You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Or do you? Maybe that was true back when those words were spoken by Will Rogers, but these days, on the internet, individuals and brands reinvent and redefine themselves whenever they please. Sometimes all it takes is a little freshening up. Sometimes it takes significantly more effort.
With 81 percent of Americans using the internet, your website is one of your greatest business assets. After all, without your website, you don't exist online. And, as my company likes to tell its clients, if you don't exist online, you might as well not be in business.
Of course, today's business reality requires more than merely having a presence online. There are millions of websites, and you want -- need, actually -- yours to resonate with customers and prospects, and to at least measure up to, if not stand above, that of your competition.
Looking back, 2013 was a big year for website redesign. We ourselves joined the wave, completing a revamp of our own site in April that took careful mind of the newest best practices, latest industry trends, and the newest features that made the most sense for our brand. But we're in the business of designing and developing websites for others, so we also pay close attention to when other brands give themselves a digital facelift. Here, we present to you the five best redesigns from 2013.
Australian website network Envato's mission is to deliver an "ecosystem of sites" within the global community designed to help enable creatives and other freelancers scrape out a living online. The website Envato operated since at least May of 2013 just didn't adequately convey the friendly, community-nature that is so core to the company. To wit, here is a screen shot of the old Envato website:
(Envato homepage, May 2013, via Internet Archive)
The old site utilizes green as its primary color -- a color most often associated with money and safety and also one most often associated with pharmaceutical and nutritional companies -- but not one associated with community and creativity. Further, the site had a basic layout and was essentially a list of each of Envato's sites.
Jumping forward, the newly redesigned Envato site is much closer to its core values. The color palette is flat, utilizing blue as a primary color. Blue is a good choice here, as it's often associated with creativity and intelligence, two traits common of most freelancers and creatives.
The new design is minimalist, and that's to Envato's benefit; and its use of photography and individual testimonials helps humanize a company whose existence is primarily ethereal. Also, the site is responsive -- a very important aspect to any 2013 redesign due to the increasing popularity of mobile traffic and mobile device usage.
(Envato homepage today)
It's hard to get a government website right. But in October 2013, New York City nailed it with its redesign. The secret sauce? Its redesign was powered by research -- an often overlooked component of many web design and development projects.
Its old look resembled many of the sites from over a decade ago: sidebar navigation consisting of text-based links with no drop-down menus or icons, more attention to text than to visual content, and generally cluttered:
(NYC.gov homepage as of July 16, 2013 via Internet Archive)
In undertaking its redesign, NYC.gov used data from how users interacted with the old site to make sure the new site was easier to navigate and use. Some key features include:
- Responsive design (after determining at least 25 percent of its traffic is mobile) and a mobile design and layout that provides only the most pertinent information, such as whether schools are open, parking information, and immediate access to 311 -- the city's non-emergency information line
- Multi-lingual functionality (recognizing the diverse population of New York City, the website can translate its content into 72 languages)
(NYC.gov's new look, November 2013)
(NYC.gov's new mobile page)
In addition, a nice blend of flat, bold colors and san-serif typography join with a good mix of icons for a beautifully simple and modern interface that really simplifies a website that was once previously so content heavy.
Everyone's favorite crowd-sourcing savings community Groupon revealed its first redesign in more than five years in 2013. According to Jeff Holden, Groupon's senior vice president of product management, "The original site was designed for a deal of the day and the new site is designed for a marketplace." Looking at a capture of Groupon's old site, Holden's words do ring true:
(Groupon homepage, July 20, 2013, via Internet Archive)
The old site immediately asked for the user's email address and was otherwise very plain and basic, conveying next-to-no information about what a user could "save 50 percent to 90 percent" on.
The redesign is a big improvement:
Large, beautiful photography is prominent, along with a contemporary sidebar navigation that breaks down popular categories for savings and deals. Perhaps one of the most overdue aspects of the redesign is a search feature -- it may come as a surprise to some, but the old Groupon site did not have search functionality. The new site emphasizes this capability, further advancing the business's goals of improving discoverability site-wide, lessening the dependence on emails for repeat visits.
Wacom, a manufacturer of pen tablets and digital interface solutions, had a strong website to begin with, but it recently undertook a redesign to better the overall user experience.
Consider Wacom's product pages. Here is a screen capture of Wacom's old page that's advertising its Intuos5, a professional pen tablet:
(Wacom's old intuos5 product page)
At first blush, the web page works -- it's a modern, contemporary design with a hero image of the product front and center. But with seven text blocks, it's arguably a little content-heavy and it doesn't highlight the small, medium, large, and extra-large versions of the Intuous5.
Its redesigned long-scrolling page is simply epic, more visually appealing and ultimately more communicative. Check it out here.
The redesigned product page also more clearly details the product's features and technical specifications, with both visual images/icons and concise copy.
What's more is that each of Wacom's pages utilizes strong sidebar navigation that engages the user and funnels them toward the products best suited for their needs.
USA Today's former homepage was a cluttered mass of text-based links. The visual content was practically an afterthought -- after all, of the two largest images on the homepage, one is a display advertisement located at the bottom of the page. The logo feels dated and the color scheme uninviting, utilizes primarily blue text on white background:
(USA Today's former homepage)
The reimagined site reinvigorates the USA Today brand.
Not only does it utilize best practices relating to layout and site navigation, it's also visually appealing, with clean, crisp images of newsworthy stories. And it offers users the ability to scroll horizontally through the top stories just as you would a print magazine. In fact, the entire experience is very reminiscent of a tablet app, and we think the site now outshines its competitors.
There were countless other successful redesigns in 2013, and not one of them reflected a one-size-fits-all solution. But that's simply one of the beautiful aspects of web design.
At the heart of each of the examples, the aesthetics of design meets the science of usability to offer users a unique, custom experience. The redesigned sites "work" because they take into account both the brand and its target audience, merging them seamlessly with contemporary design and development features and best practices.
Not every example was a complete overhaul -- Wacom only needed a slight refresh, whereas the USA Today and NYC.gov were both in dire need of new looks. It's all about finding the right solution at the right time for the right reason(s).
One final caveat -- while we like these sites today, in the present of 2013, if there's one thing we've learned through the years, it's that the web is constantly changing. What works today may be irrelevant tomorrow. So we'll keep paying attention to the trends and analyzing what works, but it's important to stay fresh and to remain open and receptive to change.
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"Web design concept," image via Shutterstock.