Given the pace at which people-based targeting and audience management are evolving in paid media channels, it is surprising how little the site redesign process has changed during the same period of time.
Brands seem to be stuck in a cycle where they redesign their websites every 4-5 years to “catch up” to their competitors and to update their technology platforms. This model typically uses very little insight from site data to support changes to the design – often resulting in a new, unfamiliar, and jarring experience for the user – resulting in decreased site conversion.
Meanwhile, agencies and system integrators rarely look to other approaches, for the simple reason that the traditional redesign approach (“out with the old, in with the new”) allows their teams to flex their creative muscles, keep expensive resources busy for 12-15 months, and bring in large amounts of revenue.
How effective can an approach be if it takes a year to get into market and often relies on the subjective opinion of a creative director or a few focus group respondents? Considering that brands rely on the site to convert customers coming through paid media, waiting 12-15 months for a new site must be an unacceptable approach. Right?
The “out with the old, in with the new” approach is broken, and it’s time for change.
A new approach
Access to advanced site analytics, new technology platforms, and a new generation of marketers focused on performance marketing has given rise to evolutionary site redesign (ESR). ESR is an approach which allows iterative changes to be made to the site over time, with focus first placed on the most impactful pages and content experiences which drive business KPIs. With this approach, new content and experiences are tested against different site audiences, and learnings from each test are used to inform future releases and optimize previous pages. This type of iterative approach allows the site to evolve over time, continuously being optimized with each cycle.
The benefits of ESR include:
- Faster time to market, with less budget required up-front
- Functionality and content are optimized using actual site traffic, not influenced through opinions or a designer’s cognitive bias
- Pages are quickly optimized to increase paid media conversion, versus having to wait 12+ months
- New technology can be integrated over time, keeping a site from becoming obsolete the day it launches
- Brands realize value from their investment immediately, versus being forced to wait months while their new site is being redesigned
ESR allows brands to generate value almost immediately. While the traditional redesign generates no ROI prior to launch and takes a year to launch, the iterative nature of ESR enables brands to get to market quickly, continuously optimize customer conversion, and ultimately, generate ROI almost immediately. The chart below compares the ROI driven by both approaches in the first 12 months:
Traditional Site Redesign failures in the Real World
Target and Yahoo! Mail are just a few of the major brands who relied on opinion, creative bias, and qualitative research to inform creative, messaging, and UX decisions in creation of their new websites. The rollout of their new sites sparked criticism from loyal customers, and ultimately resulted in lower conversion metrics as customers slowly adapted to the new experience. While Target never officially released specific metrics, a spokesperson later said, “We plan additional changes to our design and features, and will track guest response and make adjustments along the way.” Sounds to me like they learned about the value of ESR only after the initial site launch.
Regardless of the approach you decide to take, any good site redesign process should begin by understanding how your site is performing today and identifying friction points that are causing drop-off. Using your site data and analytics to provide insights is a great first step toward improving your site experience.