Archive for January, 2008

Web site redesigns and the Ashley Tisdale Effect

As sites age they require fixes, sometimes band-aids are applied even though full-out surgery may be needed. Putting a site under the knife is tricky, cosmetic and structural improvements can make even loyal site visitors cry foul. I call this the Ashley Tisdale Effect.

before after shotFor those of you without young children, Ashley Tisdale is a Disney star of High School Musical fame. Long story short, she got a nose job and her fans became outraged. The Ashley Tisdale that fans had originally fallen in love with had a new look (sans bump), and they didn’t like it even though she was breathing easier.

While it’s a stretch, there is a parallel between nose jobs/movie stars and redesigns/Web sites.

Here’s how it works. You redesign your site. It looks better (no bump), it works better (breathes easier), yet people hate it. They miss that comfort level that they had shared with the old site. Knowing exactly where things were located, the predictability of getting what they wanted in a single click. Not worrying about the imperfections, because they had learned to live with them, even adore them.

Some people don’t deal well with change, even if it’s an improvement. They ridicule the reasoning behind the redesign, the excuse for the nose job (appearance vs. function).

For some sites the appearance argument rings true. Webmasters take a good look around and see how outdated their site has become. Giving in to insecurities about their site, they force a redesign. The pretty sites with their Flash and video get all of the attention. Keeping up with the Joneses is driving the process. Not a good thing.

But for the majority of site redesigns, the project tackles both appearance and function together. Focus groups, usability testing, and defined objectives help to ensure the redesign project has a bigger purpose than just looking pretty. Having an MRI of the deviated septum helps to silent the cries from the “appearance” critics. The surgery is an opportunity to fix site architecture while improving the way things look – two birds, one stone.

before after shotRedesigns will always spawn critics. Not everyone is going to love your new nose. Being prepared to deal with those who are disappointed by your site’s sudden change is half the battle (read: do your homework way before you remove the bandages). Take a good look in the mirror, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Remember, the more dramatic the redesign the greater the number of critics unearthed – think Jennifer Grey, the actress who played Baby in Dirty Dancing.

Is having the surgery worth the risk of offending some of your current fans? Of course. You might make some longtime visitors upset, but if done for the right reasons, eventually they’ll warm up to your new look.

If you have 5 minutes, watch this video and simply replace the Hollywood stars with Web sites, nose job with redesign, fans with site visitors. The goal is to never let your site end up like Michael Jackson.