Redesign vs. Refresh: Which One is Right for Your Site?


aintaining an engaging and up-to-date online presence is crucial for businesses across all industries. But understanding the how, why, where, and what can be overwhelming. There are two common strategies that guide companies through site updates: a complete redesign and a smaller, less complicated refresh.

Each one has a goal of enhancing the user experience and keeping the website relevant, but they differ significantly in scope, frequency, costs, and outcomes. We put together a side-by-side comparison breakdown of each approach:

Understanding the Basics

A website redesign involves a comprehensive overhaul of the entire website, encompassing not only the visual elements but also the underlying structure, functionality, and user experience. It often includes changes to the site’s navigation, layout, content, and sometimes even the technology stack.

A redesign can also increase engagement, clicks, and conversions. For example, Hawthorn Creative developed a website design (and associated marketing) for Walters Wedding Estates that was a lot more than just gorgeous – it resulted in a 27% increase in time on site, 25% increase in page views per session, and a 50% increase in SEO traffic. (Read the case study here.)

On the other hand, a website refresh is a more superficial makeover that focuses primarily on the visual elements of the site. During a refresh, the design elements such as color schemes, fonts, imagery, and overall aesthetics are updated without significant alterations to the underlying structure or functionality.

Estimated Costs

Website Redesign
The costs associated with a website redesign can vary significantly based on the complexity of the project. Factors such as the size of the website, the extent of functionality changes, and the need for new technology integration contribute to the overall expenses. On average, a comprehensive website redesign can range from a few thousand dollars for small websites to tens of thousands or more for larger, more complex projects.

Compared to a redesign, a website refresh is generally more cost-effective. Since it focuses primarily on the visual layer, the expenses are lower, making it a more budget-friendly option for businesses looking to maintain a fresh appearance without undergoing a complete overhaul. Refreshing can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the scope of the changes.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Redesign Advantages
Undergoing a complete overhaul may be a larger investment, but it also brings with it a host of advantages that are imperative to remaining relevant online and ahead of the competition. First, a redesign allows for holistic improvements of your site’s structure, functionality, and user experience. It also provides an opportunity to adopt the latest technologies and development best practices. (This is especially important in the areas of cybersecurity and SEO.) Finally, a site redesign is the perfect opportunity to realign your online presence – and stay ahead of the competition – with fresh branding, updated design, and new product shots.

Redesign Disadvantages
The disadvantages of a complete website overhaul come down to two things: time and money. Because of their complex nature, redesigns are time-consuming projects that can require extensive planning, development, and quality assurance testing. It can be a costly project, too, not only in development costs but also in pattern changes that can temporarily disrupt both your internal teams and the end-user experience.

Refresh Advantages
Think of a refresh as a redesign lite. It’s a simpler, quicker way to give your site’s appearance a facelift without the investment of a redesign – something especially beneficial if your site updates regularly to reflect seasonal changes. It’s also a more budget-friendly option, which makes it accessible for smaller businesses with limited resources. And, since it’s mostly design-based, a refresh can also happen with minimal disruption to the daily routine simply by scheduling it as a regular project.

Refresh Disadvantages
Because a refresh focuses on design changes only, it doesn’t address any underlying structural or functional issues that may be present. You may not see a significant boost in user engagement or site performance from a refresh, and its short-term nature can mean more frequent updates.

Which One is Right for Me?

The decision between redesign and refresh depends on various factors, including the goals of the business, budget constraints, and the current state of the website. While both approaches offer distinct advantages, it’s important to base your strategy on desired outcomes and long-term objectives.

When to Redesign
Choose this option when your site needs significant changes, like structural or functional improvements. One of the most important considerations is the state of your site’s back-end functionality and security. If it’s been years since you’ve updated your tech stack or cybersecurity policies, your site could be vulnerable to exposure. Finally, a redesign is the best choice if your company is undergoing a rebranding.

For example, Hawthorn Creative helped AW Plastic Surgery, a leading medical aesthetics practice, redesign their site so that their online presence matched the 5-star in-person experience. The new design resulted in a 222% increase in organic traffic and a 49% increase in “Contact Us” forms completed per month. (See the case study here.)

When to Refresh
If you’re on a limited budget, a refresh is your best bet for a cost-effective way to maintain a fresh appearance. It also works well if you’re content with the overall branding of your site and navigation, but want to update the look and feel through design or copy. For businesses that have frequent events or consistent seasonal changes, refreshes are on a regular rotation throughout the year.

Should I Hire an Expert?

Like other strategy decisions, the surest way to make the right choices is to start at the end. Determine your website goals, what’s currently working well, and what’s not, and then work backward to mark steps along the way. At Hawthorn Creative, we have a team of experienced website professionals who can guide you through the entire process, from initial decision-making to final testing.


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