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Does Your Website Chase Trends or Conversions?

Oct 13, 2017
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On average a website is redesigned every two to three years. The way the process typically works is a business notices their competition has a new website, feels nervous and then goes in search of getting their site “updated.” While I do believe in staying current, this cycle of rebuilding a website over and over every few years ends up costing business owners a ton of money and typically delivers little to no impact on the overall business performance online.

The range in cost for a website redesign is pretty broad. It typically ranges between a few hundred dollars up to around $3000 if you plan on doing it yourself. If you hire an outside agency or freelancer, you can expect to spend about $4000 to $40000 depending on the size of your site. If you end up doing this every few years, the cost starts to add up. Getting a fresh new website feels great, but what if that website only looks good… but doesn’t deliver results?

Your website is the home base for all of your inbound and digital marketing activities. For many businesses, it’s the first or only place a customer or prospect interacts with them. Making significant design changes just because you feel like it is a dangerous move. There have been a number of large websites that did a design overhaul to “look trendy, ” and it backfired hugely. Here are three big fails uncovered in this excellent post from Kissmetrics.

  1. In 2010 the social bookmarking site Digg.com launched a website redesign that led to a 26% loss in web traffic.
  2. In an effort to mimic Gmail, Yahoo redesigned its email platform not once, but twice in less than one year. The October 2013 update, in particular, spawned a massive public uproar resulting in an online petition at Change.org with over 40,000 signatures to bring back the old design.
  3. CNN rolled out a website redesign that has since been met with much controversy and vitriol. According to CNN, the site updates focus largely on catering to the rise of social media and mobile readership. However, the updates have triggered outrage for some because of the slow load times and poorly constructed desktop navigation.

All three of these companies found out the hard way that chasing website trends is a dangerous move. This is why we are so adamant about promoting growth-driven design. Growth-Driven Design (GDD) is an entirely different way to design and manage your website experience. Instead of chasing the “next cool thing,” GDD helps you keep your site’s focus on what matters most, your users.

Growth-Driven Design is built on-top of the SCRUM agile process and weaves together various concepts into a comprehensive and highly effective web design methodology. In the same article mentioned above, Kissmetric talks about the power of evolutionary design against revolutionary design. Their idea of evolutionary design is very similar to GDD. According to the article, Evolutionary Redesign (ER) is the art and science of using strategic A/B testing to ensure your design updates lead to increases in conversions and revenue. Both GDD and ER look to deliver one thing, a website that is constantly evolving around the needs of the end user. This drives more engagement and conversions which lead to actual ROI.

What's the Problem with traditional Website Redesign?

There are a few things that are problematic with the “traditional” way of doing website redesigns. It doesn’t matter how great your designer is when you chase trends you set yourself up for more headaches than successes. Here are six core problems with a traditional website redesign.

  1. Hard to Determine What Actually Worked: When you change too much at once it makes it nearly impossible to determine what specific changes result in increases or decreases in conversions and revenue. Even if you manage to increase conversions for an updated page, this approach doesn’t leave room for exploring whether the success level can improve further. When you test individual page elements, you have the ability to push the conversion rate even higher.
  2. Design Can’t Work Miracles: A website redesign is not a magical cure-all for a flawed business model or declining sales. When times get rough, many think redesigning will solve their problems, but that’s irresponsible wishful thinking. In fact, most designers don’t have a lot of experience in UX design. Many website designers obsess over the smaller elements that don’t typically make a huge impact. While text and color are important, without testing, you don’t really get to know what your end user prefers.
  3. Traditional Website Redesign Overlooks Your Analytics: Designing in an artistic vacuum doesn’t allow for the collection and analysis of your data. If you have had any type of analytics set up on your site, that information is essential and should impact your design. Using your data, you can help you better understand what KPIs you want to measure and improve and build your site around those.
  4. Traditional Website Overhauls Take Way Too Long: Major redesigns can take many months if not longer. With how fast the internet is changing and updating, by the time your new “cool” site gets online, it might not be so trendy anymore.
  5. Design by Committee is Disastrous: Design is subjective, and opinions on what is right or wrong will vary depending on whom you ask. Everyone will give you an opinion if you ask. But it’s your user's opinion that matters most. You need to let analytics and A/B testing drive all design decisions. 
  6. Traditional Website Redesign Can Hurt Your SEO Rankings. One of the most substantial negative impacts of a redesign is losing domain authority and SEO rankings. This leads to drop-offs in traffic and revenue. Even carefully executed redesigns can result in SEO taking a nosedive. I’ve seen some sites jump into a redesign, change URLs strings and alter content as well as on-page elements so much that they lose much of their hard earned search visibility. (Doing a redesign? Avoid these SEO mistakes.)

The Benefits of Growth-Driven Design

There are a number of benefits to using Growth-Driven Design methodology when building or redesigning your website. Here are the top three benefits to using GDD.

  1. Minimized Risk:The first benefit of GDD is that it reduces the risks associated with traditional web design. By taking a systematic approach to shorten the time to launch, focusing on real impact and continuous learning and improvement, we are able to minimize if not remove the risks associated with the traditional process.
  2. Continuous Improvement: With GDD, we are continually researching, testing and learning about our visitors to inform on-going website improvements. Through continuous improvements, we can reach peak website performance. 
  3. More Informed Marketing and Sales:Growth-Driven Design tightly integrates with all of your marketing & sales efforts. The insights uncovered about your visitors help inform and improve marketing & sales strategies and tactics (and vice versa).

While there are many flaws with the traditional approach to website design, most agencies and freelancers still use this method. It’s clear that taking an agile approach like GDD creates significantly more benefit and momentum for both the business and their users. So why doesn’t everyone move away from the old way? Well, I think the biggest reason many don’t use GDD is that it’s hard. Taking the time to wade through data and do user testing on different elements is not for the faint of heart. It can be “rewarding” to see all the changes made at once, but what’s the real cost?

As we’ve seen above, taking an agile, interactive approach to redesigning a website tends to deliver a better product for everyone. Sure, you may not get a fancy new design, but instead, your website will continuously evolve to serve the needs and wants of your end user. Following what’s “in” or “trendy” is a dangerous move. GDD helps you focus on the metrics that will deliver real value to your end users and your business.

Website Redesign Project Plan

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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