I have had a number of people ask me to help them with their web site redesigns/re-development because they are unhappy with how their current site looks. Usually I hear one of two comments:
- “I have been using this design for x years and I need a complete redesign.”
- “X in the company is complaining he cannot find anything on our web site.”
What most people fail to realize is that there are a lot of ways to revive aging web sites that are quick and easy – and best of all – do not require the users to completely relearn an interface. Successful web sites are successful, not because they constantly change, but because they constantly improve and build on their existing layout – and there is a big difference.
Two successful web sites in my opinion:
Why are these web sites successful? They have a strong foundation (navigation, general layout, content placement) and instead of doing complete redesigns, they have made tweaks, added new features, and addressed any problem areas over time. When users go to either of these web sites they know exactly what to expect – and users like that. Unless the web site is a complete disaster, the users would much prefer to have small fixes and general user interface changes than to have to relearn (and re-define new problem areas) something completely new.
So back to the quotes above…next time you think your company or personal web site needs a complete overhaul take a step back. Ask yourself if there are some small changes that you could make before you scrap what you already have. Perhaps you just need to move the search box, re-work the navigation, or change a few graphics to freshen it up a bit. If find yourself with someone constantly complain about something – sit down with them or talk to them regarding their issues and remember – not everyone will be happy with your user interface. It is always best to do surveys and to look at your log files with something like Summary or Google Analytics to see what people are searching for, what pages they enter and exit on, and what pages get the fewest and most page views. This data will help you highlight the most frequently referenced information as well as point out what users do not find important, or just cannot find.
To wrap it up:
- A little goes a long way. Take small steps to improve your existing framework (as long as it does not look like 1997 got stuck on your web site) Users like feeling comfortable.
- Talk to your users to find out what they like and do not like. Education works both ways.
- Use tools that will show you traffic trends so you have some concrete data to work with.