Since the dawn of the web age, companies have been trapped in the website redesign cycle.
Every five years or so, a CXO decides the site design is looking “tired” and needs to be re-thought. Often the company pays little consideration to whether the new design will improve results. “It’s new,” they’ll think, “so it must be better, right!?”
Many have been fooled into believing that a website redesign will improve conversions and revenue. It’s common to assume that a slick new design that follows the accepted “best practices” of the day will increase customer trust and your sales rates.
That is a false hope.
And that’s not the only problem with website redesign projects.
The Risky Website Redesign Approach
Unfortunately, the creative process used by most agencies and marketing departments don’t consider risk mitigation.
To understand your risk exposure, think about the number of individual changes that are made during a redesign. Multiply that by the depth of change for each element. Imagine for a moment the laundry list of changes proposed during a creative meeting.
You’ll change the home page headline, imagery, site-wide template layout, navigation bar design, fonts, shopping cart or form layouts, and many more.
When do you discuss the risk of all these changes? Maybe some of those changes help conversions, and some probably hurt. How do you know which have positive or negative effect?
In most cases that discussion about risk-mitigation doesn’t happen.
Marketers usually go into a redesign without a process in place to test the page templates and landing pages that are being changed. There’s no system put in place to monitor and justify those changes against key conversion metrics.
Mitigating these risks can only be done with a rigorous conversion optimization strategy. It requires a process that includes understanding the target audience, prioritizing test hypotheses to solve issues obstructing conversions, setting up controlled split tests, and analyzing insights from data to make informed changes.
Companies that are using a structured process that include A/B/n split testing as part of a conversion optimization strategy, like WineExpress, Iron Mountain, Electronic Arts and BabyAge.com, are getting significant sales lift while reducing risk.
In fact, eConsultancy reports that companies with a structured approach for conversion optimization are twice as likely to have seen a large increase in sales as others.
The Better Approach: Evolutionary Site Redesign
Testing, and a proven system to execute testing for design changes, is critical for today’s online marketer. The risk of making substantial website changes without it is too great not to.
This approach to website redesign is something I call “Evolutionary Site Redesign” or ESR.
The truth is that a dramatic, “revolutionary” redesign is dangerous for most companies.
It’s not that you don’t need a redesign. You probably do. But a better, and less risky, approach involves a process of testing with incremental (and often dramatic) improvements. This ESR approach gives a better visitor experience and results versus the traditional throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater method.
ESR Gives Continuous Results Improvement
There are two major differences between ESR and the traditional “Revolutionary Site Redesign” (RSR) approach:
- It’s Faster
After a traditional website redesign, marketing departments are usually so fed-up with the process that they’ll gladly wait another 5 years before trying again. Or else, they may spend the next 6 months scrambling to fix the conversion rate drop with their new site. ESR, in contrast, creates a system of continuous improvement so your website is always leading the pack. The traditional website redesign cycle of under-performance
- Success criteria
“Gut feeling” and reliance on the so-called “best practices” of designers and UX practitioners rules in a traditional redesign. While the team may be talented, no batter hits .1000 and many of their changes are likely to hurt website results. With ESR, every change is measured in controlled A/B/n split tests against its effect on business goals.
The RSR approach leaves your website lacking and continuously falling behind in the intervals between major redesigns. But, with ESR, your website will continuously keep up and surpass the success of the rest of the web.
ESR essentially uses conversion rate optimization principles to redesign your site.
How ESR Eliminates Epic Website Redesigns
By adopting the evolutionary site redesign approach you can guard against website redesign risks while dramatically improving your website every day.
With ESR, your website will continuously keep up and surpass the success of the rest of the web. Once you’ve defined your websites goals clearly, you can test and continuously optimize to improve on them.
ESR works by implementing a system of continuous A/B split testing throughout your entire website and digital marketing. Rather than relying on the gut-feeling and flawed intuition of an art director, your website decisions should be made against the crucible of customer actions.
You should test everything in your marketing:
- Site-wide design styles
- Logo, header and tagline
- Product page templates
- Landing page design & content
- Your product or service value proposition statements
- Lead generation forms, shopping cart and checkout
- Home page design, eyeflow, merchandising
- Imagery, copywriting, ads, calls to action, and offers
- And everything in-between!
Booking.com, for example, should be continuously updating their design by testing the major site-wide elements that combine to create their look & feel: header, nav, PCTA, headlines, repeating listing areas, etc.
At WiderFunnel, we’ve developed a continuous improvement system to drive the ESR process for companies. It leverages great thinkers who have gone before us and adapts the scientific method for website practicalities.
The system ensures that website test iterations are driven by solving customer problems identified in the heuristic LIFT Analysis, voice of customer data and web analytics data (like Crazy Egg click heatmaps), rather than just creative aesthetics.
The Top 5 Reasons to Use ESR
Here’s why ESR is the future of website un-redesign:
- You get a new site “look and feel” and conversion rate lift at the same time
- You learn which elements actually improve results
- You maintain your team’s focus on the important business metrics rather than “aesthetic” redesign
- Your website never faces lags in results in-between redesigns
- You avoid the risks of a “Revolutionary” site redesign
What do you think?
Have you experienced the post-website-redesign conversion rate drop? What barriers does your organization face to redesign by testing?
Latest posts by Chris Goward (see all)
- How a Pro CRO Uses Crazy Egg Heatmaps to Drive 15.7% More Sales - October 22, 2014
- Never Redesign Your Website Without This Strategy! - January 15, 2014