Stop Redesigning And Start Tuning Your Site Instead

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In my nearly two decades as an information architect, I’ve seen my clients flush away millions upon millions of dollars on worthless, pointless, “fix it once and for all” website redesigns. All types of organizations are guilty: large government agencies, Fortune 500s, not-for-profits and (especially) institutions of higher education.

Worst of all, these offending organizations are prone to repeating the redesign process every few years like spendthrift amnesiacs. Remember what Einstein said about insanity? (It’s this1, if you don’t know.) It’s as if they enjoy the sensation of failing spectacularly, publicly and expensively. Sadly, redesigns rarely solve actual problems faced by end users.

I’m frustrated because it really doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s look at why redesigns happen, and some straightforward and inexpensive ways we might avoid them.

The Diagnostic Void

Your users complain about your website’s confounding navigation, stale content, poor usability and other user experience failures. You bring up their gripes with the website’s owners. They listen and decide to take action. Their hearts are in the right place. But the wheels quickly come off.

Most website owners don’t know how to diagnose the problems of a large complex website. It’s just not something they were ever taught to do. So, they’re put in the unfortunate, uncomfortable position of operating like country doctors who’ve suddenly been tasked to save their patients from a virulent new pandemic. It is their responsibility, but they’re simply unprepared.

Sadly, many website owners fill this diagnostic void — or, more typically, allow it to be filled — with whatever solution sounds best. Naturally, many less-than-ethical vendors are glad to dress up their offerings as solutions to anyone with a problem — and a budget. The tools themselves (search engines, CMS’, social apps) are wonderful, but they’re still just tools — very expensive ones, at that — and not solutions to the very specific problems that an organization faces. Without proper diagnostics to guide the configuration of tools, any resulting improvements to the user experience will be almost accidental.

Sometimes design agencies are brought in to fill the diagnostic void. And while not all agencies are evil, a great many follow a business model that depends on getting their teams to bill as many hours as they can and as soon as possible. Diagnostics can slow the work down (which is why clients rarely include a diagnostic phase in their RFPs). So, many agencies move to make a quick, tangible impression (and make their clients happy) by delivering redesigns that are mostly cosmetic.

A pretty face can last only a few years, but by then the agency is long gone. Invariably, the new owner wishes to make their mark by freshening or updating the website’s look. And another agency will be more than happy to oblige. Repeat ad nauseam, and then some.

Oh, and sometimes these redesigns can be pricey. Like $18 million pricey2.

See why I’m so grouchy?

Forget the Long Tail: The Short Head Is Where It’s At

Whether you’re a designer, researcher or website owner, I’ve got some good news for you: diagnostics aren’t necessarily difficult or expensive. Better yet, you’ll often find that addressing the problems you’ve diagnosed isn’t that hard.

And the best news? Small simple fixes can accomplish far more than expensive redesigns. The reason? People just care about some stuff more than they care about other stuff. A lot more. Check this out and you’ll see:

This hockey-stick-shaped curve is called a Zipf curve. (It comes from linguistics3: Zipf was a linguist who liked to count words… but don’t worry about that.) Here it is in dragon form, displaying the frequency of search queries on a website. The most frequently searched queries (starting on the left) are very, very frequent. They make up the “short head.” As you move to the right (to the esoteric one-off queries in the “long tail”), query frequency drops off. A lot. And it’s a really long tail.

This is absolutely the most important thing in the universe. So, to make sure it’s absolutely clear, let’s make the same point using text:

Query’s rank Cumulative % Query’s frequency Query
1 1.40% 7,218 campus map
14 10.53% 2,464 housing
42 20.18% 1,351 web enroll
98 30.01% 650 computer center
221 40.05% 295 msu union
500 50.02% 124 hotels
7,877 80.00% 7 department of surgery

In this case, tens of thousands of unique queries are being searched for on this university website4, but the first one accounts for 1.4% of all search traffic. That’s massive, considering that it’s just one query out of tens of thousands. How many short-head queries would it take to get to 10% of all search traffic? Only 14 — out of tens of thousands. The 42 most frequent queries cover over 20% of the website’s entire search traffic. About a hundred gets us to 30%. And so on.

