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11 Signs That its Time for a Website Redesign

There are ALOT of sites out there that, well to put it nicely just aren’t very good. We’ve all gotten a good laugh when we come across a truly horrific design…but what if that site was yours or your business’? Not so funny now. The ever increasing quantities of websites, plus our rapidly decreasing attention spans, make good web design more important than ever.

As a public service, here are a few signs that you might want to think about a redesign:

Your Site Makes No Attempt at Engaging a Visitor

Your site is a wall-flower. One-way information flow is old and tired. With all the social networking and bookmarking sites (Digg, Stumble Upon, and Facebook just to name a few) people are connecting in new ways every day. These users will become frustrated if they can’t interact with your site. Blogging is a great way to make your site feel more social and up-to-date, as long as the blog is relevant. An added bonus is that the consistent new content will attract a crowd of “regulars” and makes your site more appealing to the search engines. At the very, very least make sure your email is easy to find. Remember, if people like you they’ll tell their friends.

Exemptions: Some sites intentionally designed to be informational (and informational only) may get a pass on this, but there’s really no excuse for not engaging a site visitor.

Your Homepage Makes People Shudder

You’ve got a cluttered first page. Too many graphics, links every other line, ads on every side, not to mention all your text, etc. Its enough to make the casual viewer’s head hurt! For example, I stumbled across this page and my stress level shot up instantly. The most up to date advice is to keep it simple.

Exemptions: No one. There’s no excuse for a homepage that leaves people not wanting more.

Your Site Makes Any Sort of Noise

Music, unless it is very relevant to your site content (i.e. you are a record label’s website) its probably a better idea to leave it off. Keep in mind where people may be when they come across your site…at work, school, in a library, etc. – all places where a loud burst of music may be less than welcome. Another factor to keep in mind is that not everyone may share your obviously superb taste in music (shocking I know). If, after you put some serious thought into it, you still decide to have a musical background please PLEASE design it so I will be able to turn it off.

Exemptions: Obviously, any music or video websites and also the very, very few websites that tactfully use sound on the site.

Your Site Has Content No One Can Read

No one can read your copy. Having too many colors on the page or choosing bad color palettes/backgrounds can lead to a site that is very hard for a user to read. The same goes for using really tiny text or a hundred different fonts. Anyone can get carried away during the design process, but let’s remember that first and foremost your website must be readable. If people can’t read the information you want to give them your website is essentially useless – no matter how pretty you think it is.

Exemptions: No excuse for tiny text or anything hard to read.

Your Site Involves the Use of a Horizontal Scroll Bar

The site has horizontal scrolling. We’re all used to scrolling up and down, making us scroll sideways is awkward and annoying. Please don’t do it, nobody likes awkwardness.

Exemptions: Blue Vertigo who has a resource list in the same vein as our Dashboard gets an exemption cuz their list is so useful, but it would be equally useful vertically. No one else gets a pass on this one though.

Your Site is Ugl-IE

Your site works and looks great in Firefox but is a train wreck in Explorer. Make sure your design works well with all browsers, you don’t want to lose people before you even get started.

Exemptions: None and its time to fire your previous web designer.

Your Site Leads People To Nothing

There is no focal point to speak of. Check out this site – sure our eyes flock to the red circle in the middle but after that its a free for all. It’s important to know how people’s eyes read a page and factor that into the design. You can influence how people view your site by creating a flow that is ordered and makes sense.

Exemptions: None, unless your going for that complete chaos look.

Your Site is Either All Text or Has No Text

Your site is all text, or for that matter your site has basically no text. Designing a successful web site is walking a fine line in this respect. Too much text looks busy, and people simply won’t read all the way through it. On the other hand a site with all pictures is confusing and hard to navigate, not to mention that having no text makes it much harder for the search engines to index/find your pages. For example, I dare you to try and find your way around the bow-wow books website

Exemptions: Craigslist (all text at its finest).

