Redesign Best Practices

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was about to moderate an expert panel at called “When Is It Time to Redesign?” The panel included Sarah Veit, VP of direct to consumer for Bare Escentuals and Ken Mowry, VP of marketing and creative for Charming Shoppes. Today we’ll look at a few of the major takeaways from the session.

Keep it Simple

One of the biggest lessons was also one of the most basic: keep it simple. Both panelists had launched new features on their sites that featured non-standard navigation. They both included horizontal navigation and worked like a Carousel or Cover Flow. In both cases, the feature failed during usability. Users didn’t understand that they were only seeing a certain number of products and they could scroll the widget to the right or left to see more. In both cases, the companies removed the feature either during usability testing or after it launched (once they saw the feature wasn’t working).

Keeping it simple is a tough lesson, especially as it often flies in the face of innovation and reinvention. How do we continue to move forward while making sure people understand how to use our site? Additionally, when is it time to train users on something new instead of only feeding them what they know?

There are lots of examples in recent history where “keep it simple” and “innovate and change” are not on opposite sides of the argument.

Multi-touch, for example, is a relatively new invention into our psyche. But it went off without a hitch. Why? It’s intuitive and (more importantly) simplifies things. In this case, “keep it simple” was in effect, and things got simpler. Apple’s two-finger scroll (on its trackpads) is another example. After you try it once, you wonder how you ever used a computer without that feature (and grimace when you have to).

But odd navigation on a website that doesn’t simplify things is bound to confound users. Usability testing is crucial to understand if your latest and greatest innovation is intuitive or confusing.

Redesign Isn’t One Event; It’s a Constant Evolution

Both panelists reinforced this idea: redesign isn’t always a big bang. Certainly, a wholesale redesign of the entire site is a huge idea. But beyond that, feature evolution and improvement is a weekly process. Sometimes, it’s easier to sell a “redesign” if you don’t use that word. If you’re just changing one page or one feature, call it an “upgrade” or a “tweak.” Upper management is usually less afraid of these words.

Post-Launch is Vital

Once a new feature or new site is launched, the work is rarely over. When redesigning, it’s important to have a post-launch plan. Usually this involves analyzing site usage and metrics and tweaking things once they’re used in the real world. Launches are also generally executed in phases, so preparing for Phase II and Phase III is important after the launch as well.

Additionally, it’s important to get tech and creative to still be interested in the project. Once something is launched, it’s no longer the “newest” or “sexiest” project at your company. But it still needs to be maintained and updated. You need to do internal PR to keep people interested in working on your project. Metrics, sales data, customer comments, and other feedback can help show its value and keep people excited.


Thanks again to Sarah and Ken for being on the panel. Hearing them talk about the redesign process was valuable and insightful to the audience. They’re clearly experts in their fields, and were a pleasure to work with!

Until next time…


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