Do you need a website refresh or a website redesign?

Website design is a big investment — you’ll likely spend several thousand dollars for a professional website designer or developer to build your website. But technology and design trends change quickly, and your business might be evolving too. Most of my clients see pretty large shifts in their business or service offerings over a few years.

After a few years, is it worth paying for a whole “new” website? If you worked with a good designer to build your site, you probably did a lot of the strategy and planning work then. Do you really need to do that process all over again? It depends.

There’s no hard and fast definition of a website refresh or redesign, but a website redesign is usually much more involved.

A website redesign is similar to getting a new website — you’ll often start with discussions around strategy, your ideal client, your other marketing channels, etc. It’s more expensive because it’s more involved, and the result is usually a more effective, more thoughtful tool created for your business. A well-redesigned website should do more of the hard work for you.

A website refresh is less involved and usually focuses on updating branding, creating new pages, slight changes to the navigation, adding a simple new feature or removing dated features, etc. Often I’ll do website refreshes with people who’ve worked with me on a website audit that didn’t find big problems on the site. A refresh is a more affordable holdover between full website redesigns, which are recommended every 2-3 years but realistically are done every 5 or so years.

Here are a few comparisons:

Website RefreshWebsite Redesign
Buying a few new shirtsWorking with a stylist to help you create a capsule wardrobe
Redoing the flooring in your houseMoving walls around to open up the space for a more inviting feel
Throwing away your old leftoversReorganizing your fridge with new containers so everything is easy to see and grab

So should you pursue a website refresh or a website redesign?

If you haven’t had big business changes, a refresh might work well.

If your services/products haven’t changed much since you built your current website, the bones of your current website are probably just fine. A refresh focused on updating photos, copywriting, and some of your design elements can give your business a fresh look without breaking the bank.

If your site is working well for you but looks dated, consider a refresh.

If you’re fully booked and doing well, it might not make sense to update your website. But a dated website might be turning off even better clients, customers or followers than you have now. Many websites can be updated by changing graphic elements, fonts, colors, etc. But if your website is built on really outdated technology/tools, it might be time to consider a redesign.

If your business offerings are staying the same but you’re rebranding, refresh!

When you’re just starting out, rebranding might happen often… even moreso if you’re DIYing your branding. You have a beautiful new brand, but if you’re not sure how to update it on your website, it’s worth hiring a designer to refresh your site. Every design element on your website is part of your business’s brand, so you might find you want to change your wavy lines to straight lines, or use different photos or photo editing styles.

I worked with Toni Jacalone, The SMC Dietitian, on a simple website refresh after she changed her company name and had a new logo/brand developed by a brand designer. Since we had just built her site a year or two before the rebrand, all she needed was a simple refresh to incorporate the new branding.

We left the structure of the site as it was, but changed the fonts, colors, button styles, and page backgrounds to make the whole brand feel cohesive.

If you’ve changed or grown a lot in the past few years, you probably need a redesign.

I work a lot with folks who have been hobbling along with their old website and find it just isn’t working. Their business or organization has expanded so much that they don’t have good places to put new offerings, and their website becomes a jumbled mess that’s hard to navigate. It happens to the best of us, and sometimes you just have to step back and get a wider look.

Starting from scratch with a website redesign can be a great call to make sure you’re serving your website visitor well. You’ll have a blank slate to work with, so you can build it out exactly as you want it.

I’ve been working with The Cairn Project, a nonprofit organization focused on expanding outdoor access for women and girls, on a new website. Our first month and a half of working together has been a deep dive into all of their content, where the organization is today, where they plan to go, and coming up with a strategy for how this website can meet their needs today and also in the next few years.

In this case, starting from the foundation ensures that the final product will be well organized, easy to navigate, and able to keep growing with the organization. A refresh wouldn’t have checked these boxes.

If you want to make sure your website is doing the best job it can, it’s worth redesigning.

Revisiting the strategy piece of your website in a redesign can make all the difference between a website that just looks pretty and one that works hard to connect your ideal clients to you. An experienced website designer or agency can look at how your whole marketing ecosystem is working with your website. They might suggest changes based on ads you’re running. They can look at your website analytics and see where people are falling through the cracks, how well your forms are converting, etc.

If you want to move to a different platform, you’ll need a redesign.

I often work with people who built their own websites when they started business, usually on Squarespace, Weebly, Wix or Shopify. Sometimes the platform you start on can scale and change with you, but sometimes it’s best to start fresh.

If you’ve done search engine optimization (SEO) work on your website, you’ll want to make sure you’re preserving your site traffic when moving platforms. A good website designer can handle this migration for you and make sure no one lands on broken pages.

Additionally, there aren’t usually automated ways to move from one platform to another. You’ll essentially have to rebuild your website on a new platform, so this is a good time to assess whether your content organization, copywriting, page layouts, etc. are still working well for you — all things you’d cover in a website redesign.

If you’re curious if a refresh or a redesign is a good fit for your website, I offer website audits as a first step in this process. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

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