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Last Updated: February 25, 2016
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How to tell if your website needs a refresh or a total overhaul

There are many reasons why a website might need to be updated. Perhaps it's not mobile friendly or responsive? Maybe the design isn't quite up to par and it looks like a site created in the late 90s? Or, you simply don't like the style and layout and would like something fresh.

Whatever the reason, you have two things you can do in this situation. You can either give your website a refresh -- leaving the general design and layout -- and just change various elements, or you can give your site a complete overhaul by tearing it down and starting from scratch. The question is, how do you know which method is best: refresh vs redesign?

What's the Difference?

A website refresh is like changing the coat of paint on the outside of your home. You're giving it a new look and feel, without actually changing the core appearance. A website redesign is like doing a complete remodel of the way it looks, including the layout. You'd be tearing down the exterior siding, adding a new roof, swapping doors and windows -- the whole shebang.

Due to the nature of a complete overhaul, expect to have your site down for maintenance while the changes are made. Whereas a refresh may usually be done while the site remains live and available. That's because, with a refresh, you're only making a few minor changes like updating various images or logos, changing some of the text or maybe even changing the background image for the page.

As for an overhaul, it calls for a complete design change of the layout, style, text and even images. Unless you're doing the work yourself, a web designer will need time to get everything into place and looking slick. This is where a CMS -- or Content Management System -- like WordPress comes in handy. If your site is powered by WordPress and you need a serious overhaul, you can simply change the theme and have it looking brand new in no time.

So, how do you know which to choose?

Complete Overhaul or a Few Small Changes?

To break it down, here are some reasons why you might need a complete overhaul:

  • Your website isn't mobile friendly or responsive
  • Your site takes forever to load properly
  • You experience high bounce rates
  • Your design is way out of date and needs significant changes
  • You're losing traffic and suffer from poor conversion ratings
  • Your website security is poor for you, your employees or your customers
  • You need something different from your site, like a blog or news section that you don't have currently

Adversely, here are some reasons why you might just need to make a few small changes:

  • You've had a brand or logo change
  • Traffic is good, despite the need for a refresh
  • Your site was redesigned recently and you just want to update the look
  • You're happy with the functionality and usability of your site
  • You don't have the budget or time for a complete redesign

Final Thoughts

It's a good idea to get in the habit of doing a full redesign for your website every two to three years. If you stick to that schedule, it calls for a simple refresh every year in between. If you find your site is optimal for those two to three years, you can skip the refresh especially if you haven't changed your brand logo, goals or standards in that time.

The reason you'd want to consider a schedule like this is because during that time website standards generally change. In just the past few years, we've gone from separate mobile and desktop friendly sites to a responsive design that scales per display resolution. Essentially, that means consumers are looking at the same website no matter what device they're browsing on, be it a smartphone or computer.

In a case like that, if you're still using the old method -- which calls for a separate mobile site -- it can make your brand look behind the times. Part of maintaining a good website is ensuring that it's up to date in regards to design and style choices.

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