It’s Zipf’s World; We Just Live in It

This is very good news.

Want to improve your website’s search performance? Don’t rip out the search engine and buy a new one! Start by testing and improving the performance of the 100 most frequent queries. Or, if you don’t have the time, just the top 50. Or 10. Or 1 — test out “campus map” by actually searching for it5. Does something useful and relevant come up? No? Why not? Is the content missing or mistitled or mistagged or jargony or broken? Is there some other problem? That, folks, is diagnostics. And when you do that with your website’s short head, your diagnostic efforts will go a very long way.

The news gets better: Zipf is a rule. The search queries for all websites follow a Zipf distribution.

And the news gets even jump-up-and-down-and-scream-your-head-off better: Zipf is true not only for your website’s search queries. Your content works the same way! A small subset of your website’s content does the heavy lifting. Much of the rest has little or no practical value at all. (In fact, I’ve heard a rumor that 90% of Microsoft.com’s content has never, ever been accessed. Not once. But it’s a just a rumor. And you didn’t hear it here.) Bottom line: don’t redesign all of your content — focus on the stuff that people actually need.

You’ll also see a short head when it comes to your website’s features. People need just a few of them; the rest are gravy.

And there’s more. Of all the audience types that your website serves, one or two matter far more than the others. What tasks do those audience types wish to accomplish on your website? A few are short-head tasks; the rest just aren’t that important.

As you can see, the Zipf curve is everywhere. And fortunately, the phenomenon is helpful: you can use it to prioritize your efforts to tweak and tune your website’s content, functionality, searchability, navigation and overall performance.

Your Website Is Not A Democracy

When you examine the short head — of your documents, your users’ tasks, their search behavior and so forth — you’ll know where to find the most important problems to solve. In effect, you can stop boiling the ocean…

Ocean

… and start prioritizing your efforts to diagnose and truly solve your website’s problems.

Now, let’s put these short-head ideas together. Below is a report card for an academic website that starts with the short head of its audience:

6

In other words, of all the audience types this university website has, the three most important are people who might pay money to the university (applicants,) people who are paying money now (students) and people who will hopefully pay money for the rest of their lives (alumni). How do we know they’re the most important audiences? We could go by user research; for example, the analytics might suggest that these audiences generate more traffic than anyone else. Or perhaps the university’s stakeholders believe that these are the most important ones in their influence and revenue. Or some combination of both. Whatever the case, these three audiences likely swamp all other segments in importance.

Then, we would want to know the short-head tasks and information needs of each audience type. We might interview stakeholders to see what they think (column 2). And we might perform research — user interviews and search analytics, for example — to find out what users say is most important to them (column 3).

Of course, as the good folks at xkcd demonstrate7, stakeholders and users don’t always see things the same way:

8

That’s why talking to both stakeholders and users is important. And once you’ve figured out the short head for each, you’ll need to earn your salary and, through some careful negotiation, combine your takes on each audience type’s needs. That’s what we’ve done in column 4.

Finally, in column 5, we’ve tested each task or need and evaluated how well it works. (Because it’s a university-related example, letter grades seemed appropriate.) You can do this evaluation in an expensive, statistically significant way; but really, enough research9 is out there10 to suggest that you don’t need to spend a lot of time and money on such testing. More importantly, these needs and tasks are often fairly narrow and, therefore, easy to test.

So, after testing, we can see what’s not going well. Finding information on “mentoring” is hard for applicants. And current students have a devil of a time when they “look up grades.”

Now we’re done diagnosing the problems and can begin making fixes. We can change the title of the “Paired Guidance Program” page to “Mentoring.” We can create a better landing page for the transcript application. The hard part, diagnostics, is out of the way, and we can now fix and tune our website’s performance as much as our resources allow.

From Project To Process To Payoff

These fixes are typically and wonderfully small and concrete, but because they live in the short head, they make a huge and lovely impact on the user experience — at a fraction of the cost of a typical redesign.

