I often get approached by people who are looking to update the look of their website and they ask me if I think they can just redesign their site or if they need to rebuild it from scratch. While many people are looking to save money by just making some cosmetic tweaks, sometimes it’s a short-term solution that will cost them more in the future. While there are several issues to consider with this decision, including your budget, here are some key points to keep in mind.
Is the Site Custom-Built?
If your website was custom built, then you need to figure out why it was built this way in the first place. Was it done this way because when you built your website many years ago and templates were just not as popular, so you did not have another choice? Maybe you built it this way because you had special features that needed to be custom built.
I had someone come to me and say that they built a custom website 13 years ago because at the time there were no out-of-the-box options that would allow a customer to send an item as a gift in addition to several other features that he wanted. Today, many of these features come standard on hundreds of WordPress themes or can be easily added to a site via plug-ins. There is no need for the extra expense as well as the headache of ongoing maintenance of a custom website. So, it often makes sense to replace a custom website with a new, easy to maintain, feature-rich site.
If you feel that your website needs to be custom built because the features are not standard, then it will probably be worthwhile to see if you can just redesign your website as opposed to starting from the beginning. If you already put in so much time into customizing and you would have to do it the exact same way, then it does not seem worthwhile to start from the beginning.
What Content Management System is Your Site Build On?
While we are discussing website platforms, it is important to look at which platform your website was built on. If your website was built on a popular platform like WordPress or Shopify, you can easily change themes to give your website a new look. These platforms have tons of options for making quick and inexpensive upgrades. Sometimes replacing a WordPress theme can involve a lot of work and feel like it’s halfway to a complete rebuild, but you already have all the existing content, media and URLs, so it will certainly save time as compared to starting over. If you are working on a platform that is not that popular or obsolete, then you may likely need to start from scratch.
Is it Mobile Friendly?
Is your website responsive? Over the past year, Google has reported that they are doing mobile first indexing. If your website is not mobile friendly, then you need to make sure that it is. Older platforms do not all support mobile websites and that is a huge problem. Besides for your Google rankings being negatively affected, you also want to make sure your customers are able to easily navigate your website on their devices. Making a website mobile friendly does not necessarily require re-building it, but will require quite a lot of work to make it truly a pleasure to use on smartphones.
How Drastic are the Design Changes?
Does your website look like it was built in the 1990’s or early 2000’s? The look and feel of websites are drastically changing all the time and your website should feel updated and modern. Sometimes a few small changes could make a huge difference; like making a full-width header image or enlarging the font. If this is the case with your website, you will not need to rebuild the whole site; A re-design or some tweaking will do.
However, some designs are so outdated, that a rebuild is unavoidable. As an example, Lego’s website from 1996 would need to be scrapped in order give it a modern look. Extremely outdated sites often need to switch to other CMS platforms that better support the features they need.
In general, if your website is built on a strong, popular platform that has the latest features and security updates, then you could most likely get away with just a re-design. This could mean switching to a better theme or making changes to your existing theme. If the platform that you are working on is not well-suited for the changes you want to make, then it is probably best to start from scratch. Building a new website is a huge undertaking, very time consuming as well as costly. Before you get started, make sure you understand your platform’s capabilities and what your needs are, so when you build your site you won’t need to repeat this process for another few years.