When your website isn’t doing as well as you’d like, you have options. You can live with it. You can invest in a full redesign. But the best choice may lie between these extremes. You can get a site refresh, giving it a better look and snappier performance. Many sites can gain huge benefits from simple changes.

There are times when you need to bite the bullet and start all over. If your site was more thrown together than designed, there’s a point where it’s no longer worth fixing it. But if its basics are sound and it mostly works, it shouldn’t take that much to deal with its shortcomings.

What’s involved in a website refresh?

If a full redesign is like tearing out the walls of your house and replacing everything, a refresh is like repainting and putting in new carpets. The basics remain the same, but the difference in appeal is huge. If you decide in the end that you don’t like the changes, you can do another round without going insane.

When you get your website refreshed, the basic structure and most of the content stay as they are. The main focus is on the site’s appearance. The changes will make it look more modern and more readable. Often the biggest issue is making it usable on mobile devices, and that may be easier than you think.

You may want to make some parts more easily reachable. This could be as simple as adding a menu or reorganizing the ones you have. Reworking the sidebar is an easy way to draw attention to important parts of the site. Adding links or merging pages will reduce the number of clicks visitors need to make.

The cost and risk are low. It could take just a couple of hours to give a site a new look, or a few days to do simple reorganization. You can make the changes incrementally, fixing the colors in one round and the menus or banner in another.

How does a CMS help your choices?

Most websites today are based on content management systems (CMS), such as WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. If you’re using one, you can make major changes in your site’s look with little effort. The site’s theme dictates the presentation of its content, and you can drop in a different theme to change its look. You’ll need to test the site to make sure the change didn’t cause any problems, but the effort isn’t huge.

You can usually customize a theme. By making some simple adjustments to it, you can change fonts, colors, menus, and sidebars to look the way you want. Themes aren’t the solution to every problem, but it’s surprising how much some changes to them can do for a site.

When do you need a full redesign?

It isn’t always that easy, of course. If a lot of things on the site don’t work right and you have a large list of features to add, changing the existing design might be harder than adopting a new one. This happens most often when your site was never really designed to begin with but was just thrown together and added to.

Another situation that favors a complete redesign is a major change in your business’s focus. The purpose it was designed for may be a lot different from what you’re doing today. In that case, a “refresh” could end up changing almost everything.

Age alone doesn’t tell you whether you need a complete overhaul. Some people will tell you that you should start from the ground up every three or four years, but if it meets your needs, you don’t have to. It’s only when incremental improvements stop helping that you have to consider more serious changes.

Fully redesigning your website is a serious project that will take weeks. It requires careful testing, and it may need further changes after being used for a while. Your customers will have to get used to a new look and organization. You’ll need to plan its rollout carefully.

What does a site refresh give you?

It may not take much to get a new look. If you use a CMS, a theme change will update the appearance of all your pages at once. Even without changing the theme, you can customize its styles to modernize the appearance. A new layout or updated fonts and colors can make a huge difference for little effort.

Responsive design is important for broad appeal. A responsive website is one that looks good on small screens as well as big ones, adjusting the display to its environment. If your current site isn’t responsive, a change in theme may be enough to get you there.

Part of responsive design and good performance is adjusting image sizes to avoid waste. If your site’s images are all 3600 x 3600 pixels, you’re wasting a lot of bandwidth putting them on a phone’s screen. Modern techniques let you send images that better fit their destination. The result is faster page loading.

How do you decide?

Don’t order a full redesign unless you really need it. Some reasons it might be necessary include these:

  • Your site has many problems and is hard to maintain.
  • Performance is bad, and easy fixes don’t help.
  • The site no longer fits your business needs.
  • Support for it is no longer available.

If those issues don’t come into play, a website refresh could be enough. It can give you things like these:

  • A more modern look
  • Mobile-friendly pages
  • Updates in navigation
  • Fixes to performance bottlenecks

Enumerate the problems your existing site has and the improvements you’d like to make. Figure out whether you can do them all with incremental changes. If you can, the decision is easy. If some are possible only with a full rewrite, decide how badly you need them and how soon. Lay out a plan that will give you the best results for a reasonable cost.

Whether the changes you need are big or small, we can help you to bring your website up to date with your needs. Get in touch with us to arrange a consultation.