The tuning process itself is quite simple. It’s what we used to arrive at the report card below:

If you repeat this simple process on a regular basis — say, every month or quarter — then you can head off the entropy that causes fresh designs and fresher content to go rotten. Thus, the redesign that your organization has scheduled for two years from now can officially be canceled.

Your website’s owners ought to be happy about all this. And you should be, too: rather than tackling the project of getting your website “right” — which is impossible — you can now focus on tweaking and tuning it from here on out. So, forget redesigns, and start owning and benefiting from a process of continual improvement.

Special Thanks – Illustrations

Eva-Lotta11 is a UX Designer and Illustrator based in London, UK where she currently works as an interaction designer at Google. Besides her daytime mission of making the web a more understandable, usable and delightful place, she regularly takes sketchnotes12 at all sorts of talks and conferences and recently self-published her second book13. Eva-Lotta also teaches sketching workshops and is interested in (something she calls) visual improvisation. Exploring the parallels between sketching and improvisation, she experiments with the principles from her theater improvisation practice to inspire visual work.

(al)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins133991.html
  2. 2 http://usability.com/2012/01/31/four-seasons-18m-redesign-is-taking-a-lot-of-heat/
  3. 3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zipf%27s_law
  4. 4 http://www.msu.edu/
  5. 5 http://search.msu.edu/index.php?q=campus+map
  6. 6 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Table-big.jpg
  7. 7 http://xkcd.com/773/
  8. 8 http://xkcd.com/773/
  9. 9 http://www.useit.com/alertbox/discount-usability.html
  10. 10 http://uxmag.com/articles/getting-guerrilla-with-it
  11. 11 http://www.evalotta.net/
  12. 12 http://www.flickr.com/photos/evalottchen/sets/72157607235674386/with/6848813489/
  13. 13 http://www.sketchnotesbook.com/

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Louis Rosenfeld wears two hats: he works as an information therapist for large, messy organizations with findability problems, like PayPal, Lowes, and Ford; and he’s founder of Rosenfeld Media, the user experience publishing house. A librarian by training, Lou is co-author of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (O’Reilly; 3rd edition 2006) and Search Analytics For Your Site (Rosenfeld Media; 2011), co-founder of the Information Architecture Institute, and a former columnist for Internet World, CIO, and Web Review magazines. He blogs occasionally and tweets (@louisrosenfeld) frequently. If you liked this article, you really should attend Lou’s workshop on adaptive information architecture.

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  1. 1

    I understand the point of this article but can not disagree more. This does not apply to every business or website across the board.

    Are you to tell me that a website that has not been redesigned since 2001 only needs to be tuned? There are many clients who’s sites must be redesigned. Of course you can go from there with making it a better site and setting up for future “tunings”.

    But to say this is a black and white area for every site out their is comical.

    I redesign my site every 18 months. Not because it has issues or problems but because I like to keep it fresh and challenging.

    It should be noted that redesigning a site is not always do to issues, bugs, keeping up with trends or problems. Some people just want to be able to do it.

    6
    • 2

      Agreed. I’m an IA at one of the Fortune 100 e-retailers on the web and I can say this method would never work for us, nor would we be able to approach it this way. There are literally hundreds of people in our IS Dept and several projects going on at the same time (which is also a problem in itself). So in very large-scale operations such as ours, “fixing it for good” is a good thing because it solves all the little problems that may have occurred as a result of collateral impacts from interrelated projects.

      I do however see a number of benefits from implementing some of the methods in this approach for smaller companies/websites.

      DC

      0
    • 3

      It’s very clear that the author is referring to an organisation’s website. If you want to redesign a personal or portfolio website every few months then all power to you.

      However, a website redesign is a costly exercise, and Rosenfeld is right in his assertion that design is a problem-solving exercise. The problem could be one of attracting new business, keeping in touch with or supporting existing clients, recruitment, attracting finance or a myriad of others.

