem less of a commitment and easier to manage than a long term retainer with a web design agency. Site evolution works fine for larger organisations who have in-house web teams, but does that translate for smaller organisations who are reliant on a third party supplier?

From my perspective, this issue is one of the more challenging areas of site evolution. We have some clients that happily work with us to implement an ongoing programme of development, while others are reluctant.

With that in mind I would like to propose the following debate topic for the podcast.

This house proposes that site evolution is only appropriate for companies with in-house web teams.

Personally, I still lean towards site evolution, but I have my doubts. I would be really interested to know what you think? Which side of the fence do you sit on and in what situations do you think site evolution works? Let’s here what you have to say in the comments.

  • richarddale

    I definitely think mobile sites have their place. Many of the sites I built prior to RWD, static sites that view great on desktop and tablet. Its only when you get down to smart phone size that things start to break down. For many of these sites a mobile specific site would probably work better than a RWD site where I could be more focused and target the medium specifically.

    I did a RWD e-commerce website recently and although the end results were good, trying to get the shopping basket working and looking correct whilst being responsive was a nightmare and I couldn’t help but think that a mobile specific site would have been a better solution. When I browse the web using my iPad Air I never visit a fix width website and think this is a poor user experience why don’t they have a RWD site. I ony ever think this when on my iPhone.

  • sanedevil

    I am not a web designer, but have a team that is building one for me. So in trad way, I have to have a “web designer” design the site in Photoshop which is then handed to “web developer” to generate code.

    You can imagine there are several problems w this – time, costs, rework, code doesn’t do what the design shows etc.

    I hit upon your blog while thinking if there are tools that would eliminate the design-to-code step

    I very much agree w the house and would love to know the process and tools to help achieve this.

  • David R

    The simple answer is yes, a website must be responsive and also Google is focusing more on responsive websites, a static design
    web development firm still works OK in most cases when you have separate mobile friendly website.