The situation:

Your website is outdated. It’s been touched less in the last three years than (insert preferred inappropriate joke). So, you make it a priority to fix your website this year. You seek out a partner (ahem, Brokaw) to help. Said partner will most likely walk you through a traditional four-phased approach to the project—define, design, develop, optimize.

At the end of said process, you end up with a brand new website that you’re proud of. It works on modern screens. It is an accurate reflection of your brand.

That’s a good thing.

What’s not so good is that a full redesign is both time-consuming and expensive. Often, while the result may look shiny and new, the site could be much better. What’s worse? Your site is probably destined to be back to I-wish-I-wasn’t-so-ugly fairly soon.



In practice, the four-phase redesign process is squarely focused on the first three phases—define, design and develop. You’ve addressed the key initiatives and hypothesized user needs. Everyone (us included) is excited when it’s done because it is a lot of work. Whether it is the proverbial “content monkey” on your back, or the point where you start wishing bugs were simply insects—we end up with a lot of business sweat invested in the site that emerges.

At the end of the process, few are eager to dive deeper into the project which is where we meet phase four: optimize (the most important, yet most overlooked phase). Spending more time and money on a newly launched site seems like a bad idea—and, honestly, a hard sell.

However, two things have proven over and over again that phase four is essential: life and potential.


  • Bugs. Bugs are an ongoing factor in web development. We as designers and developers try to avoid them at all costs. We test, and we fix. We prevent. However, technology changes daily. Ongoing maintenance is necessary to prevent a site from ending up you know where.
  • New. Design trends, brand evolutions, technology and content all change. Your brand’s needs and your customer’s needs change. Phase four allows you to react, and even plan, for these changes.
  • Actual behavior. You teed up the project with a series of hypotheses. You may have even taken part in user exercises prior to launch. You formulated and designed around these hypotheses. Monitoring, evaluating and optimizing around actual behavior at a large scale breaks down the parts of your site that work and those that don’t.


When defining scope for a redesign, there are times when ideas are produced that are strong, but involve complex functionality, logistics and/or content. These ideas usually garner excitement. Then, dreams are crushed by the harsh reality of the idea’s implications on your project’s time and budget. Someone (usually the loudest in the room) is unwilling to waiver and says, “Let’s include that in Phase 2 of the project.” These moments are glimpses of a site’s true potential, but you can’t spend your budget on one idea, and thinking must be big-picture. We can focus on pieces of the site that in isolation are less daunting from a time and budget standpoint—these help to bring out your website’s true potential.

Ask yourself: do you need a full redesign? If you haven’t considered life and potential, then probably yes. If you do need a full redesign, and you adopt a new, different and ongoing approach to your project, you can avoid the I-wish-I-wasn’t-so-ugly site that undoubtedly would have followed.