      It is (business) folly to simply redesign because you ‘just want to be able to do it’. A business’s approach to its online presence should be tied to its wider strategies. Redesigning after an arbitrary 18 months is *not* a strategy and appears to be self-indulgent whimsy. By all means redesign as a hobby, or self-improvement task, or for art (art != design), but don’t kid yourself that this is a hard-headed commercial decision.

      Perhaps there is actually some strategy behind your thinking; if you are a freelance designer, for example, there may be the requirement to use your folio site to showcase your skills in cutting-edge techniques and technologies. If this is indeed the reason, then you might actually be closer to Rosenfeld’s stance – that you are evolving your site after looking at your commercial requirements, and changing the look-and-feel or taking advantage of newer techniques will help demonstrate your skills to prospective clients. However, ‘just wanting to be able to do it’ doesn’t sound like that :-(

      It costs thousands of £/$/€ for a company to redesign even the simplest of sites when you take into account everything – designer fees, IA, project management, photography, copywriting, procurement and so on. You can do this if its your own site in house and give just your time – but how much business are you missing out on by doing this? It’s the same with clients – even if they do copywriting in-house, they must factor in their time as a cost.

      Rosenfeld hit the nail on the head when he stated that most website problems do not require a redesign to solve. It makes far more sense to solve a problem with (say) $500 worth of analysis and small-scale work than a $30,000 redesign. And when this is the case, you are doing your client a disservice to recommend anything else.

      6
  2. 4

    I’m happy to say that I’ve implemented this method on my employer’s websites. We broke out the keywords and identified the ones that resulted in the most conversions. The result was a slight drop in traffic, but the quality of the traffic improved significantly with our online sales increasing over 30% from last year.

    1
  3. 5

    Excellent read! A redesign can create so much unnecessary work, and without a strategic plan of the clients true needs, is usually just going to end up being counter intuitive and unfocused as the original site; Its just wrapped in a shinny new bow, and maybe comes with some dancing dogs and pony’s…lol

    12
  4. 7

    I love the use of illustrations in this article. Absolutely adorable and more importantly, engaging. I can tell what this article is about just by skimming through the pictures and decide whether or not I should read it.

    23
  5. 8

    Thanks for the article, Lou.

    One additional detail I would add about using the short head is that I’ve found it’s not really as “short” as one might like on an intranet search (which may be different from an e-commerce site).

    But if you take the short head and add in additional metrics about the terms from your search log, you can still focus on particular terms that require improvement. One metric I use is the average # of pages of results a user looks at for a particular term. If particular terms in your short head have a high ratio of that (“high” in relation to either the average or in relation to a universal desired goal you could set), you can focus on the more problematic terms.

    There are many other ways to focus your attention but doing that will help focus your efforts even more, which is necessary when you realize you need to do this kind of analysis repeatedly.

    2
  6. 9

    Using content views and search is a very good idea. Such a good idea that I am not sure how people would NOT use it when factoring content during a redesign. Content views that come from non-search sources need to be approached carefully.

    For instance, optimising your front page for the top 25 relevant most browsed sections makes sense yeah? Not if the users are not able to access an important section of your site that they want to find. Search may uncover these sections, but at the same time may not.

    An example, in a redesign around 3 years ago my employers site the FAQ link was moved. The FAQ was one of the highest viewed pages after product categories. Of course this redesign took place without consulting stats. The FAQ was moved somewhere really bad like the footer. Views on the FAQ fell through the floor and phone calls logged for questions like “How much is shipping”, “Can I pickup from your shop” spiked.

    Obviously this is what this article is pointing to, however you need to use your brain here. If the FAQ had always been where it was moved to it would have been ignored during the redesign, even with statistical analysis. So blindly going after the top 50 items of content is a bad idea, because in my example an important page would have been ignored.

    Head results are interesting for on-site optimisation for navigation and UX but longtail is what most companies should be aiming at for SEO. Do not confuse the two or walk away from this article thinking that head terms are the most important things ever.

    4
  7. 10

    Niels Matthijs

    May 16, 2012 7:01 am

    Tuning introduces its own kind of overhead though. Making many small changes will eventually lead to a very messy implementation that nobody will be able to oversee. For the implementors, you’re spreading the focus around many different projects and you can be certain that the overall quality will suffer because of that.

