“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change.”― Heraclitus
To iterate or not – one doesn’t think twice when it comes to features and functionalities, but when it comes to redesigning the app or website, it seems like taking on a mammoth task.
Yet there are those that are nitpicky and can’t stop obsessing. One has to strike a balance.
In this expert roundup post, we asked some well-known industry experts when to consider redesigning your mobile app and website and how to go about it.
Here’s what they have to say:
#1 When several changes end up with a messy product, it’s time to redesign
Consider redesigning when/if:
You get new data — You hopefully know your target audience and have the best content/product, but you probably had to launch without being able to do all the research and design you really wanted to. As you find out more about your audience and the market after launch, you will likely make small changes to your website or app. Over time, if you make too many small changes you end up with a mess of a product or website and it’s time to re-think and redesign.
You aren’t getting the results you want – people aren’t registering, buying, or signing up? People are abandoning too fast? It’s time to evaluate whether you need a re-design.
Best practice gets better – even if your design was the best when you created it, best practice changes over time. It might be time to update your product for the user experience or visual design.
Having said all that, make sure you are re-designing for a reason, not just “to do it”. Good re-designs are almost as time-consuming (or sometimes more time consuming) than the original. Don’t spend your valuable time and resources doing one if you don’t have a good business reason.
#2 Consider customer’s requirement while redesigning
Building a quality app experience that motivates our community to run, comes first and foremost, but layering that with an identity that speaks to our audience has also been a focus for us at Runkeeper.
Before undergoing a rebranding last year, we looked closely at the audience who uses Runkeeper and gets the most value from it. We learned that our users don’t want to compete head-to-head, they want encouragement, guidance, and motivation. These user insights allowed us to realize it was time to make a change in our appearance and positioning to inspire a more meaningful connection with our community and to visually represent these brand attributes.
#3 Do not build a complex feature just because one reviewer asks for it
- From a visual and interaction standpoint does the product feel dated?
Interaction design is one of the most ephemeral mediums in the world with a shelf life shorter than haute couture. Dieter Ram’s famously said that “good design [should be] timeless”, but your app has to feel at home on your customer’s device. Putting trends aside, does your app look out of place in its ecosystem? If most of your customers are using iOS 10 and your app uses the affordances of iOS 7, its time for an update. When I go to my airline’s app and it’s using visual affordances from 3 years ago, I start to question the integrity of the information I’m getting
- Listen to your customers.
If you have the resources to do research as part of your design process, it’s wise to start by observing how your customer interact with your product. As you get further in mapping out the experience, bring your customers in and have them go through the flow of your app. There’s no need to prototype. You can even show them the high-level flow printed on pieces of paper and ask them if they understand what’s happening and what they would do next to get to X.
Once your tech product is in the wild, keep an eye on your ratings and reviews in the app store. If something is broken or unintuitive, your customers will let you know. While you shouldn’t build a complex feature just because one reviewer asks for it, you may see common themes emerging. If a part of your experience is fundamentally broken, your customers will let you know.
- Has the market fundamentally changed since you released your product?
Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing. I have a folder on my device that’s filled with competitors to the product I work on, and I enjoy seeing how they approach some of the same problems I try to solve every day. You shouldn’t pluck a feature from their app and stick it to yours simply because one of your competitors did it. But it’s important to keep an eye on macro trends and developments. Don’t copy and paste features, try to be simpler and leaner than the other options in the field. If getting from A to B on their app takes half the steps as it does in yours, it might be time for a redesign.
- Is your product 100% focused around the things your customers do the most?
Going back to my airline app, if checking the time and date of my flight is primary reason I’m opening your app, don’t put obstacles between me and that information. There may be a tension between your needs and your customer’s needs. They might only want to check in and see the departure time, while you may want to offer seat upgrades. Resist the temptation to put obstacles in their way even if it furthers your business’s short-term goals. Customers are savvy, and if they feel manipulated or tricked they will find alternatives. Even if the experience is designed in good faith with your customer’s needs in mind, be as minimal as possible. Don’t get overly ambitious or be too clever for your own good.
- Keep it simple.
Reduce complexity whenever possible. Much of my iterative process is in simplifying and streamlining a complex experience. What might start as a simple interaction can get complicated very quickly with optimizations, allowances for edge cases and new features. It’s useful to step back, audit your experience and reduce it to the bare bones. I frequently remind myself that I’m not making a renaissance masterpiece, and the user doesn’t care how clever I was with the design. If the work I’ve done recedes into the background and the user goes through the experience without thinking twice about it, I know I’ve done my job.
#4 The evolution of your product should take it one step closer to better
Every. Single. Day.
Working in product development means working in a world that never stops changing. We design features and build out ideas to solve problems our users are facing, but in 6 months time those problems are going to be different and the world we build them in is going to be different too. Just take a second and think about how many videos you watch in your feeds today compared to a year ago – the landscape has changed, content has changed and so the way you think about your app should continue to change too.
Every single day you should take a step back, look at your product and think about which of it’s aspect you should be redesigning. Think about how the world is changing and where your changes will have the greatest impact – then test your ideas and go build them.
Accept and embrace the fact that your app will change. Your branding will change. The problem you’re solving will change. Fall in love with that idea and remember that every thoughtful action you take to evolve your product will take it one step closer to better.
#5 Redesigning is one of the most powerful things you can do for your company online
Redesigning your website is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself or your company online. At its core, a personal website is a positioning and communication tool. If it’s difficult for users to get a sense of who you are or what your business does, you’re going to miss an opportunity to make a great first impression and possibly lose further opportunities. As the saying goes, one thing that is true 100 years ago, today and 100 years from now is that you only get one shot to make a first impression. That is why we believe it’s incredibly important for everyone to have an about.me page that serves as a personal website.
#6 Always redesign the next version to your online presence
Customers today view a brand’s effectiveness at serving them through digital channels as core to its value and relevance. Of course, most businesses have some sort of digital presence, the question is whether it’s meeting yours and your customers’ needs or whether it’s time for a re-do.
Here is a checklist of questions to consider– the more of these you answer in the negative, the more critical it is that you embark on an immediate redesign.
- Is your site/app fully responsive? Does it scale elegantly for desktop, mobile – both smartphone and tablet, and browser? For some of our clients, the percentage of customer interactions via mobile is approaching or even exceeding 50%. The world is becoming increasingly mobile and your digital offering needs to be effectively designed and fully featured on mobile.
- Are you providing a consistent and seamless experience across channels? Customers expect that the same capabilities, information, and policies will be in effect no matter how they choose to interact with you. Furthermore, the experience should be rock-solid consistent.
- Does your site have a high level of usability? If you haven’t recently undertaken usability testing of your site or app, then you probably have moderate to significant usability problems. We regularly conduct studies of major e-commerce sites doing hundreds of millions in revenue and find many usability flaws, some of which can be easily fixed and others which may require more effort, but when fixed provide a significant bump to conversion. These flaws can be anything from confusing instructions or error messages to overly complex tools to violations of graphical user interface “best practices.” Find them and eliminate them mercilessly.
- Do customers provide feedback – positive or negative – on your digital presence? If you aren’t getting much feedback, it should not be assumed that all is well. Use a tool such as ForSee to gather customer feedback to understand satisfaction and address gaps.
- How does your experience compare to competitors? If you aren’t regularly studying what your competitors are doing, it is imperative that you make this a standard practice, using either internal resources or by hiring an agency. Digital is a major competitive front. It’s critical to be on top of that.
Lastly, the digital world is constantly changing– technology is evolving rapidly and consumer behaviors and expectations are speeding along with it. The truth is you need to always be redesigning the next version or next improvement to your online presence. To quote the great Jack Welch– “When the speed of change on the outside exceeds the speed of change in the inside, the end is near.” Well, the speed of change on “the outside” right now is very great. How’s yours?
#7 Redesign to help users do the job faster or more accurately
There are two situations in which redesigning may be necessary:
- When you observe users struggling to interface with your product. They are confused about what does what and what they are supposed to do next.
- When you have a new insight that will help your users execute the job they hired your product to do significantly faster or more accurately. As Clay Christensen says, ‘People are not buying your product; they are hiring it to get a job done.
However, in both cases, it’s often helpful to avoid a large, long redesign project and instead break the project down into smaller pieces that can be redesigned incrementally and released over a series of smaller sprints.
#8 Redesign your product to accommodate new business goals
Like any decision concerning UX design, the answer to this question depends on a variety of factors, including your organization’s user needs, business goals, and technical capabilities and constraints.
In general, the design of a site or app should continuously evolve as your business and user needs evolve. Sometimes an existing design simply cannot be evolved any further. Some reasons for this may include:
- The design has a large number of known UX issues that cannot be easily addressed (as determined by usability testing and/or analytics)
- A large proportion of the current user base is unable to complete the tasks they are trying to accomplish (as determined by usability testing and/or analytics)
- A large proportion of the current user base is dissatisfied with the design (as determined by usability testing and/or surveys)
- The design cannot be easily extended to accommodate new business goals
- The design cannot be easily extended to accommodate the goals and needs of a new user group
- The design cannot be easily extended to accommodate new platforms that are important to users and/or the business (e.g. new mobile devices)
- The design is based on a technology stack that is outdated, makes the adding of new features difficult, or requires too much effort by the technology team to continue supporting
- The visual aspects of the design (look and feel) are becoming dated and compare poorly to competitive solutions
- Different aspects of the site or app are inconsistent in terms of visual and/or interaction design, which is leading to user confusion and/or reflecting poorly on the organization’s brand
When one or more of these factors are present, it’s time to consider a redesign.
At my current company, Digital Reasoning, we are in the process of rolling out a new design system to our apps for several of these reasons. It’s a joint effort on the part of several teams within the organization:
- My team (UX Design) has been the driver for this effort, and is responsible for creating the new design system, delivering new designs that conform to it, and validating these designs with end users
- Our Apps Engineering team is responsible for choosing and implementing a new technology stack that supports the redesign
- Our Product Management team is responsible for incorporating the redesign into the overall product roadmap and ensuring that it’s balanced with other roadmap commitments
In my opinion, this kind of shared understanding and coordination between teams and stakeholders is key to both knowing when to redesign a site or app, and to making the redesign effort a successful one.
#9 Update website design every month based on user engagement and analytics
The traditional website design methodology would have a company redesign their website every 2-3 years. I would argue that you should be continuously updating the design of your website every month based on user engagement and analytics. This constant design improvement methodology (“Growth Driven Design”), increases lead conversion and enhances the user’s experience. Ultimately you end up with the same result, a completely different looking website every few years. But, with Growth Driven Design (GDD) you acquire more leads and customers along the way.