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The Managers where I work tend to want to redesign the website every year or so. Different layouts, color schemes, etc.

I think they look at it so often they want to freshen it up and give it a new look.

I personally think it is a bad idea to change the color scheme because there is so much involved when doing this for a huge site. You not only have to change the CSS files, but any image files that are used for layout, any flash content, etc. Otherwise you will have many element with the old color scheme and not matching the new color scheme.

What do you guys think, would a fresh new look every year, be beneficial or are there ways it could hurt you? Is it worth the effort?

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It really shouldn't be that hard to change the color scheme for a site, even a large site. If the code is written properly, it should be very simple. Exchanging images is not as big of a deal as you seem to make it out to be here. And a well-designed site isn't going to use flash for styling - it should only be used for dynamic content, so color scheme shouldn't matter for those. –  Charles Boyung Feb 21 '11 at 21:14
    
@Charles Boyung, If you have several RIAs in your site, that all follow the color scheme of the main site, then when the main sites color scheme changes they will no longer "fit". I am not talking about using flash for styling. Never the less, I was not asking if this was a valid reason not to redesign the website. I was asking for other things to consider, like disorienting users. –  JD Isaacks Feb 21 '11 at 21:28
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redesign only to fix usability issues, or just make things better. Re-style for that fresh (and modern) look every so often; and little things can make a world of difference. This won't have much of a effect on the users unless you have a fairly large core user base. Typically (for them) style is always good, but re-design can be met with tar and feathers even when it's obviously for the best. Anyway, this question does not have a straight up answer; it depends on too many factors. –  srcspider Feb 21 '11 at 22:48
    
@srcspider thanks for the info. –  JD Isaacks Feb 21 '11 at 22:53
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Remember, owners of a site get bored a /lot/ quicker than users do. –  ICR Feb 22 '11 at 9:51

7 Answers 7

I don't think it's meaningful to redesign a site regularly just to make it look different. A complete redesign effectively wipes off everything how users are accustomed to use the site. Most of the regular users hate changes in software because it makes them slower than before, hunting for the information/controls they are looking for.

To justify a redesign you should be fixing major usability issues. After the redesign you may want to implements possible further fixes incrementally, to cause as few big changes as possible.

Take Google for an example. They have millions of users that will notice every change, so whenever Google is changing something it does it slowly, one tiny incremental change at a time.

Actually, there is a good UX Myths' post about the very issue.

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+1 for "To justify a redesign you should be fixing major usability issues." The other reason for a redesign might be to evoke a stronger emotional response from your audience. But everything involved in a redesign should be based off of something you've learned about the previous design. –  Steve Wortham Feb 22 '11 at 0:47

If you have to change the look of a webpage then the original design has flaws, but ever so often, CEOs or other "non technical" personnel want's to freshen up a page with new colors etc. Instead - the page should have a platform that works, and to add something fresh - change the top banner, add news, put a Facebook connection so that the page feels alive...

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Re-designs for the sake of it can be overkill. There's a high risk of confusing your users, and even if they figure out what they're doing, it will negatively affect their perception of the site and the business who own it.

However, there could be a chance for you to turn this interfering tendency of your managers to the advantage of both the users and your employers.

Carry out user-testing on the site, and gather feedback from those users. Consider surveying your existing users to hear how they feel about using the site. Present your managers with the information and come up with a list of changes to the site to benefit the user.

Also, it's worth identifying which links are the most important to your users, and are used the most. You'd want to think very carefully before moving those, and decide if it's justified.

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You should never redesign your whole page just because you want to "fresh it up a bit". It's going to cost the company money and (especially if you do it every year) users will quickly get confused or annoyed by this.

Just look at big sites, like YouTube. They put a lot of work in designing, redesigning and optimizing the page for all it's users, but everytime they change something (major), users complain a lot.

When users come (back) to your site and they see a new design, they will most certainly not think "Wow, cool new look! I will play around with it!", but rather "Where did they put [Insert functionality or navigation here]? It was just there yesterday!"

So anyway, redesigns may look fancy and new, but more important is the functionality and structure of the site.

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Based on what I interpret from your description of the managers the website seems to be more a vanity exercise for their/the company's ego than a driver of business.

In this regard you are speaking an entirely different language than they are. Your emphasis on value-add and experiential impact and risk/cost mitigation, while 100% appropriate and expected from someone in your role, is sadly an approach that will continue to fall on deaf ears.

I think this is an example of the HIPPO problem, where the Highest Paid Person In The Room sets the upper-threshold of quality that the rest of the team is empowered to produce.

So for your original question, I doubt that there are any business metrics that are negatively impacted by this so, empirically, in this case, it would not be a "bad thing".

But that's not to say it's "right" or even "not a horrible approach to a web presence". But I doubt that anything other than angst and frustration will result from your attempts to shift the management mentality toward a more tactical, cost/benefit-based approach to your web efforts.

I wish you the best of luck.

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I would not redesign yearly. Updating, debugging, and color tweaking from time to time, done properly, might work. This would keep the website looking fresh as long as the interface usability is consistent.

If the page layout is changed, returning customers will become aggravated. It's sort of like when you go the same grocery store at a different location and waste precious time searching for everything instead of just walking into the general area of the store that you normally shop in.

Also the internet is constantly changing. First there was Facebook, then Twitter, and now Instagram. Links would need to added, removed and maybe even upgraded. Design colors change yearly, so that could be a good way to refresh a website. Maybe change an accent color, always carefully and with much research.

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Your site's appearance should really only change as often as your branding does. For most organizations, this only happens every few years.

If your design looks dated, it is possible to modernize it while still keeping true to the original (look at Slashdot, it has a modernized look of the same design its had for 14+ years... ok, maybe only slightly modernized). Maybe you want to flatten those gradients because they are so last year, or add drop shadows because they are back in style. As long as the site still feels the same and nothing has been moved around, changes like these are unlikely to change the user's browsing experience in any meaningful way.

It may make sense for websites belonging to artistic types to periodically change the look and feel of their site (even though they may not have a company letterhead, there is still a certain amount of branding associated with them). I don't know if this is still done, but I've seen bands/solo artists change their site's appearance to match their current album cover (new albums are typically released once a year).

Generally speaking, users are resistant to change (even if it is for the better!). If you do need to do it, make sure your reasons for doing so make sense.

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