It’s immensely hard to keep up with the rapid pace of development in technology. Moore’s law, the assertion made in the 70’s form Intel’s co-founder Gordon Moore that the number of transistors inside an integrated circuit would double every two years, has been proven true in the last 4 decades or so, with Intel themselves finally putting the brakes just a couple years ago. In layman’s terms, Moore’s law states that technology advances at an exponential rate, instead of going 1-2-3-4-5; it goes 1-2-4-8-16.
Here’s an illustration. Say a 20-year old college kid from 2018 is transported back to the 1998. See how well he could cope with a 56k dial-up connection, no WhatsApp, no Maps and music that only came in discs. Now take a 20-year old college kid from 1998 and transport him back to 1978 and see how he’d do. Sure, adapting to DOS instead of Windows might take some time but all-in-all; I’m willing to bet he’s coping much better compared to the one from 2018.
Moore’s law from the perspective of web development
In the world of web development, which hadn’t even properly existed 2 decades ago, the rate of progress is just as rapid. First, we’ve got simple static webpages, then as functionality get added into the web, the term web application entered our vernacular. Palm and other personal digital assistants included a native web browser in their repertoire but it wasn’t until iPhone 3G came out with Safari on board that mobile web browsing was finally considered seriously.
In the last few years, we’ve had responsive web design and progressive web apps emerging as more proof in how the mobile web experience has emerged as the primary platform. Even though the world hasn’t fully adapted to this trend yet, our tech overlords have begun implementing VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) into the web with the goal of further enhancing the mobile web experience. This begs the question, just how often companies have to redesign their website to keep up with this?
To update or to redesign?
What’s broken can always be fixed, but what’s fixed will always be broken. Very zen-like isn’t it? What this means is that even though you can update your website as often as you would to keep up with the latest development, at some point you’re going to have to pull the plug and start over from scratch. Some changes are so fundamental that it’s more efficient to head back to the drawing board instead of adding more things to your current website.
The problem is, knowing precisely when to redesign your website is somewhat of a puzzle. Website redesign takes an incredible amount of work and even if you have the best of intentions, it is rarely, if ever, taken well by the users. It can be slightly disheartening to see that your meticulously planned redesign is responded with a Change.org petition from your users asking you to reconsider your design.
Times you have to consider a redesign
While the word redesign itself implies an aesthetic rework, a web redesign isn’t exclusively about looks. Google for example still uses the same basic aesthetics they’ve used in the last 15 years or so but the results page have gone through a lot of changes, additions and other improvements compared to the one I used for homework in middle school. In fact, there are other times that signify when you should redesign your website, as detailed below:
- Due to technological progress
Just because they’re not immediately visible to the naked eye though, doesn’t mean they don’t warrant a redesign. The under-the-hood improvements they bring are usually useful enough to at least consider a redesign.
- Your website pales in comparison to your competitor’s
Either aesthetically or functionally, if one or more of your competitors’ website has started to outshine your website, that’s your cue to start considering a redesign. If you’re not in the habit of checking your competitor’s website, then you might want to start now. I’ve heard cases of businesses not taking seriously the importance of checking your competition before it’s too late.
For an actual case study, look at what happened to car manufacturers in America. They haven’t paid much attention to Tesla in the early years and now Tesla’s network of electrical charging station, the aptly-named Supercharger, is the envy of the industry. Website redesign takes time so the cost of not realizing just how far ahead your competitors are in front of you is going to get amplified.
- Due to increasingly critical feedback from users
If you’re not receiving any feedback at all, have the non-technical member of your team/company or anyone else you know who’s not as technologically savvy to test your website and act as some sort of a beta tester. It is important you hear some feedback from someone who isn’t part of the industry as they are a rough representative of the typical user.
- Your website stops working properly
This is pretty obvious but if your website starts showing broken image icons instead of the actual images, then it’s time to consider a redesign. That’s the downside of constantly updating your website, the underlining code would just get stressed to a point that it would start to slow down and eventually stops working properly.
- Your business has experienced some recent growth and/or changes
Case in point, Netflix. Netflix started in the late 90’s as a DVD rental business but then pivoted into a video streaming service back in 2007 and now regularly makes their own films and series on top of acquired programming. Obviously, when you switched from mailing DVDs out to your customer to a YouTube-like service, your website is going to need rebuilding from the ground up, which they duly did.
One last thing to note, a website redesign has to be properly planned. Even after the design and development process is done, do not implement this right away, publish it locally first and have your team works out all the kinks before going publicly live. Take note of the case of Microsoft and their problematic Windows updates. One of their recent updates apparently bricked some customer’s PC, forcing users to rollback to previous version of Windows.