Every day clients come into Blue Fountain offices looking for advice on how to improve the way they do business online.  As we evaluate their current online presence, we often find that the best solution is a total redesign.

This is a frightening prospect for many companies.

Even though their website has failed to meet the business goals they set, they prefer a bird in hand approach out of fear that a redesign will confuse their current clients or customers.

What they don’t realize is that making smaller adjustments to their existing site is like adding a wing to a house that is falling apart.

A total redesign is more expensive than a quick fix, but the return on investment makes it more than worthwhile if it means you'll get solid architecture, intuitive navigation, a well-designed user interface, and content features designed to create visitor loyalty.

Too many companies make the mistake of waiting too long to do this. Are you?

Start with your analytics

The only way to really understand how your website is performing is to monitor your metrics carefully and consistently.

You don’t need a high-priced analytics tool. Google Analytics is free and easy to install on your site. Look to see if your site visitors are doing what you want them to do:

  •  Are your bounce rates high (visitors who come to your home page and then leave without visiting any other page or taking any other action)?
  • Are your visitors frustrated by your checkout or registration process? If they abandon forms before completion chances are the frustration level is high.
  • Are they coming back to your site after the first visit?
  • Have your visitors complained about your website? Worst of all, are they leaving your site and going directly to your competition?

By keeping on top of these issues, you can see if your website needs a full redesign or a less drastic fix for isolated issues.

Case in point: Twitter

Recently Twitter unveiled a complete overhaul to its site in response to user behavior. The service has been growing at an astounding rate, but remains far behind Facebook in number of users.

The problem is that Twitter hasn't been able to capture the over-35 audience or get businesses to participate at satisfactory levels. The former found Twitter confusing and jargon laden; the latter didn't really take to the interface.

Even though Twitter already had more than 100 million users, the company decided it was time for a radical change. The changes included:

  • A new discovery tab that lets you find search results based on your personal preferences and interests
  • A navigation tab that combines mentions and follows
  • A new, more detailed profile page
  • Branded pages that allow businesses to embed photos and videos and control which Tweets show up at the top of their timeline

The idea behind the redesign, according to Twitter founder and chairman Jack Dorsey, was to simplify the user experience and take away much of the jargon and mystery that made it difficult for new users to fully utilize Twitter’s functionality.

Will it work? The new site is easier to figure out and more business friendly, but there have also been some murmurings that the new Twitter looks a lot like the old Facebook. It's too soon to tell.

A redesign won't work miracles. But one that improves the user interface, makes navigation more intuitive, and delivers your core message more clearly can only help you. The last thing you want to do is infuriate your target audience—a lesson the BBC learned all too well just recently. So make sure you put the task of redesigning your site in the hands of a team that understands both design and architecture.