This last week I saw an interesting trend. Various websites I visited all of a sudden looked different. They ditched their old design and brought a new look to their WebPages. Even here at Geekazine, we are a few days away from introducing a new look. So why did everybody choose this time to change?
I remember back when the web was in its infancy, I read an interesting article where they asked the question – When is the best time to redesign your site? They suggested that if you redesign it too much too quickly, people will start to get turned off and decide to travel elsewhere on the information superhighway.
However, sometimes a redesign is what’s needed to bring more traffic. Moving items in a “More ergonomical” fashion might give a site a better ease of use, therefore people will choose your site over the competitors. And of course, more viewers may mean more money – in theory at least.
There is truth to this. A couple months back, a popular Photoshop site redesigned. I found it to be a bit spread out and therefore have gradually weaned away from it. Funny thing was I didn’t plan to do that, I just found myself not checking it for days at a time.
Blogger Robert Scoble put out a new design. It’s sleek and to the point. Chris Pirillo also put out a new design. It’s also sleek – it’s got some great ideas like the stats page and “Social Me” – but it takes a bit of time to load.
USA Today calls their redesign “Site enhancements”. They explain it’s so they can have an “ongoing review of how they present the news and interact with readers.” It’s also known as “Growing traffic for more revenue”.
5 years ago, news talked about how more people are getting up on the internet. While the “First experience” is still happening, it’s more of the fact of where to go. Not counting the millions of MySpace, Facebook and Geocities pages out there, the web still has millions of websites you can visit to get information. According to Domaintools.com (a site I just found), as of May 17th 2008, 102 million sites are active and 595 thousand new domains were registered. That is just in .com, .net, .org, .info, .biz and .us domains.
More interesting is the statistic that 336 million have been deleted, 144 thousand have expired and 212 thousand have transferred. The deleted may be the cause of Domain Kiting – a practice where an individual sets up a website to phish the traffic off others so they can make some revenue. After the “5 day grace period”, they cancel the domain and set up a new one. Recently ICANN addressed this by adding a “non-refundable Transaction Fee” so serious businesses can still choose to cancel an ill-gotten domain.
So if there are actually 102 million websites out there, where do you go? Well, I would say my practice is a little higher end. I visit many different websites in a given week. However I would guess that the average user has about 10 to 20 sites they like to visit on a daily basis. Within time the viewers’ habits might change so their list will be altered within a year.
To keep the viewers interested, redesigning might be a good solution. Especially one that makes the viewers feel they had a hand in its design. I spent a lot of time on Experts-exchange.com in early 2000 because I was a beta tester for their new design. I felt proud I can lend a hand in suggesting strategy.
For them it was not only free advice, but also a possible future customer for when the site started to charge for services. After all – they’re in it to make money, not lose out. Not to say that loyalty is not a consideration, but how loyal can someone be if the site can’t keep its doors open?
More content in an easier to access fashion is the goal. Since the average user spends only 2-3 minutes on a site, the experience has to be fast and furious. Then, when that person needs another 2-3 minutes of information, they know exactly where to go for it.
There are a lot of considerations for redesign though. The biggest is Cross-browser testing. It may look good in Internet Explorer, but it might not look so good in Firefox, Safari or Opera on a Windows PC, Mac, Linux or other Operating System. Even though the majority of people use Windows with IE, you cannot ignore the others.
Of course new technologies always command how we look at content. Developer content like ASP and PHP with SQL have evolved to give a site more functionality across multiple pages, so the focus can be on content. Flash and Ajax gives the site a richer multimedia and instant update process. Now with ideas like “OpenSocial” sites can focus less on user registration and more on accessibility.
Looking at the Way back machine on archive.org, it’s interesting to see how a website has evolved. Ideas we thought at the time were innovative now are just common. Design looks snappier and more appeasing. Of course, that also is attributed to faster internet connections, but some sites still strive on low load times.
Take the 5k challenge – put together a website that is only 5 kilobytes in size. Not an easy task, especially since the average webpage grew from 93.7 to 312 kilobytes – and that is only 1 page. To add to the speed, most pages rely on data that comes from another website, which can slow down the load time.
Redesigning can be a (fill in the blank, we’ll use ‘Pain’). Organization, website size, not to mention the placement of product and advertising – It all has to go into consideration when a webmaster wants to try and drive traffic in. But in the end we can have some great sites to visit for 2-3 minutes at a time.
Congrats to all that have done or are about to do their redesign. It can be a lot of effort and cost to reinvent. However if it gives us a quick, rich environment to work with, its well worth it.