Redevelop vs. Refresh: A Guide to Updating Your Website

If you visit our website with any frequency, you’ve noticed that it’s different. It was time for a change, a little spring-cleaning. We had a few goals, like eradicating jargon, rethinking dated design features (cough, sliders), and more clearly conveying our agency capabilities in general.

The change was a good thing, but that’s not to say our site was bad before. That’s something I see tripping up a lot of our clients. Updating your website shouldn’t be reserved for when your site is a broken mess. The best website design comes from recognizing that as trends change, so do our technological needs — and if your site isn’t evolving, it will inevitably lag behind.

Related: Follow our quick guide to increasing conversions and improving bounce rates.  

Signs You’re Due for a Website Update

You know how sometimes you look at old photos of yourself and realize you were wearing terrible clothes? No one’s faulting you for sporting the cargo shorts of websites once upon a time, as long as your site’s style has since evolved to meet the GQ standards of today.

But reasons for web updates go beyond an outdated look. For example, you’re probably due for a change when your business’ site:

  • Offers an inefficient buying journey for customers.
  • Is supported by a content management system (CMS) that you’re unhappy with.
  • Uses old web technologies and scripts that cause the entire site to break.

Changes in your business can require an update too; a corporate or even small-scale re-branding can require a new approach. 

Whatever is causing you to rethink your website, there’s one key question to ask yourself before you start making moves: Does your site need refreshing or redeveloping?

Refresh vs. Redevelop: Knowing the Difference

Clients often come to us looking for website redevelopment, but a total overhaul isn’t always necessary when it comes to updating your website.

What I Mean by Refresh

Our recent D Custom website update falls into the refresh category. Think of the difference between a website refresh and redevelopment like a home renovation: Refreshing your kitchen may involve changing out the paint on the walls, replacing the hardware, updating outdated appliances, or doing a general check to make sure everything is up to current building codes.

So a refresh is often more focused on aesthetics or small maintenance upkeep. While the appearance changes to reflect the latest design aesthetics and trends, the functionality and back-end code — the heartbeat of the website that keeps everything running — remain generally untouched. The visual changes you do make can be as simple as swapping out a few colors or as complex as changing over to a new template or theme.

What I Mean by Redevelop

A home redevelopment, on the other hand, usually means completely gutting the space, where everything comes out and gets rebuilt from the ground up —new floors, a new layout, and a new style. When it comes to your website, you’re clearing out your domain and starting fresh, your CMS your foundation.

Redeveloping a website tends to be more technical; the entire framework of the site changes. This might involve:

  • Identifying new goals.
  • Writing new code.
  • Improving the overall user experience.
  • Switching to a different CMS.
  • Changing to a mobile-friendly format. (If you haven’t done this by now, I beg you to make it a priority.)
  • Totally overhauling and updating the design to follow modern trends.
  • Optimizing the site throughout for increased speed.
  • Increasing overall SEO and site structure.
  • Integrating customer relationship management (CRM) across the entire site.

Often a redevelopment is necessary to stay current with business and marketing strategies. Your business is constantly evolving, and the same should go for your website.  

So Which Approach Does Your Site Need?

It’s true that refreshing a website can be less time-consuming and more cost-effective, as it only involves making a handful of minor changes. But choosing to refresh your website when you’d benefit from a formal website redevelopment could end up costing your business time and money in the long run due to lost leads, slowed traffic, and decreased business — so it’s crucial to know which approach is right for you.

It might be time to refresh if:

  • You have tweaked your logo or updated your branding and need to keep your website consistent with the new standards.
  • You’re happy with the flow of your website but want to highlight certain content, increase customer interaction, or reduce your bounce rate.
  • You don’t like the look of your website.
  • Your budget doesn’t allow for a complete overhaul right now, but you still want a visual boost and to extend the website’s life-span by a few years. 

It might be time to redevelop if:

  • You are launching a new logo or brand.
  • Your site is slow.
  • You’re having trouble converting leads.
  • You are frustrated with your current CMS or are having difficulty editing your website.
  • Your site isn’t geared for mobile users or lacks responsive design.
  • Your customers are complaining about any aspect of your website (including look, functionality, ease of use, etc.).
  • Your site is poorly coded or offers poor user experience.
  • Your site is generally outdated.
  • It’s been more than three years since you’ve done so (to ensure that your site doesn’t lose compatibility with the latest browsers, devices, and technologies).

Keep in mind that certain sites — such as ecommerce websites — should be refreshed constantly, (e.g., updated imagery and continued A/B testing) to make sure usability remains at peak performance.

The Secret to Making It Easier on Yourself

One word: maintenance.

To extend your website’s life between redevelopments, every month, you should be:

  • Making small design tweaks.
  • Performing A/B testing.
  • Checking site speed.
  • Making sure your SEO is working.
  • Checking for broken links using tools like W3C’s Link Checker.
  • Checking your data to see what’s not performing well on the site and making changes accordingly.
  • Ensuring graphics are up-to-date.

Businesses and technology evolve, and so should your website. So stay attuned to business and marketing strategies and make sure your site aligns. And keep in mind that your sales data is a major indicator of what your site needs. If your sales start falling, rethink your user experience.

A successful website update isn’t about keeping up with the Joneses or having the latest and coolest widgets and applications; it’s about analyzing your data and making changes accordingly to stay relevant for your customers while adapting to the ever-changing web.

Need help? Contact me. I’ll take a look at your site and give you my two cents. And for a more in-depth look at your company’s online performance, check out our content audit.