Your Old Website is the Best Prototype of Your New Website

So let’s say you and your team are ready to redesign your website. So where should you start to resist the temptation to start designing right away?

Don’t get on the computer right away before you design.

There’s two usability studies that I usually recommend teams do. The first one is to conduct a usability study of your old website.

Before you discard your old website, you can probably learn something from it. You probably have existing customers who love some aspect of your existing Web site, so you want to know what that is and so that you can incorporate those ideas into your new design. Your old website is the best prototype of your new Web site. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s not good enough to say that it’s bad. You want to know why it’s bad and what’s specific about that, that you can improve or change moving forward. And you also want to know what your existing customers think. There are some aspects of your design that maybe some customers really love or really need to get their work done.

So you want to be aware of these patterns and these types of feedback as you move forward, so you incorporate these ideas into your new design.

My second recommendation is to perform a competitive usability study, usability test. Sites that you admire have features that you’re interested in or how workflows that you were thinking about, including in your next redesign, rather than creating a brand new prototype to evaluate these ideas.

These websites are already trying to solve some of those problems that you’re trying to solve.

In the process, you’ll discover which new interactions might be effective for your new website and also which mistakes to avoid. Now, these foundational studies don’t need to take a lot of your time. One to two days is usually sufficient, so save the time rather than coming up with your own prototypes.

Remember, some of these prototypes already exist in the real world. So your existing website is probably the best prototype of your new design.

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