Your Site Opens with a Ridiculously Long Flash Intro

You have a ridiculously long flash intro. In theory its a great idea – visually appealing, fun to watch unfold, unique – but in reality it can go very wrong. These designs are now commonplace and people won’t sit through long intros, especially without a skip button. Granted, some flash intros can be very cool, but a common opinion among the best designers is that the intros are just another obstacle for potential visitors to overcome. Deciding to put in a skip button itself can be a catch-22, you allow the visitor to get right to your site but you are also effectively saying ‘my intro isn’t important why don’t you skip it’. In that case why do you have an intro in the first place? Its a debated issue and it basically comes down to personal taste. A flash intro is not an inherently bad design technique, but when abused it can hurt you. A general rule of thumb is any more than a few seconds and you start losing people. Here is an example for you – its obviously not meant to be a legitimate intro but you get the point.

Exemptions: Any site purposely trying to drive visitors away…so no exemptions here.

Your Site Induces Seizures

The website has text that blinks/scrolls too fast/flashes neon colors at you or contains any other activity likely to cause a seizure. Along these same lines continuous animation is also a no-no. Take a look at this site, the spinning globe animation and flashing text not only look bad but also make the design very dated, circa 1995. Too much movement on a website is like the little kid inside the store screaming ‘Look at me!’, its bound to get some attention – almost none of it positive. You have to go to this website to get the full effect, trust me (and what’s with the random cat running backwards at the bottom).

Exemptions: The band M.I.A. who’s user base loves flashing colors.

Your Site’s Navigation Confuses Users

The absolute #1 sign it is time for a new web design is if your site has unclear navigation. How users get from one page to another on a site should be obvious. Make sure you have some sort of menu on every page – people get frustrated when they have to hit the back button a thousand times. But be careful, let them hit the back button if they want to, there is nothing more annoying than getting redirected to the page you are on when all you want is the page you just left.

Exemptions: No excuses for a website that can’t be navigated by an everyday user.

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6 Responses to “11 Signs That its Time for a Website Redesign”

  1. Brian Mays Says:

    #11 is casting an unnecessarily wide net. If as a designer I have portfolio site, I don’t necessarily want users interacting with that and leaving comments on my work. Its unnecessary.

    Just because something shiny and trendy exists doesn’t mean it needs to be used everywhere. There are plenty of successful ventures online that don’t use them.

  2. Doug S. Says:

    I debate much of this. No text or all text? Depends on the situation. I’ve seen some all-text designs that were beautiful. Likewise the use of images with no text can be highly effective, given the desired result.

    But the on that gets me the most is horizontal scrolling. There is nothing wrong with this when used correctly. I could cite all the talk of the “infinite canvas” and all that other nonsense or the usability data that suggests people are just as willing to scroll horizontally as vertically, but I’ll simply limit my comment to the fact that much of these are opinion based and in no way clear-cut.

    What triggers a redesign isn’t aesthetics or user interface. You have a bad one but for some reason it really works and isn’t negatively effecting your website in any way? Then why rock the boat. So your design might be hideous, what if that’s the point? What if your users like it?

    This post states things as fact when there is very, very little about the web that can be said to be fact. Much is theory and loose guidelines.

  3. sheena Says:

    Thanks for the feedback! You do make a good point that almost nothing on the web ‘can be said to be fact’, and I completely agree. The 11 signs in this post are indeed my opinion, although they are opinions shared by many designers that I have come across.

    I also realize that there are exceptions to a lot of the points I discussed (for example craigslist as an all text site is a great, effective design) and tried to note them as I went. As for the horizontal scrolling, I’ll admit that one is a pet peeve of mine, but I was hard-pressed to find a professional, well-designed site that used it. If you have any sites that are clear exceptions to the signs I came up with I’d be glad to add them as examples!

    All in all my intention was to bring to light a few signs that a designer might want to take into consideration. Obviously if your site is doing well why change, but if you aren’t getting results this list may serve as a starting point while redesigning.

  4. Doug S. Says:

    Funny you should say that. Part of the reason I had commented on how it’s possible to have a nice horizontal-scrolling website is because I’d come across one just minutes before I’d read this post.

    Here’s a link:

    And then there’s this article by Smashing Magazine that just happened to go up today:

    There are some nice designs that go horizontal on there.

  5. Five Technology Web Design Blog » » Website Redesign: When & Why Says:

    [...] and bang for the buck.  If you are wanting a few more signals on when to redesign this post has 11 Signs on time for a website redesign. — Posted in Design, Web Design, Web Development [...]

  6. jackets4bikes Says:

    I think these bad sites are so dangerous for us.

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