When should a business redo their website?

As part of the Web Design class I teach at LCC, we talk about working with clients on website redesigns. As part of that, we need to talk about how to know if a business should redesign their website. A few criteria to consider:

Usability criteria:

  1. Is the current version of the website still online at all? 
  2. Is it broken in some meaningful way?
  3. Does it have a mobile version that works? (“Is it responsive?” in web-designer-speak)
  4. If the site has Google Analytics or another similar tool: Are there parts of the website that users aren’t finding?
  5. Does the content of the website match the products/services that the business provides today? (new products that aren’t on the website, old products that are still on the website, etc…)
  6. Would the company like the website to have new functionality? (Do they want to sell things online now? Or start a blog? Or integrate with social media in some form? etc…)

Business criteria:

  1. What industry is the business in? (More fashionable industries == shorter time between redesigns)
  2. Does the business sell directly to consumers, or to other businesses (B2C companies == shorter time between redesigns)
  3. Is the company going through a rebranding or other marketing campaign change? (If so, it probably makes sense to match the website)
  4. Is there someone in upper management at the company that wants this to happen? (So the company feels ‘modern’ or so they can impress a specific person, etc…)
  5. Is there budget set aside at a certain cycle? (They redesign every 4 years, for example)
  6. How many visitors does the website get? What’s the ROI for the project based on the value of those visitors?

Note that we haven’t discussed How the website should be redesigned, or redesign timing, or budget, or post-website-launch-support, or anything else yet – this is only a list of potential reasons to consider redesigning. 

There’s also a distinction to be made between updating a current website compared to a complete re-do. If only a few of these criteria are met, an update might be worthwhile. The update could be cosmetic (same menu and content setup, just a new design); or it could be functional (adding a blog to the website, but keeping everything else the same); or it could be content-driven (new menu structure, different content on each page). A full re-do would do all of these things, typically at the same time. 

This, of course, brings us to the question “How many years should my business wait until it redoes the website again?” And that depends on your company and the above criteria. 

At the short extreme, you could be fully redesigning your site every year (or less!) – B2C companies, high levels of traffic for your website, website at the center of online marketing effort, high levels of online shopping on the website, in a high fashion industry. At the longer extreme, it could be a decade; B2B companies who sell a standard set of products/services and do not make sales through their website or depend on it for marketing efforts. 

That’s a big range, and not all companies will fall into that range, but most will. Recognize too, that just because you see the need for a redesign, and it’s been 5 years or so, that doesn’t mean that the decision makers at your company will see that need. Try convincing them that some of the criteria listed above are actually more relevant than they think they are, and maybe they’ll see the need then!