Site life: complete overhaul or gradual changes?

Recently a new client asked me during one of our initial meetings, “How long do you think this site will last before we need to create a new site?” This is an important question and one clients ponder upon often.  But instead of asking, “How long?” we recommend asking, “How can I ensure my site evolves and adapts as time passes? How can my site better target and reach users?”

Rather than planning on a site redesign in 3-5 years, we encourage our clients to consistently evaluate their site, how it works and how it can be improved. We empower clients to do this by setting up Google Analytics, a little piece of code that packs a lot of punch. Every day your site is up and you’re concentrating on your business, Google Analytics works diligently behind the scenes gathering information about users: how many visits; how long do users stay on the site; how many pages does the user visit per trip; how does the user get to the site (organic search, reference, direct search)?

By evaluating and responding to the information gathered by Google Analytics, a site can be adjusted and improved upon. As an example, one of our clients, for whom we designed and developed a site several years ago, reached out to us about how to improve their site recently. Since the initial site launch, the message and brand hadn’t changed. What had changed was the increased traffic from mobile and tablet, making it important to not only have a site accessible on mobile and tablet, but to have a site that is optimized for mobile and tablet.  While revisiting the site and coding the pages to be responsive, we evaluated the metrics to determine what other areas of the site could be improved upon. One area in which we saw room for improvement was the homepage, which had an overall bounce rate (a “bounce” is when a user goes to a page on the site and then leaves without visiting any other pages) of 57.8%, which is considered reasonable, but not excellent. By making the site responsive and adjusting the content on the homepage to incite more client interaction and interest, the homepage bounce rate dropped to 38.4%. Overall bounce rate on mobile dropped to 43.5% from 56.9% (note that a bounce rate of 50-70% is considered decent depending upon the circumstances and a bounce rate below 50% is considered excellent).

Design trends change. User approaches change. Devices change (remember old flip phones?).  Ultimately, a site will need to change. The choice is whether to make one big, expensive overhaul that starts from scratch or to make gradual, studied, research-driven changes that adapt to how users engage the site. Both approaches can be successful, but in our experience the latter ultimately creates a site that is more effective in reaching and engaging target users.


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