The traditional approach to site redesign has been “revolutionary design”, or reinventing the look and feel, every 5 or so years. However, there is no guarantee that a new website will result in increased engagement or conversion rates.

Website redesigns should be done with purpose, and focus on changing only what analytics data proves to not be working. Evolutionary Site Redesign (ESR) allows incremental changes to be made over time, as opposed to an all-or-nothing site overhaul.

The Dangers of a Complete Redesign

Many companies choose to redesign simply because their look and feel is out of date, or they want to take advantage of hip new trends, like responsive design or long scroll. With the rapidly shifting landscape of digital media, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to adapt quickly to emerging trends in an effort to keep up with the competition.

Unfortunately, when the entire focus of a site redesign is on aesthetics or keeping up with the Joneses, you are bound for failure. Unless you have verifiable data to back up your decisions, it’s impossible to confirm that a complete overhaul will work in your favor, regardless of how stunning the visual appearance.

The fallout from drastic website redesigns have been well documented. In 2010, the popular social bookmarking site Digg lost 26% of its site traffic following a major site overhaul that did not go over well with it’s loyal user base.

Benefits of Evolutionary Site Redesign

What most brands need is an updated UX/UI that simultaneously adheres to industry best practices, and contributes to overarching business goals. The later can only be accomplished by analyzing analytics data to pinpoint areas for improvement.

The crux of ESR is performing continual A/B testing, one element at a time. This approach ensures you don’t hit your loyal consumer base with a jarring new user experience that is off putting or confusing, and eliminates the risky practice of making sweeping global site changes with no promise of success.

Challenges of Evolutionary Site Redesign

ESR is a fairly new concept, and requires a drastic shift in the way brands think about their online businesses. A true ESR strategy may require several years to carry out, and requires a dedicated budget for continual testing, conversion rate optimization and site maintenance.

Many clients hire web consultants for the sole purpose of getting a website designed and developed as quickly as possible, which makes building a case for a long-term commitment to incremental updates a hard sell.

When Should a Brand Opt for ESR?

Any company that relies on its website for sustained viability and growth would be wise to adopt the ESR philosophy. The Digg example should ring loud and clear to any company with a large online user base that contributes to a large portion of its revenue.

When considering how to budget for ESR, it’s important to think about how risk and reward come into play. On one hand, it’s expensive to retain a web consultant for an extended period of time. However, the expense could pale in comparison to what could be lost from a botched redesign effort (ask Digg).

Wrapping Up

Don’t let the success of your online business be determined by a design-happy client, or internal team that is pushing for a site redesign in record time.

As excited as you are to spice up your website with a snazzy new look and feel, it’s important to remember that form must always follow function, and every change to your UI can have major impacts on conversion rates.

An intelligent ESR methodology requires a lot of patience, but the results will be increased efficiency, effectiveness and return on investment.

by Fuze May 19, 2014