    Of course it’s not a given and there are ways to counter that, but you can’t just switch from start-to-finish projects to on-going projects without any major organizational changes (on the developer’s side). At our company we do both kind of projects and you need a very different mindset and approach for “tuning”. I myself am a fan though, I’ve been keeping my blog like that for almost 5 years now and I’ve always build on top of previous versions. It’s fun, productive and you learn a lot about robust and future-proof coding that way.

    7
  8. 11

    Wonderful images! :)

    12
  9. 12

    Of course, the opposite may also hold true. Once one may have dealt with a huge amount of performance issues (in terms of usability, speed, cross platform—both mobile and large screen— compatibility, and even maintenance), then it might be time to reconsider some exciting new designs, based upon what one may have learned. Tail wags dog.

    -1
  10. 13

    I’ll be saving this one. I see useless redesigns happen all the time. Usually the plan amounts to “maybe this one will get it…” which is maddening. Thanks for this article. Great illustrations too

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  11. 14

    Dominic Brenton

    May 16, 2012 8:08 am

    Tuning a website is indeed very important but if you’re running on a platform that can’t talk to other systems in your organisation, it’s time to change it – and perhaps take a hard look at your other ‘closed’ systems, too. Get the system foundations right, get the content right – by which I mean properly user-focused content – and only then worry about the colour scheme.

    0
  12. 15

    I’m reminded of the Redesign vs. Realign debate a while back.

    http://www.alistapart.com/articles/redesignrealign

    0
  13. 16

    Timely & useful article for a group I’m working with right now. Thanks!

    0
  14. 17

    The basic point that it’s helpful to analyze your top search queries for patterns you can address is sound. But I’d like to point out that it also has distinct limits.

    For example, I just did a quick analysis of all the search traffic on my site for the last month. The top query in the past 31 days was “No Child Left Behind”, accounting for just 36/14,064 (0.25%) of this month’s searches. The month before that, the top search was “effects of salt on plant growth” with a very strong 98/21,695 (0.452%) — and “No Child Left Behind” didn’t make even the top 100 with just 9/21,695 (0.042%).

    My site is likely to be something of an outlier — it’s an academic library. Search is pretty much our raison d’etre, but the topics being searched for vary wildly depending on what assignments the faculty hand out. And of course a lot of these things don’t have definitive answers. If 27 people search for “employee retention”, the resource that’s perfect some will be exactly wrong for others, depending on what they’re trying find out and why. And without knowing what they’re trying to find, it’s pretty hard to tune the web site to give them exactly that.

    It’s a good technique; I keep an eye on my search logs for that very reason. But once you’ve picked the low-hanging fruit, it gets less useful quickly.

    0
  15. 18

    The diagnostic phase really is the tricky bit to get past for some clients, isn’t it? Assessing the content in a bare-all context and realizing just how much improvement it needs. Like getting going on a big spring clean, it can be intimidating, but well worth the effort.

    Refreshing article here, I appreciate the perspective of an information architect.

    Cheers,
    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

    -1
  16. 19

    Love the use of illustration.. very nice..

    2
  17. 20

    Nice works.Thanks a lots.

    0
  18. 21

    Marco Giammetti

    May 16, 2012 11:20 pm

    “Your Website Is Not A Democracy” is one of the best line ever. Awesome post and great illustrations, thanks.

    1
  19. 22

    Marin Crnković

    May 17, 2012 12:16 am

    Excellent article, great illustrations, bookmarked

    -1
  20. 23

    While tuning is generally effective on “simple” websites like a college campus, a redesign may be required when you are looking at web applications. Other factors such as security, underlying server technology support and maintenance can force you into a complete code rewrite, at which point rethinking hierarchies and user tasks can lead to a superior end solution. In this situation perhaps counter intuitively redesigns can be cheaper, faster and improve websites dramatically.

