Website Refresh Vs Website Relaunch: The Difference Matters
While there’s no hard and fast rule about how often a website needs to be updated, keeping your business site fresh helps you stay relevant and competitive in a swiftly changing technological landscape. How comprehensive should a reboot be? It depends.
A website refresh is like a new paint job or a new haircut: it’s a way to liven up your site without making complicated changes that take a lot of time and resources. If your site is performing well and you’re happy with its functionality, then a refresh will revitalize its look and feel. If, on the other hand, your site is extremely outdated, lacks responsive design, and regularly frustrates your visitors, then it might be time for a website relaunch (or website redesign).
In this article, our team of development and design experts explore the differences between a website refresh and a website relaunch and show you how to do both. Your business website will look contemporary and revived in no time!
If you opt for a refresh, the core of your site will stay the same with the structure and functionality intact and you’ll still have a satisfying sense of having revived your site to look and feel more modern.
Website Refresh Step 1: Explore Your Site
Begin by navigating your website just like a first-time visitor would. For example, maybe it’s obvious to you that your company’s contact info is at the very bottom of the page—you’ve scrolled there a thousand times! But would it be obvious to a user who has never set eyes on your page before? Are the menus easy to find? Take notes on what works and what could use a little fixer-upper magic.
Website Refresh Step 2: Set Goals and Budget
After you’ve thoroughly analyzed your site, it’s time to outline your goals, which will give you a clear indication of what your budget will look like. Ask yourself: what do you hope to get out of your refresh? Do you just want your site to feel more current? Do you want to enhance brand consistency? Drive more traffic? Rank higher on Google?
These are all valid goals, but you should prioritize just 2 or 3. If, after you’ve looked at your site and settled on your aims, you realize that more comprehensive changes are necessary, then a full overhaul might be in order (we address relaunching your website below).
Website Refresh Step 3: Update Content
Since industries and technologies evolve at a breakneck pace and successful businesses adjust to keep up, it’s likely that the content on your site could use an update.
- New directions. Do you have brand new projects to add to your portfolio? Is any information outdated or no longer relevant?
- New company info. More mundanely, maybe your hours changed post-pandemic, or you have new team members. Think about switching out your testimonials so your regular users can see that you’re still going strong by making clients happy. Don’t forget to update your copyright date, too!
- New keywords. Remember that well-ranking keywords change all the time, so it’s important to regularly update content in a way that optimizes it.
Website Refresh Step 4: Rethink Your Design
Design trends come and go and following the herd is neither necessary nor smart. Still, no website refresh is complete without a few design tweaks to improve the user experience.
One of the easiest ways to make your site feel brand new is to upgrade your images. If you were using old stock photos, ask yourself: do these images truly represent my brand and my team? Cookie cutter images feel outdated and weirdly distancing, while authenticity is on-trend and helps build trust. Play around with crystal-clear images of customers, team members, or products.
Layouts and Colors
Does your color scheme feel relevant and clean? For example, textured backgrounds may have seemed fun in 2007, but nowadays, minimalism is the name of the game. A simple, clean site is easy to navigate and feels up to date, so opt for a solid background, lots of negative space, and a clutter-free layout.
Are your calls-to-action clear and easy to find? Make your visitor’s journey as smooth as possible by signposting what you want them to do: make an appointment, fill out a form, or browse. The longer your visitors hesitate while trying to figure out what to do, the likelier they are to take off.
Sometimes, simply adjusting your fonts and font size can give your website an entirely new feel. A sleek font can help achieve a clean, contemporary look, especially if you give your text some space to breathe.
If a refresh was like a spring cleaning or a fresh coat of paint, then a website relaunch or website redesign is like knocking down a few walls and installing new flooring. While a relaunch includes revitalizing your website’s look, it’s aimed at overhauling the structural aspects of your site to improve functionality. Here are the top indications that it might be time to commit to a website relaunch:
- Performance. How well does your site stack up against the competition? If your conversion rates are low and your bounce rate is high, a new site might improve your numbers.
- Functionality. How quickly does your site load? Is the navigation seamless and intuitive? Is it mobile-friendly and responsive? Are there a lot of broken links?
- Rebranding. If you’re taking your business in an entirely new direction, your current site might no longer serve those needs. Some rebrands require complete site revamping—it’s an exciting opportunity to redefine yourself to your existing audience while attracting new clients.
