It's a question we're asked all of the time, and the answer may surprise you. You'll frequently read that most companies redesign their sites every 2-3 years on average, but this number never seems to be backed up with any real data - it's mostly likely just a guess that's been repeated so often that it's taken for a fact.
In our real-world experience, redesigns happen a little less frequently for most businesses. Every three to five years is probably a more realistic average between major redesigns, though there are a great many factors that can affect that timeline. And the truth is, there's no simple formula -- it's not like changing your oil every 3000 miles or the batteries in your smoke detectors every 6 months.
When deciding whether it's time to redesign your site, we recommend looking for these red flags:
- Changes in Technology - Have there been major technological shifts since your site was built? Occasionally, technological changes will prompt a redesign, like the trend in recent years toward accessing the web on mobile devices. When half of your customers start browsing your site on their smart phones, you're going to want to make sure your site has a responsive design. Other industry disrupting changes, like the introduction of the iPad or the dying support for Flash, have sent site owners scrambling to make sure their sites still look good on the devices their customers are using. If your site doesn't have a responsive design, it's time to redesign. And if your site uses Flash, it was time to redesign 5 years ago!
- Dated Design Trends - A site that looked trendy and modern a few years ago may look dated and tired today. This can be somewhat subjective, so often you need to take a good hard look at your site and make an honest assessment of the impression it makes. Graphic design trends are constantly changing, and simple things like color choices, fonts, and photographic treatments can make your site look like it's stuck in the past. Professional designers can often tell how long ago a site was designed just by looking at it, and those subtle clues can make an unconscious impression even on non-designers. And if you think your site looks old, your customers are probably thinking the same thing.
- Changes in Your Business - Sometimes a change in your business warrants a web site redesign. This is usually obvious if you're rebranding in any way (changes to your business identity, including your logo or name), but other business changes can be equally influential. If your services or products have changed, especially if it affects your target market, a redesign of your site may be in order. A web site that has done well appealing to consumers may not be as compelling to corporate clients. If your offerings or your customers have changed since you built your site, you need to reevaluate it's effectiveness.
- You Aren't Getting the Results You Want - You have a web site for a reason. It may be intended to attract new customers, service existing clients, or sell your wares online. If your site has stopped doing those things (or it never did in the first place) it's time for a redesign.
- Your Site is Invisible to Google (and everyone else) - It's one thing not to be on the first page of Google for every relevant search (you may just need a little SEO help), but if your site is nowhere to be found on Google and other search engines, it's a good sign that something is seriously wrong with your site architecture and a redesign is in order.
- Customer Complaints - This may be the biggest red flag of all. Few of us bother to complain about a web site that's not working well for us - we just move on to the next site. If customers are taking the time to mention issues with your site, there are probably 10 times as many who have moved on in frustration. Not every complaint is valid, but they are always worth looking into.
We wish there was one simple rule for when you should redesign - we'd just drop a postcard in the mail every three years to let you know it's time! But the signs listed above are usually apparent if you take the time to look. And if you want a second opinion on your site, contact us or leave a comment below and we'll look it over with you.