    Of course this does depend at what point you consider something re-factoring / tuning and at what point you consider something a redesign, there is certainly a lot of grey area in my mind as to the definitions of these concepts.

    4
  21. 24

    Really enjoyed the article and loved the illustrations. The concept of ongoing tuning is one I firmly believe in, especially when looking at the speed of change in technology, for example. The starting point has to be good, of course.

    Full redesigns are really only necessary when, for example, a complete brand image change is needed and, for an educational establishment, I doubt that is something that will occur too often. Budgets are not easily come by and have to be justified!

    -1
  22. 25

    Wow. I really loved this one.

    Not every day do I get to be sad when I realize I am about to reach the end of an article.

    Great work!

    -1
  23. 26

    Nice work! redesigning or tuning your site depends on your priorities and if you only need some changes and with that the purpose is achieving than I think redesigning would be the great idea.

    Thanks for sharing a very comprehensive article.

    -1
  24. 27

    My takeaway from this is to make sure you know your strategy (for at least part of your site) and then work on tuning that incrementally. That tuning could take the form of fixing content, changing functionality, making the call to action cleaner, maybe it is even a redesign. But more importantly you need to be able to validate your strategy, so you’ll need to be collecting/looking at some metrics rather than just guessing what needs to be tuned. IMHO, there is always the temptation for the re-architecture of the whole solution, but even if you are doing that you need to bite off a small piece and have the new and old sit side by side while you validate/tune your new strategy.

    2
  25. 28

    Disagree completely. So basically we would be out of jobs then. If nobody needs to redesign and tune instead. I think tuning = shitty patches that will make matters worse.

    Redesigning is rebuilding with the things that went wrong in mind. Besides, things need to be current or should we “tune” our table design that was made 10 years ago?? lol

    -2
    • 29

      Done right, retuning is likely to generate more work for designers, not less. You’ll have an ongoing relationship with your clients as you hypothesize, test, measure and then start the loop again, rather than designing a site and leaving it for (say) 2 or 3 years before the next redesign.

      Pushing a redesign for the sake of securing more business is frankly shoddy cowboy behaviour.

      As for the table layout – *if* it’s working for the client, and retuning helps the company make more money, then why not leave it? It may not be ‘best practice’, but you have to go beyond ‘best practice’ to be anything other than average.

      5
  26. 30

    Really super article, just so well composed and illustrated.

    My feeling is that tuning helps when the underlying structure still fits the technology available today. With new technologies being refined everyday, you really need to decide whether it makes sense to shoe-horn new features or just re-design from the ground-up. Let’s face it, the ideal is always to minimize effort and increase performance and sometimes a tune-up just doesn’t cut it. The author points out some really key questions that can help figure out a diagnosis and treatment – thanks again.

    0
  27. 31

    I would guess that those things are on the front of a University website because they are more focused on potential students rather than current students. The goal seems to get them excited and feeling like it’s a community. Now I could see having a student portal that had immediate access to all those other, more important things.

    -2
  28. 32

    The bbc news page is an example of what Lou is saying here. I am a frequent visitor and if you go to different areas you’ll see how the less popular is the content the less updated they keep it. You can still see a 2001 website layout on some of the 2001 news pages, but if you got their football page it shows a quite updated version with lots of *enhancements”.

    Also the point of mixing users needs needs with business requirements couldn’t be more true, the proof is the thousands of badly designed websites that we see everyday and I’m talking about high-profile companies and above else all in the public sector.

    0
  29. 33

    Basically, this article is a very well-written, nicely illustrated restatement of Agile :-P

    -2
  30. 34

    I generally agree. I think ‘tuning” = paying due diligence to your analytic data. Use it as leverage and as a guide for content. Users know best, and hard numbers are a great way to wrangle the “website by committee” issues we all deal with when working on large scale websites. Nice article!

    0
  31. 35

    This is beautiful! The most simplistic method of approaching ux design improvements i’ve seen in a while!

    1
  32. 36

    Mr Rosenfeld is absolutely right.

    Our work (in partnership with Gerry McGovern’s Customer Carewords group) has demonstrated time and time again that there is a tiny sub-section of key tasks that people want to complete online, and a large group of ‘tiny tasks’ that are rarely of interest.

    This has held true on a vast array of large websites and intranets.

    For example in a recent project, we asked visitors to pick their top 5 tasks from 60 that were appropriate to the site.

    Results showed that three tasks accounted for almost 25% of votes, and the top 9 accounted for 50%. So 51 lesser tasks got the same vote as the 9 key ones.

    Of course a good visual redesign can be welcome too but only if it is underpinned by a site architecture and navigation system that supports site visitors’ top tasks slavishly. Site visitors are more impressed by being able to get things done quickly and easily than by a cool redesign.

    And how do you find out what their top tasks are? Ask them!

    2
  33. 37

    I readily agree with your views that redesigning a website is not necessary in all the cases. Redesigning a website depends on several market factors such as business needs, competitors, functionality issues and many more. Redesigning an entire website is a hectic and time consuming process, which is why you should first identify the problem areas. Identifying the problematic areas will assist you in reaching to a conclusion whether to redesign an entire website or to just work on the problem areas. For instance if your website has some issues concerning navigation then it is better to deal with that part instead of going for redesigning the entire website. This approach will save you a lot in terms of time and cost.

    3
  34. 38

    Very interesting article pointing out some rather important considerations when working with the web. I find, however, a problem with the near blanket ban on full scale redesigns.

    Rosenfeld points out a field which sadly goes largely untouched thoughout a web site’s lifespan, namely editing, tweaking and improving what’s there. I’d say there are a ton of websites out on the web which have elements which should be and very easily could be better than they are and tweaking the content, and other minor issues for what they are and thus fix those problems as minor problems.

    The question then is, when do you redesign? Why do you redesign?

    In my mind, the question that needs answering is: “does my/our site still do what it should do?” If yes, then tune/realign/optimize if no then redesign. Alternatively, if a redesign will save work in the future by being faster/easier/better than before the redesign process might still be worth it.

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  35. 39

    David Janssens

    May 20, 2012 1:30 am

    Excellent article. With the number of different specialties working alongside each other on a company website, this is a good example of how to improve your site just by putting people together.
    This is so common sense that many wouldn’t think of doing it.

    1
  36. 40

    I’ve seen this happen to several local organizations. They got a “new” website, the front page looks a little fancier, but it’s become much more difficult to get around and find the information. Some pages that used to have useful info are now blank. What was the point?

    0
  37. 41

    Point taken, I’ll stop redesigning now.

    Is it all right if I just redesign a little bit?

    0
  38. 42

    Just get Search Analytics for your Site by Rosenfeld. Pretty much right out of page 20….

    0
  39. 43

    Great articles. Not only useful to web site design, also useful to applications design.

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  40. 44

    thank you for this article, I have read it with great interest – I fully support the way of creating value to the users instead of any fancy design. Today, I have read this article in Wired UK which takes a different look at the same topic: using A/B testing to tweak your website: “Want to build a perfect website? Don’t trust the designers” [http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2012/06/features/the-ab-test]

    Who is doing that for intranets?

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  41. 45

    Getting back to the “head” and the “tail” concept, even those data needs to be vetted for relevance. I worked with a non profit client where the analysis showed visitors overwhelmingly hit the careers section. Several stakeholders took that to mean we needed to put more weight on Careers, even going so far as to suggest adding it to the global menu. So I asked them if they considered their core business activity to be recruitment (over providing their services to clients, constituents and donors). Though there was a bit of a debate, they eventually agreed that “careers” was not the thing they wanted to put heavy emphasis on. It was an interesting exercise. Thanks for the great article.

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  42. 46

    Ive come to favor targeted site improvements over full redesigns as well. One reason is that there’s been a rush to adopt the lean startup philosophy where we test hypotheses quickly and cheaply to gauge impact quickly before investing significant resources. I’ve been part of long drawn out redesigns that once launched didn’t move the needle as much as it should and like Lou said became stale quickly.

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  43. 47

    I do not get what is the problem of redesigning?

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