When looking at a re-design of your website, you will first need to decide what is your overriding usability strategy: should you go for a big bang or go for incremental quality improvements?
User experience research has shown that there is something to be said for continuous improvements in incremental design changes. On the other hand, there is also something to be said for leapfrogging all the small steps and achieving a higher quality boost in one fell swoop.
What are the criteria for deciding on one or the other strategies?
Re-design your website for the right reasons
The re-design of a website may be at various levels, visual reskinning, information architecture, content… and the redesign trigger may take many forms but the main question remains ‘Why?’
Simply saying ‘We haven’t updated it in many years’ or ‘It looks old’ or ‘I’m bored with it’ are the wrong reasons to engage resources for the project.
Gathering the right data, e.g. analysing the website conversion rate and user journey, may throw up some issues and help to decide whether or not you need to engage in the major project to effectively rectify them in the new total re-design and avoid the costly mistake of a new website that users may not like and compromising the return on your investment.
Choose Incremental Changes over a Major Overhaul
Major re-design can jar the user and be risky for business with eternal internal discussions between the main stakeholders.
Often the issues encountered in a website can be isolated ones that can be fixed by small incremental updates.
Your own, or your designer’s cognitive bias should not cloud your judgement which, as mentioned above, should be based on analysis and figures.
Man does not like change. Once your visitor has learnt how to navigate in your website, they expect things to behave in the same way in the future; so you must consider the effect on the user of a brand new design he/she may find disruptive and confusing.
When A Major Overhaul Is Best
There may be occasions when the reasons for a complete overhaul are compelling.
The gains from making small incremental changes are no longer producing the expected results and become a waste of time and resources.
Technology has moved on and the one of the existing website has become outdated making updates impossible or worst, putting the website at risk. Further, how is the website seen on hand held devices?
The continued series of incremental changes have made a bit of a mess of the information structure and content silos become blurred.
Numbers speak for themselves, data analysis such as conversion rates, bounce rates are on a downward slope whatever efforts are put into reversing the trend.
Whether you choose incremental v. major overhaul will be dictated by identifying the issues based on solid numbers and determining how best to solve them.