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.