The question isn’t “when should I redesign my website”. It’s why. Here, we give four of the most compelling reasons why you might change up your website’s structure, layout or look.

The most innovative companies today aren’t ones to let their websites languish. They know all too well crafting a user-centric web experience is critical to ensuring customers expectations are met and brand value maintained. While there are certainly situations that force a complete website overhaul, companies can better save resources and serve audiences when they redesign their website by degrees.

Christian Riggs, President of user-experience (UX) design firm Riggs Creative Group, explains. “You want to follow the lead of sites like Apple.com and Amazon.com, which rarely undergo complete facelifts,” he says. “Instead, their sites evolve over time using an iterative process that results in near invisible refinements that have the bonus of maintaining the user experience that customers know and like.”

As we’ve riffed on previously, then, a website is never really ‘done’. It’s a living thing – optimising by degrees and through testing as your audience’s expectations change and your business evolves.

Still, you’ve got to be changing for the right reasons. Whether you’re doing a major overhaul or ironing out site creases, redesigning will always hinge upon business goals, objectives and budgetary constraints. What it doesn’t depend upon, Riggs also notes, is “some superficial time-frame pulled out of thin air”. So if you’re asking “How often should I be updating my website?” well, it could be three months, six months – years could sail by without introducing anything discernibly new. Good design never operates under a one-size-fits-everything rule.

Talking generally though, here are a standard set of reasons a website redesign could be due.

1. Your audience tells you it’s time to change

The philosophy behind UX design is that it’s the user who’s boss. Voting with their clicks, session times and keyboard-smashed complaints. If you haven’t met their needs where and when you should have, they are likely to leave you and jump ship to a competitor site. And if they don’t leave you, they’ll get all sour or frosty that you haven’t met their needs where and when you should’ve. Their polygamy with other competitor brands is going to get worse. And hey: you deserve it.

No use moping about it though. If your bounce rates are higher than Michael Jordan dribbling a basketball (and your overall site reach, engagement and conversion is poor), then it’s on you to get to the bottom of why. If you have enough people taking the time out of their day to write a jeremiad to a certain site element or feature, then don’t shut them out. Listen. As Christian Bowman said at the 2017 ADMA Global Forum, “if your customers are complaining, it’s because these customers care about their relationship with the business”. They’re lashing out at you because you’re the one that’s hurting them – with a crummy brand experience.

There needs to be a critical mass reached, however, to motivate any substantial change. In other words, one vituperative tweet claiming your chatbot has a “smarmy tone” shouldn’t make you fire your copywriter and rewrite the script. You need substantial data and insights to motivate change – not just anecdotes or one-off data blips.

2. You’ve undergone a rebrand

Branding is an all-encompassing thing, demanding absolute consistency across channels and platforms. Re-branding demands the same.

We ourselves underwent a rebrand not too long ago. Formerly ‘Mahlab Media’, we lopped off ‘Media’ and now are simply ‘Mahlab’, with logo changes rolled across all print and digital material and domains.

Atlassian is another big-name brand to boldly overhaul its identity with a new logo. Described by co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes as a symbolic triad of “two people high-fiving, a mountain ready for teams to scale, or even the letter ‘A’ formed from two pillars reinforcing each other,” you’ll see it replicated across every Atlassian touchpoint. The company’s coordinated execution of the site rebranding was exemplary, with the change synchronised and virtually instantaneous.

3. You want to try emerging formats

In a previous article, our eyes became moist looking at the range of innovative new digital storytelling formats that brands like Google, The New York Times and The Puddingare experimenting with. Particularly if you are a company with a unique service proposition (USP) of being at the forefront of cutting-edge design, you may be itching to try responsive, interactive content types yourself.

To give an example that is feeding into our own current content dreams, we’re incredibly taken with the new chatbot Quartz recently made for Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) as a sponsored content package. Named ‘Hugo’, the chatbot was essentially an ad incorporated into the publisher’s ‘Machines with Brains’ series. Users who struck up a conversation with the bot could learn more about the series topics, covering humans, technology and AI. Significantly for the sponsor, they also learned about how HPE’s technology related to the stories. The ad was retargeted to encourage return users too.

How well did it do? Pretty great. Over a six-week period, the chatbot delivered 117,155 messages to users over six weeks. With Gartner predicting chatbots will power 85% of all customer service interactions by 2020 (individuals will talk more to bots than their spouse, the research adds), the Quartz example demonstrates how AI can pair with content marketing to deliver useful, personalised and interactive brand experiences.

It’ll be a blessed day, however, when the coding architecture of all website platforms can accommodate such formats as these. Often, these services move forward a lot more slumberously than we’d hope – constraining and constricting a brand’s sincere will to grow, evolve and try new things. As with HPE, piggybacking on the tech leadership of others through native advertising is a viable interim solution. But if you’re after something custom-built on your own site domain, expert in-house, agency or freelance coders will be your friends.

4. Your site isn’t optimised for mobile

October 2016 was a significant month for many reasons. For instance, Kim Kardashian was held up at gunpoint for some of her bling. Of more relevance here however, for the first time in history more web pages were viewed on mobile and tablet devices than on desktop computers and laptops.

If half of all users are experiencing your site on a portable, sandwich-sized screen, your site has to be ready. It must be either responsive, dynamic or built specifically for mobile (mobile-first). Whichever approach you go with, it has to be free of over-dense code for fast page-loading time, with appropriately-sized text so your readers don’t need to press their eyeballs against the glass to decipher it. It will also necessitate building intuitive information architecture (IA), with integrated features, apps and content to streamline the customer experience for users on the go.

More on this to come in a future article, folks. For now, if you are undergoing a redesign, listen first, ask questions second, then test, test and test again.

Kate Prendergast contributed to the writing of this piece.

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