Radical Redesign vs. Subtle Redesign

I have always been one for radical redesigns of websites, instead of doing subtle, face-lifting redesigns. At times, radically redesigning a website from the ground up has its benefits, but, in actuality, a face-lift redesign can often prove to be much more effective. Sure, styles in web design change over time, as technology improves and the Internet cranks onwards. However, in reality, the general convention of a website does not really change over time; there are tried-and-true techniques for much of web design. Logos work best in the upper-left, navigation should be a certain way, etc. The basic setup of a quality web page really does not change, only the style of the setup changes over time.

Rather than ditching your entire layout and starting fresh, it makes much more sense simply to update your design. Whether this includes brightening the colours, increasing spacing, or using less images (what you change will depend on the current trends), an update is much more practical than a from-scratch redesign.

Of course, a radical redesign is still practical in some situations. For example, at Lowter when we moved from our hobbyist stage to our professional stage, simply the style and the coding needed much revamping. In this case, it was more practical to start with a blank slate than to build off of our spaghetti code from beforehand. If your website is strung together in erratic, puzzle-like patterns, an entire redesign from scratch is probably the best solution. However, subtle redesigns work best for established websites with a strong foundation, like Lowter is today.

Current BBC News redesign

A good example of a subtle redesign is the recent redesign of BBC News (external link). The BBC is certainly an established entity and BBC News already had a very well-setup website. Their recent update they describe as "gardeners doing a bit of pruning and weeding". There is more spacing, bigger images, uniformity with the other BBC pages (which are all facing similar facelifts), and better video/audio capabilities. Certainly the updates are very subtle, but it makes the page look a whole lot better. BBC News shows how subtle updates can make a website seem fresh and new, without requiring "digging it up and starting from scratch".

When you go to update your website, think first about utilising your current design and simply making subtle changes to it in order to create a fresh feel. It may turn out that a subtle redesign is all that your website needs.