Over our many years as a web agency, we’ve seen businesses struggle with their websites but unsure of what solution will overcome their challenges and achieve their objectives. When a website needs widescale improvements, there are four core paths that a project usually goes down:
While there’s a relationship between each, they all mean something different. It's important to understand the variations as they involve different elements that create different outcomes, and, as such, the scale of the project can vary. In this blog, we share insight into example scenarios that each route might suit and guidance on which could be the better option for you.
- What’s the difference between a reskin, redesign, replatform and rebuild?
- When should each option be considered?
- How to deal with technical debt
- Why iteratively improving your website is so important
A reskin involves replacing or refreshing the exterior surface of the website such as changing colours, fonts or imagery and can offer many quick wins from a user interface perspective. However, many businesses fall into the trap of believing they need a reskin but soon find they want to change the position of certain elements onsite which can very quickly transform the project into a redesign.
A redesign, like a reskin, is also updating the visual presence of your website but could involve moving certain elements around the site to create the best experience possible. A redesign project could exist within your existing branding, or a redesign could be needed as the result of a rebrand too. These projects can be limited in scope and have the tendency to morph into a rebuild as changing the design often means changing the underlying code of the website.
A replatforming project is when a business wants to migrate from one platform another. During this process, we aim to leave the design as is and possibly the front-end code too before rewriting the code for the website in a new platform.
A rebuild can often be a combination of all the above but can also be done without changing the website visuals. This is usually required when you need a new website or something substantial on your website needs changing. It could also be undertaken because of evolving technology needs, managing excessive technical debt, reoccurring site stability issues or performance issues.
When should each option be considered?
There's no hard and fast rule to this question. Our recommendations very much depend on how the original site is set up and the objectives you want to achieve so we can recommend a solution based on your unique challenges.
It’s crucial to define what your business needs your website to do, or you can lean on the support of an agency to get to the bottom of this. Whether it’s a reskin, redesign, replatform or rebuild, it all comes down to the business objectives. What exactly are you trying to achieve?
As with any scenario, when you're presented with these four options, it's unlikely that one of them is going to be a perfect fit. Instead, it becomes about the pros and cons of each and applying the most fitting solution to your challenges.
The most expensive route you can take is a rebuild but this provides the most freedom whereas a redesign or replatform may be cheaper and faster, but they are limited in what they can achieve alone. Let’s break this down into some example scenarios which may ring true to your own experiences:
1) You’ve undergone a rebrand
If you’ve recently undergone a rebrand and these changes need to be rolled our across the website, you may be happy with a redesign, or in some cases, even a reskin. This route would be the quickest, cheapest and most cost-effective way to achieve your objectives.
2) You want to increase conversions through your website
If your aim is to increase your website’s conversion rate, a reskin may make no difference and a redesign, or in some cases, a rebuild, would probably be a more suitable option.
3) You need to change the structure of your taxonomy
When the need becomes present to change the structure of your taxonomy, that's often when the project becomes a rebuild. This goes beyond changing content or redesigning elements and moves into factors such as changing the navigation structure, the expected user journeys, restructuring content, integrating with new systems and so on.
4) You want to move away from your current agency fast
If you’re happy with the design of your website but your main priority is to move away from your current agency as fast as possible, a replatform could well be the way to go.
5) Your CMS is no longer right for your business
If your CMS has become an issue to use from an internal point of view, replatforming to a new CMS could be the ideal solution. Or, maybe what you need your website to do for your business has evolved. For example, you now need a CMS that can cater for personalisation but you’re happy with how your design looks. Again, a replatform would be the ideal route.
6) You need to consider Core Web Vitals
Sometimes it’s the impact from the wider digital world that causes you to make changes. If you’re happy with the way your website looks and it converts well but page loading speed is reducing, your rankings are dropping or updates like the Core Web Vitals have not yet been considered, a rebuild may be on the cards.
There are quick wins to help fix some of these challenges but to really maximise performance, your front-code will need rebuilding but rebuilding the front-end code may necessitate rebuilding the back-end code too for the best result.
7) Your site needs updating through multiple versions
In some cases, a business could have fallen behind on their platform updates and find themselves on version 3 when they should ideally be on version 7, for example. To move your website through multiple versions, it can be more practical and less risky to rebuild the website in the new CMS version rather than upgrading through each.
Combining each option for the right solution
Typically, a web project can be split into three roughly equally sized phases:
- Phase 1: Design
- Phase 2: Build
- Phase 3: Test and deploy
Some challenges are best resolved by getting to market fast with a strong MVP as a starting point before iteratively improving the website. As an agency who prides ourselves on an iterative improvements approach, we often suggest an MVP to solve the primary issues fast. In this case we could cut out the design phase and undertake a replatform first and foremost before carrying out a redesign as part of the second phase.
On paper, this is often the best option for your users and for you as the client. However, it can also be a tough sell to your management team as budget will be spent on a site that looks no different on the surface.
When building a business case in this scenario, it’s important to remind stakeholders that the first phase has put the business in an ideal starting point to build for the future. In this case, a costly rebuild can be avoided allowing you to split the project down into more manageable, more affordable stages to really make the most of your budget.
Dealing with technical debt
When we work on websites, one of our top priorities is ensuring you get the longest lifetime possible out of your product. However, what will naturally happen over time is that websites will build up technical debt which occurs when you continue making changes to your website.
In the world of development, web projects take a feature-by-feature approach to quickly deliver on client requirements. But this can result in a wide array of mismatched practices building up across the site. Making a change that seems small on the surface will end up costing you more because there have been previous multiple workarounds. In these cases, you’re eventually forced to hit the reset button to clear up the technical debt with a full rebuild.
So, how do you continually improve your website while avoiding technical debt?
Iteratively improving your website
Our number one recommendation to any business is to invest in servicing your website. No matter how old or new your site is, we recommend undertaking an audit every year – we’ve appropriately named our auditing service a Website MOT.
Getting under the skin of your website’s code, content, functionality, integrations, user experience and site performance, an audit ensures everything is working as it should be and can help you manage technical debt too. What’s involved in this process?
- Technical site audit
- Front-end code audit
- Site performance analysis
- Google Analytics audit
- Content audit
- UX audit
- Site responsiveness
How can we help?
Whichever route ends up being right for your business, we’re dedicated to helping you maintain evolve and improve your offering past go-live. With an extensive discovery process to work through, we can split your project into phases to help you understand the ideal route that will allow you to reach your objectives and make the most of your budget.
For more information on our services and how we can help you get more from your website, get in touch to discuss your business needs with us today.