17 April 2015
To many, a redesign means revamping the look of a website in the hope that it will increase conversions and attract new customers.
In fact, such projects are often counterproductive as user feedbacks on numerous redesigns proved that users hate change, even if the new design is clearly superior to the original.
For a redesign (or realign) to be effective, it must stem from the understanding of what does and what doesn’t work on the current website, and how user needs have changed since the last redesign. In most cases, it is sufficient to make minor changes in the user interface.
Jakob Nielsen says that it’s totally normal that stakeholders would welcome a fresh design after the original UI got tired in their eyes. Users, on the other hand, prefer familiar designs as they want to locate everything easily, get things done, and leave. - Fresh vs. Familiar: How Aggressively to Redesign
Jared Spool argues that all-at-once redesigns are to be avoided because they are costly and very risky. Instead, he advises an incremental approach that is flexible to business changes. - Avoiding Redesigns (podcast)
Louis Rosenfeld summarizes it clearly: Stop Redesigning And Start Tuning Your Site Instead
Redesigners often rely on emotional responses to aesthetics in justifying a redesign. You’ll typically hear statements like these:
Too often, look and feel, color scheme, layout, and identity are presented as solutions to problems discussed in these conversations long before regard is given to other less-aesthetic issues that may very well be the root of the problem. The old warning against treating symptom rather than cause comes to mind.
In direct contrast to the Redesigners, Realigners cite strategic objectives and user needs as reasons to consider a site overhaul:
Thus, the differences between Redesigners and Realigners might be summarized as follows: The desire to redesign is aesthetic-driven, while the desire to realign is purpose-driven. One approach seeks merely to refresh, the other aims to fully reposition and may or may not include a full refresh. (Note that by “reposition,” I mean strategy and not physical location or dimensions.)