If you’ve been diligently searching for a hard answer to this question, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there isn’t one. The irony isn’t lost on us that in web design, an industry predicated on making things simple, almost nothing ever is.
When to update your most important digital platform can depend on a variety of factors, including your business objectives, your competition, the transience of your industry, and more.
Your website isn’t like a car, where a mechanic can advise you to replace your oil every couple thousand miles. Redesigning your site shouldn’t be thought of as routine maintenance; a more advisable approach is perform a diagnosis of your site, looking for symptoms that indicate a refresh or an overhaul might be necessary.
This article describes how to diagnose your website, revealing the right places to look when you’re deciding if a redesign is right for you.
An excellent litmus test for determining if a website needs an update is how well the site functions on mobile. There aren’t many concrete, no-exception rules in web design, but here’s one of them: if your site isn’t mobile responsive, it needs a redesign. Now.
The data above shows the complete dominance of multi-platform browsing, meaning that users are visiting your website via both desktop and mobile channels. Without a mobile responsive website, you’re surrendering an entire channel of traffic to your competitors. And speaking of the competition…
Another excellent method for determining if your website needs a facelift is to conduct some competitive analysis. You can do a DIY version by simply browsing your competitors sites—do they look like yours? Do they have a more modern feel, or subscribe to the latest industry standards?
If your competition’s platforms are more functional, more usable, or even more visually appealing than yours, it’s time for an upgrade. Competitive analysis can also act as a guide for how extensive your site redesign should be. If your website still has the same features and functionalities as your competitors, but an outdated aesthetic, then a simple UI facelift may be all that’s necessary.
For a more thorough investigation, many UX design agencies will perform this analysis for you, scrutinizing your competitor’s sites from a design perspective and identifying what strategies to employ so you can stand out.
Take a look at your web analytics data, and compare the numbers to your past goals and business objectives. Do you have the traffic you set out to hit three years ago? Has your bounce rate been increasing? Is your company growing at a healthy rate, or remaining stagnant?
KPI’s like these are among the more significant factors in the redesign decision. Even the age of a website isn’t necessarily an apt benchmark. I’ve seen companies truly invest in a future-proof website overhaul, and five years later their platform is as effective and engaging as it was at launch.
On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve seen websites that have hardly passed their two-year anniversaries before becoming outdated or unusable. When considering a redesign, look at the numbers that matter.
So far, we’ve examined whether or not to redesign based on an empathetic argument, examining both your website and your competitor’s from the user’s perspective. We’ve also viewed the issue from a more quantitative lens, using the comparison of web analytics data with your business goals to determine if re-design is right.
But we haven’t yet asked one of the most important questions: is your website working for you? Is it easy to manage and update? Is it effortlessly organized and monitored, perhaps with a content management system like WordPress? Or, if you’re an eCommerce site, Shopify?
Your website should be easily customizable and adjustable, ready to scale as your business does and change when your goals do.
To review, there isn’t a concrete number or boilerplate formula you can use to calculate when to redesign your website. Some agencies will say three years, others will claim five.
Instead, take a good, honest look at your site and try to diagnose it. Use a combination of relevant key performance indicators, competitive analysis, and your own experience as a siteowner. Does your site reflect changes in the company since its launch? Do you like looking at your site?
My last piece of advice is perhaps the most important: if you decide to redesign, be sure to do it right. Work with a UX design agency that uses the same methods we discussed here — research data, competitive analysis, business alignment — to construct a website that lasts.