3 Steps to Rescue a Website Redesign From Disaster

Paul Boag

Is your website redesign stuck in development hell? Do you feel the project has stalled or lost its direction? These three steps will help.

A website redesign can be an extremely tricky proposition, especially for larger organisations. There are many stakeholders, lots of opinions, and policies or processes that can be detrimental to the final result.

Too often these website redesigns get bogged down by legacy, complexity and endless debate. It seems to take forever to make any progress.

If that is where you find yourself, here are the three steps I would encourage you to take to fix your problems.

It begins by recognising that you will never finish redesigning your website.

Recognise That Your Website Redesign Will Never Be Finished

One of the big problems with website redesigns is everybody’s desire to get it right. It has to be perfect first time, but nothing ever works that way. Fortunately, when it comes to digital, you don’t have to get it right first time or even second time.

If you are printing a brochure, you want to get things right on day one because once you go to print, there is no turning back. The cost of changes late in the day are incredibly costly.

However, that isn’t the case with digital, because the raw materials (pixels) are free. The only cost of changing things is in labour.

The problem is, this fact hasn’t sunk into most teams thinking. I see too many marketing teams agonising over the wording of their calls to action or the sites information architecture. However, these are all easily changed. You don’t need to get it right. All you need is something better than what you have online at the moment.

Stop aiming for perfection and start designing for better. That will enable you to get a minimal viable product online fast.

Aim for a Minimal Viable Product

If we know that we can, and indeed should change what we launch, then we can adopt a different approach to the redesign. Instead of aiming to create a complete website, seek instead to launch the most stripped-down, most straightforward version of your site possible. Again, as long as it is better than what you have, it doesn’t need to have everything in place before launching.

Illustration of how a minimal viable product can evolve over time.
By launching a minimal website early you get to market faster and then only build what people actually want.

Then, once you have launched, you can observe how real people interact with your site. You can see what they like and what they don’t. You can watch whether those calls to action are compelling or not. Then, based on what you learn, you can adjust and improve the website through things like A/B testing.

That brings me on to the last way to unstick a website redesign, stop discussing and start testing.

Stop Discussing Your Website Redesign and Start Testing

Website redesigns often grind to a halt because stakeholders cannot agree on the best approach. They disagree about the design, the information architecture, the messaging and the tone of voice.

Every decision has to be discussed endlessly until all project momentum is lost. Worst of all, it rarely leads to the optimal solution.

I like to consider myself a user experience expert after 23 years of working in the field. However, I can say with confidence that I have never come up with the perfect solution to any particular problem. What works and what users respond to continually surprises me. You do not find the optimal approach through discussion, so stop trying and test instead.

Instead, use testing to make these decisions for you. Can’t decide on the best design approach? Then test it. Cannot resolve a disagreement over copy? Just test it. There isn’t a decision that cannot be made better with some evidence to support it.

Testing can help break the deadlock that prevents a website redesign getting over the line.

Breaking the Deadlock

Website redesigns fail because people become paralysed. They become crippled by the decisions that need making and a fear of getting it wrong. However, using testing to help inform those decisions, with the realisation that no choice is permanent, can lift a lot of the pressure people feel with a website redesign.

A demonstration of an iterative website redesign process.
Shift the thinking away from a website redesign being a singular project, to an ongoing process of evolving your site.

They also help to shift the thinking away from a website redesign being a singular project, to an ongoing process of evolving your site over time. That is better for the business and for the sanity of whoever is overseeing the redesign!

Stock Photos from 1000 Words/Shutterstock