- Feel. Even if everything works, some websites just feel dated and no longer seem relevant to today’s tech-savvy users. If you built your site before the dot com bubble burst, complete with splash pages and flash animations, it’s definitely time for a reboot!
Website Relaunch Step 1: Analyze it
Just like with a refresh, begin the relaunch process by critically examining your site. Use benchmarking to compare your site to your competitors and determine where you stand. Scrutinize your performance data and solicit customer feedback, focusing on the following:
- Site traffic
- Average session duration
- Bounce rates
- Top performing pages
- Ratio of visits to leads
- Conversions (these include sign-ups, followers, and purchases)
- Ratio of mobile to desktop users
- Top customer questions (for example, if users are constantly asking whether you offer a certain service or how to accomplish a certain task on your site, you know those are snags to unravel)
Website Relaunch Step 2: Set goals
Now that you know what works and what doesn’t, it’s time to brainstorm with your team to determine time limits, budget, and the scale of the changes you hope to implement. Prioritization is key here since you won’t be able to accomplish everything at once. For example, if your main priority is to add new functionality, drive users to specific pages, or make the site easily navigable, then focus your efforts and budget on achieving those aims without getting distracted by other goals. Tell yourself that you’ll get to them—next time.
Website Relaunch Step 3: Plan it Out
Out with the old
Since you’re not building a site from scratch, decide what to throw out. Make a list of the new pages you intend to add, and how they’ll link to your existing pages. This gives all stakeholders a chance to evaluate your planned site structure. Compare your new functionality requirements with what your current content management system (CMS) offers—if there’s a key functionality you can’t live without, a migration to a different platform might be in order.
Fix what’s broken
If you’ve ever clicked on a video that doesn’t play or followed a link that takes you to that irritating “Oops!” error message, then you already know how much it impacts your perception of a website’s quality. Broken links and missing content look bad, period. They’re a quick fix that makes a massive difference to user experience.
Map the journey
Create a map of your user’s online journey through your website. Visitors shouldn’t be aimlessly scrolling your site, so have a plan of where you want them to end up. Make sure navigation between pages is smooth and effortless, no guesswork required.
Decide how your site will look, considering all design aspects from fonts to typography to colors. Think carefully about how your brand vision and values are reflected in your site design, what mood you want to create, and what emotions you want your site to evoke.
To create a smooth, intuitive user experience, it’s important to organize content into a hierarchy that aligns with a clutter-free and up-to-date aesthetic. Be strategic about headers, subheaders, and CTAs.
Website Relaunch Step 4: Update for mobile and speed
Since most website traffic comes from handheld devices, the majority of your visitors will likely be using smartphones to access your site. If your site isn’t already optimized for mobile, then now is the time to make those essential changes to see your traffic soar and improve your search ranking.
Did you know that more than half of your visitors will abandon your site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load? Google will also penalize you if your site is slow.
It’s becoming the industry standard to create a responsive site—meaning that it adjusts automatically to look good on all devices and screen sizes—rather than building a separate mobile site. Remember that mobile users have small screens and rely on their thumbs to interact with your site, so everything should be easily readable and clickable.
Website Relaunch Step 5: Protect SEO
For well-performing pages, it’s vital to preserve your search engine ranking. Here’s how to relaunch without losing what you’ve already built up:
- Keep the site URL structure. It’s especially important for high-ranking pages to retain existing URLs, so unless there’s a compelling reason to change them (like adding a new brand name or incorporating keywords into the address), try to keep the same structure.
- Keep high-ranking content. If you have a page that’s ranking well for a particular keyword, keep it! Prune content carefully to make the page up to date while retaining what’s already working.
- Set up redirects. If changing the address of a page is a must, be conscientious about setting up proper 301 redirects so your visitors aren’t faced with a 404 error page. It looks lazy, Google hates it, and it erodes visitors’ faith in the competence of your business.
Refresh or Relaunch to Maintain Momentum
Whether you opt for jazzing up your website with a new color palette or are ready to roll up your sleeves for a complete relaunch, your efforts are likely to boost traffic and sales. Why? Because staying current pays off. At Buddy Web Development and Design, we know how to help businesses keep up with technological trends while remaining true to their brand vision. If you want to talk about sprucing up your business website, explore our work here or fill out our form here and we’ll be in touch.