Website Refresh vs. Full Website Redesign


In our recent posts, “How Long Does a Business Website Last
Before it Needs to be Replaced/Redesigned?
” and “How often do you need to redo your website?” we talked about the possibility of extending the life of your current website through a refresh, rather than a full redesign. Today, we’re going to take a look at how a website refresh and a website redesign are different, and the scenarios in which each of them should be applied.

What is a website refresh?

What we refer to as a “website refresh,” others may call “re-skinning” a website. If your website were a house, a refresh might involve repainting, adding a skylight, and replacing the kitchen cabinets. Essentially, a website refresh would typically leave the core of your website’s functionality and code intact, but giving it a new look. This could be something as simple as changing a few colors and adding your new logo, or it could be more drastic, like an entire new base theme or template.

What is a full website redesign?

A full website redesign refers to overhauling all, or nearly all, of the code and look of a website. Using the house metaphor, in this case, we would tear down the old house and build a new one in its place, perhaps keeping the plumbing and electrical hookups.

When is it a good idea to consider a website refresh?

Here are some of the scenarios when a website refresh could make sense:

  • You recently completed a full redesign of your website (in the past year or two) and just want to spruce up the look, without majorly restructuring your content.
  • Your visitors are generally able to get where they want to go, but you want to improve conversion, push certain content, or reduce your bounce rate.
  • You’re happy with your content management system, and you’re not frustrated with the content editing process, or what you can or can’t edit.
  • You just got a new logo or developed new brand standards and you want your website to be consistent with your new look (which is a very good idea). For more information on this, check out our posts “How do I create digital marketing brand standards?” and “Should you update your brand collateral to match your new website?
  • Your website isn’t working well on your new smartphone (or perhaps any smartphone), and you need to add responsive design or adjust your responsive design for new technology. The caveat here is that depending on how your website has been coded, this may actually call for a full redesign, rather than a refresh.

When is it a good idea to consider a full website redesign?

Here are some examples when a full website redesign would benefit you more than a website refresh:

  • It’s been three or more years since you last redesigned your website. Technology changes fast and rather than try to shoehorn in support for the latest browsers and devices, it can often make sense to incorporate them from the get-go.
  • Your visitors are frustrated with your website and are unable to find the information they need.
  • Your business goals or messaging have changed significantly.
  • You find it difficult to edit your website, or you are frustrated with your content management system.
  • You don’t have a content management system (CMS). A CMS allows you to separate your content and structure from the code that defines the appearance of your website. If you don’t have this separation, it can be very difficult to do a website refresh, or take equally as much time to do a refresh as it would to do a full redesign. In this case, we would highly recommend a full redesign on a content management system.
  • Your website doesn’t have responsive design. Often, when a website is designed without any responsive or mobile compatibility considerations, the code will be structured in a way that it requires nearly an entire overhaul to become responsive.
  • You hate your website.

Other Considerations

Here are a few other things that can impact your decision to refresh or redesign your website:

  • Budget: A refresh is almost always less expensive than a full redesign. That said, a refresh can be a nice stopgap on the road to a full redesign. It’s also important to keep in mind that if you go for a website refresh when a full website redesign would have been a better option, it will almost always cost you more in the long run, in the form of lost leads and business.
  • Time: A full website redesign will require more time and attention from you and your team, depending on your desired level of involvement. If you’re too busy to dedicate much thought to your website redesign, it may make sense to do a short-term refresh of your existing site, and then when you have a little more time, go for the redesign.
  • Security, slow load times and errors: Often, these types of issues can be rectified through code and content optimization, malware scanning, firewalls, or general troubleshooting. However, if your website is running on an inherently insecure or unstable platform, it may make sense to simply do a full redesign.

Final Thoughts

We generally recommend that you do a full website redesign every 2-3 years, with a refresh every year, or about halfway between your redesigns. With smart coding, strong brand standards and a good content strategy (and content management system), this will ensure that your website always looks modern, is highly usable, and will perform well for your business.

Want to discuss your options for a website refresh or a website redesign?

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