On Risky Website Redesigns and Tanking Organic Traffic
People buy based on emotion. A redesign can be an emotionally captivating idea, sold to you by a creative agency that knows how to wow and amaze. But, it's not always in your best interests. If you indeed do a redesign, it has to be done right, with the right research and planning, and ideally a growth-driven design mindset.
Radical website redesigns can be dangerous
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 a 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 The client surely panicked, the older site was indeed quite outdated, and yes, they panicked with good reason.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The CreAtìve AgénCy elixir surely tasted good in the moment, and scrapping that outdated site surely felt like the right thing to do...but this radical act under pressure actually did more harm than good.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 the information architecture and navigation are botched, value propositions are unclear and disorganized sitewide, and user engagement is deeply impacted by this all. They also have a slow-loading site and browsing experience that is devastating to overall 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.
Doing Revolutionary Redesigns Right
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 a bit, 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 site 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 affects conversions and website engagement, and thus your business profits.
But, after your redesign, be sure to keep measuring, learning, and making incremental improvements after you launch.
What is Growth-Driven Design?
Growth-driven design (GDD) is data-driven. It may indeed happen after a radical redesign, but its concepts can be applied to a redesign in that we can be looking at the data from the existing site to inform decisions about the new, redesigned site. We should be looking at what's working, and what's not. That data is too valuable to ignore.
GDD can also be applied to an existing site to freshen up its design and bring it up to date.
All GDD approaches use heat maps, user session recordings, analytics, user research...essentially the tenets of our Digital Impact Opportunity (DIO) Framework process.
Another way to think of growth-driven design visually is this:
This is difficult stuff to grasp, but indeed a very powerful concept. We coined the term Digital Innovation Opportunity™ for this idea that "incremental yet innovative improvements can lead to exponential demand", and also the idea that "redesigns don't have to underperform, especially if you consistently keep optimizing over time" – but the following is also true:
Incremental improvements can save you from exponential losses.
It's not a new concept, but how we incorporate it into a full-picture offering and analysis is. Here's a diagram of how we see it: