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Website Redesign vs Website Refresh: Which Do You Need?

Website Redesign vs Website Refresh: Which Do You Need?

In the digital age, one can't deny the sheer power of web design. Wherever one stands in the website redesign vs refresh debate, we all agree on that much.

Websites often serve as the first step of customer journeys, and first impressions matter. From fast loading speeds to logical visual hierarchies, audiences need seconds to form their opinions. Effective web design can increase conversion rates and reduce bounce rates, while poor design can outright sabotage your strategies.

So, it's logical to review it over time. Perhaps you want to polish your brand identity, or you've found an underperforming conversion element that needs fixing. For a wealth of reasons, your website design might need touch-ups.

What do you do, however? Is a simple refresh sufficient, or do you need a redesign? How do the two differ, anyway?

Read on as we explore the subject in due depth.

Defining The Terms

First things first, let's define the two terms. 

They carry rather vague meanings in colloquial English, so we'll need to demystify them and pin down their principles.

Website Refresh—Polishing Your Core

What Is A Website Refresh

A website refresh aligns quite well with its colloquial meaning. It refers to polishing your website's visual elements while leaving its functionalities intact.

Therefore, a website refresh might include such practices as:

  • Revamping your logo
  • Changing your website aesthetics, like fonts
  • Rearranging page layouts, e.g., relocating CTA buttons
  • Optimising your CTA buttons themselves, changing their colours, fonts, copy, etc.
  • Adding or optimising visual elements, like cleaner photos or video content

Granted, designers and marketers may use both terms a bit loosely. Comparing website redesign vs website refresh, they may assign some qualities of one to the other.

Second, exact practices toward a website refresh may differ too. For instance, some may consider a new, visuals-focused content marketing strategy a website refresh.

Still, in all cases, the term refers to applying visual polish to an existing functional core. A refresh will not entail deep customisations but mostly user-side visual touch-ups to ensure better appeal.

Website Redesign—Starting Over

What Is A Website Redesign

In contrast, a website redesign might need more clarification than the term's usual meaning. In this context, it refers to redesigning a website, or some of its core functionalities, effectively from the ground up.

Thus, a website redesign might include practices like:

  • Migrating a website to another Content Management System (CMS), often to facilitate new functionalities
  • Changing a website's architecture and content hierarchy
  • Adding or changing drop-down menus and navigation options, search bars, and so on
  • Changing website code to facilitate better technical SEO or improve mobile accessibility
  • Revamping a checkout process to simplify it and reduce cart abandonment

Of course, redesigns come in varying degrees. 

A “full” redesign might have you start virtually from scratch, on a new CMS, and with new themes. In contrast, selective redesigns may only delve into specific, goal-oriented changes to your website's foundations.

Notably, just like with website refreshes, the term might see some loose use. Sometimes, “redesign” might mean “an extensive refresh across the board.” 

Still, the term generally refers to changing deeper website functionalities. Depending on your final goal, redesigns tend to be much more complex but can also be much more effective.

Website Redesign vs Website Refresh—Which Do You Need?

So, in brief, a refresh would typically be visual, while a redesign would affect both visuals and your website's functionalities.

Now, which do you need?

The answer will typically rely on your website's needs, not simple tastes and whims. Both can be very extensive in their ways, so you'd likely opt for either in response to actual needs.

Several signs may emerge and inform your choice as you monitor your website's effectiveness. So, let's explore some signs that might steer you in one direction or the other.

Signs You May Need a Redesign

Disregarding visual appeal and brand identity, the first signs you should redesign your website may emerge as you monitor its marketing effectiveness. 

Consider ones like the following that might indicate you need a complete overhaul or deep dives into functionality:

  • Low conversion rates—Sometimes, you may need simple Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) focused on your pages and CTAs. However, your analytics might determine that you lack user experience (UX) design, which plummets conversion rates. In those cases, a redesign might be in order.
  • High bounce rates—Before conversions, your website might struggle to keep generated leads from bouncing early. