Musings from Mike Atkinson on Internet strategy, usability, and more...

Need a facelift?

In the last year of helping folks with their websites, I’ve found a common trend. Most organizations have had a website for five or so years and they usually have a fair amount of content, and decent content at that.

Because of that fact, most of the site redesign projects primarily need a facelift. So many sites were designed either in house or by some distant relative’s 2nd cousin’s 12-year-old son. (And usually the design was accomplished using aFrontPage.)

As a result the site looks anything but professional. In fact usually they’re downright embarrassing.

So, while we make many improvements to websites, I think the most significant change has been the look&feel.

And we all know just how important that is. People make a decision about your organization in the first few seconds of arriving at your site.

This was confirmed to me over and over again in focus groups I’d conduct at events. It was even more confirmed when we launched a new event and asked attendees how they decided to attend. So many of them said they went to the website first to see how professional it was. (Fortunately it was and attendance exceeded projections!)

Beyond design the next area that usually needs the most help is properly organizing/presenting the content. While many sites do have good content, it usually has to be restructured to meet visitor expectations and/or adhere to standards. Thus changes to architecture and navigation are usually in order.

Next would be the rewriting of most marketing and instructional text. For marketing text most people simply copy offline text and it rarely, if ever, works. Too bulky and formal. And instructional text (how to go through an online process, how to fill out a form/login/etc.) are usually way too long and complex.

But, in retrospect, I think the change to design is most substantial.


  1. There’s a phenomenon that I find really interesting. There are some sites that I think are just butt ugly, and were designed ni the days of Netscape 3, and get LOADS of traffic. People love them. They’re generally pretty light on graphics, and have text based menus.

    Then one day they get a gorgeous new design, and many of their visitors leave, because they LIKED it the old way.

    I don’t know if people liked it because it was familiar, or simple. I’ve thought about making a site that’s just dead simple, but then I worry that it wasn’t the simplicity people like.

    So now I think there’s a perfect design out there, un-discovered, with the perfect balance of beauty, simplicity, and usability. The Zen of design.
    Topher    Wednesday, September 7, 2005    #
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