Redesign versus restyling

Often I hear people say, “I’ve just redesigned a website”. “Oh wow!”, I cry. “That must have been a hell of a lot of work. How much or what did you change?”
I can already read from their bemused faces that what they had done was a restyling of an existing format. Not knowing the difference between the two. Okay, granted it is a bit arrogant of me to whinge on about the exact wording. But if your clients are asking for a “redesign” you’d better know exactly what they mean, or you could end up with egg on your face. Did you ever notice that weird phenomena that clients tend not to end up with egg on their face, they’re footing the bill after all.

A redesign can take place on many different levels because the reasons for needing one are just as varied. Often the content needs to be restructured, navigation extended or amended. A good reason for a redesign is that the company is redoing their branding strategy. This could reflect on everything. The way articles are written and their tone of voice could change, altered priorities in the information structure and last but not least styling.

In fact there are some great books on the subject of redesign and how one could go about it. I don’t remember reading a book on restyling per se. Is that because that restyling alone doesn’t make any sense? Well there are occasions when such work could be done. When the styling phase was under valued in the first place (happens a lot) or that the styling never fit the over design in the first place. Well who’s going to admit that? And that’s a pity because many should. Just restyling your site for no other reason than just to placate to your mood of the day can hurt you more than you realise. Okay bloggers form an exception to the rule because their audience is themselves plus (any)one. Looking at Dave Shae’s redesign of Mezzoblue which also included a strong visual change we could see that the restyling itself triggered a comment or two of discontent. Some may, in the end, not frequent the site as much as they did before the redesign. For a more commercial site this would require some explaination to the stakeholders as to why there was such a strong emphasis on the restyling. When the viewer numbers go up the more the the viewers have a stake in the site. If they feel they no longer fit into the scheme of things they will leave. It’s just a matter of; how important are these viewers or users or whatever you need to call them are?

So if you’re redesigning your site and it’s merely a restyling, you may want to reconsider. Because you may be shooting yourself in the foot. You’ve been warned.

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