For some websites, big redesigns tend to turn into major events in the online community. For instance, every time YouTube rolled out an update, there were tons of people commenting it, expressing their opinions, and being ultra-interested in the whole thing in general.
But YouTube is YouTube, it has millions of users, and even the slightest change can be reflected by a rise or fall in the number of overall video views. So what about small online businesses? Do they need to change their designs too, or is sticking with one design for a number of years perfectly okay? In other words, should an online business redesign their website often?
Unfortunately, it isn’t okay… And I’m using the word unfortunately because changing the design usually involves some investments. However, sometimes it’s inevitable. Here are the reasons and the best moments to change your current design.
Follow the trends
Even though following the trends doesn’t have the best publicity among people (many don’t believe that following trends brings any improvements to our lives), the internet is a constantly evolving environment, and if you want your site to be successful, you need to let it evolve too.
Now, I’m not trying to say that you should try out every new practice in online business design, but if one day your site is the only one left using some outdated solutions then it’s most certainly about time to introduce something new.
The thing with online trends is that with time, the best of them become the new standard, and you should never let your website fall below the standard.
Change is good
Sometimes change is good just for the sake of it.
For example, have you noticed how your local stores and supermarkets change their layouts every once in six months or every year? They don’t do it because the previous layout was not performing well. They do it just in order to introduce some change, and to force people to walk around the store more when searching for stuff.
Just one thing that’s different when it comes to online business is that confusing your visitors is not a good idea, so your new design can’t be any less intuitive. Other than that, launching a new design will always restore your site’s freshness and make it more attractive.
Act when your goals change
Business goals change for every business at some point. Unless you’re Coca-Cola or something.
And when it comes to online business, the website needs to reflect these goals very precisely. This mainly depends on two areas:
- The way you’re making money as a business.
- The way your visitors interact with the website (more on this in a minute).
For instance, it’s really difficult to sell anything using a standard blog-like design (with two sidebars, big header and footer), so if your website started as a traditional blog, but later on it shifted to a product-based model, a change is required.
For instance, take a look at what happened at Copyblogger – one of the top copywriting blogs on the internet.
A couple of years ago the site was constructed as a standard blog. Here’s a screenshot via archive.org:
And here’s a current screenshot:
As you can see, the site has changed substantially. Right now, the homepage presents the different elements of Copyblogger Media, instead of just displaying the latest blog posts. Currently, Copyblogger is mostly a product company, and their site makes it as clear as it can be.
Getting rid of an outdated structure
The internet is really quite a lively environment (like I said a moment ago). Literally everything changes. Technologies change, Google changes, WordPress changes, SEO changes, user interface design changes, and so on.
Every website is built with a specific piece of web engineering. For instance, a number of years ago everyone was using HTML tables as the pillar of layout building. Then <div> tags got introduced and HTML tables became an outdated and underperforming technology.
These days, HTML 5 is the new player. I’m sure that in a year or two every website will have to support HTML 5 just to be compatible with the web, so to speak.
The rule of thumb is therefore simple: If your site’s structure is based on technologies and approaches that no one uses these days, it’s time for a change.
New WordPress features
It’s no surprise that WordPress evolves quite rapidly as well. There are new features being introduced in every version. However, an outdated theme will not allow you to use any of them.
The best thing to do is to build your site with a quality theme framework (like Genesis or ThemeFuse). Such frameworks get updated almost as frequently as WordPress itself, giving you the possibility to take full advantage of the new features.
In the meantime, if your site still doesn’t support things like the custom menus, widgets, responsive layouts, and other basic WordPress functionality then it really is about time to make some changes.
Your user interaction model changes
Sounds fancy, but what I actually mean here is the way visitors interact with your site. Depending on the nature of your business, some forms of interaction might perform better than the others.
For instance, customer reviews and bonuses work well for all kinds of online stores. In a completely different scenario, some Instagram integration with the possibility to comment is the thing for most photo blogs.
Basically, whenever you set some new goals for your online business, make sure to enable the possibility for your readers to take part in those goals. In most cases, this calls for a new design.
How old is your current design? Are you planning to change it anytime soon, or is it still working perfectly well for your business?