People buy based on emotion. A redesign can be a sexy idea, sold to you by a creative agency that knows how to wow and amaze. But, it's rarely in your best interests. Sure, sometimes you reach a point where things are so bad that you have to scrap everything and start over...but how do you know how bad is too bad?
Radical website redesigns are modern-day one-night stands for marketers.
The following graphs show what happened to a new client of ours earlier this year when their previous vendor launched their radical redesign.
Here's another view from SEMrush, based on number of ranking organic keywords, for mobile devices (site launched in late April):
Organic traffic (SEO) was already declining. The client surely panicked, the older site was indeed quite outdated, and yes, they panicked with good reason. It's hard to stay calm in the face of tanking traffic. Panicking, and going to a vendor who played into that panic, was part of the pitfall.
The creAtìve AgénCy elixir surely tasted good in the moment, and scrapping that outdated site surely felt like the right thing to do...but this radical act under pressure actually did more harm than good.
The agency they chose not only massacred our client's business by improperly handling post-launch SEO planning, they created a broken user experience that is impacting commerce on the site, not to mention that the information architecture and navigation are botched, the value proposition is unclear and in bits and pieces around the entire site, and user engagement is deeply impacted by all of this as well as a slow-loading site and a fancy but not performant inter-page browsing experience that has to be devastating to conversions.
The new website is pretty, but it's not doing anything. It should be working hard for the client's business, but it's not.
Yes, it is possible to do revolutionary redesigns right. But, it's hard, and requires a lot more data than most are willing to wait for and collect. And even then, you're still gambling, depending on how revolutionary you are with the extremely sensitive components of the redesign (navigation, expected user journeys, calls to action, microcopy, content, keywords, visual hierarchy, and the like).
How many times have you seen radical redesigns on Amazon.com?
You don't see them, because they do evolutionary redesigns – continuous, incremental improvements along the way.
If you're feeling like sexy will win, it's an urgent need, and will appease your management team, then just reskin what you have as a first step. Design is incredibly important in instilling trust, and yes, good design – no, great design – is extremely important. It effects conversions and website engagement, and thus your business profits. Then, make incremental improvements from there.
Another way to think of it visually is this:
This is a good cost/benefit results visualization of the concept as well:
This is difficult stuff to grasp, but indeed a very powerful concept. We coined the term Digital Impact Optimization™ for this idea that "incremental improvements can lead to exponential demand", and also the idea that "redesigns don't have to suck, especially if you consistently keep up your optimization game" – but the following is also true:
Incremental improvements can save you from exponential losses.
It's not a new concept in its entirety, but how we incorporate it into a full-picture offering and analysis is. Here's a diagram of how we see it: