I’ve never been shy of throwing stones in glass houses, hoping that they should bounce away and not make it all come down on me. It’s more fun that way. With the Devlounge redesign around the corner (the theme’s core is more or less done – yes, there’ll be more previews before launch), and after that a similar treatment for The Blog Herald, talking common mistakes in redesign seems like a good idea.
Now, this is by no means a complete list or anything, every site and design has its own needs and do’s and dont’s. See as something to think about before redesigning.
- Launching before the new design is cross-browser tested. Seriously, sometimes you’ll stumble onto a redesign by a what you thought was a serious website, and it breaks in Safari, isn’t tested in IE7, or whatever.
- Launching without giving your readers a heads up. You should definitely inform your readership that a new design is coming, or have a really good explanation ready when you’ve launched. Chock-launching can work, but in today’s very open and transparent web I think you really should let people know that they might see another design next time they pop by.
- Removing all key recognition elements in one swipe. Don’t just null out your previous visual identity, make sure there are some elements left, updated perhaps but recognizable, so that your readers can tell that they’re visiting the correct site.
- Making everything harder to find. Let’s face it, you might want to move around elements in your design and that’s fine. Just don’t change everything at once, or if you do, make sure that everything is in the second most obvious place (the first being your old design’s locations of course).
- Jumping onto the popular style bandwagon. It’s easy to get caught up in the flavor of the day, being rounded corners or pastels. By all means, take the parts you like into your designs, but remember what you’re redesigning, maybe the style doesn’t fit at all, or maybe it just doesn’t benefit the site. If you really want to do the design of the day, then by all means do, but consider carefully where you use it.
- Launching too early. I know, I know, it’s very easy to launch early and say “I’ll fix the rest later”. Well, if you’re gonna do a beta launch, be sure you don’t pull a Google and stay in beta forever. Make sure you’ve got a list of features and additions ready, and plan them, so that your premature launch won’t come back and haunt you. Ideally, your design is done when you’ll launch, or at least appear done, then you can add to it and make it look like tasty bonuses!
- Redesigning too often. A new design, again? You should commit to your designs, give them time to exist. Maybe they turn out to be “bad” for your site, then fine, go ahead and fine-tune, but watch out for getting caught in the redesign loop.
- Removing features without an explanation. Some features and functions should never disappear of course, like the search box on most sites, but some might not seem necessary anymore. Well, that might be true for you, but you should make sure that it goes for your readership as well. I like to ask the readers, or at least post about why something was removed, with alternate (better) functionality for them to use instead. That way, they’ll complain if I’ve been stupid and ignorant in my feature-slashing, and the site benefits.
- Too drastic monetizing changes. This is a tricky one. On the one hand, you need to make money on your site, but on the other you don’t want to make the ads too obtrusive. Every change in advertising on your site, be it contextual text links, image ads, or whatever, should be made with caution. This is one point where the chock treatment will not work.
- Pushing too much new stuff. This goes for design in general of course, but adding too many things to a page makes it cluttered and that’s ugly. Since a lot of redesigns are pushed because of the urge to add new functionality, nifty new stuff you have to push out there, this is a common mistake. Don’t clutter it, prioritize, and be wary of what you remove to make room for the new things.
Want to add to the list? Post in the comments.