Aaron Shapiro.

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The Skin-Deep Shortcut to a Redesign

Originally published in Mediapost, August 10, 2010

You can change your clothes faster than you can change your figure. The same goes for websites.

Major website redesigns take between 9 and 16 months. They require everything from research and strategy work to interaction design, visual design, content development, user testing, engineering and deployment.

But a marketer burdened by a stale, outdated site and the pressure to perform understandably wants improvement faster than that.

The solution is to preface the overhaul with a comprehensive reskin—a less invasive procedure promising to quickly improve the site experience. With a reskin, the focus is on comprehensively redesigning the home page without changing any global navigational elements: if the original site has five links on the navigation bar, the new home page may look completely different, but it will still have the same five links. This type of change functions to improve user experience, while avoiding the laborious work involved in changing the organization of the rest of the site.

Integrating this new visual design to the rest of the site is relatively painless. Most sites use a global style sheet and a common header and footer. This means only three elements need to be updated to match the new design. Done correctly, a reskin can go from inception to launch in as little as 6-8 weeks. The end result is a website that feels fresh and looks modern and new, but it is substantially the same as before.

A refreshed, more contemporary look, particularly on a homepage, speaks volumes about a business. Even if the homepage isn’t the traffic hub due to deeper links from specific Google searches and social networks, it is still the highly visible public face of the brand online. When it noticeably changes, it sends a message to the world that the company is evolving for the better. This buys you time for the more intensive redesign.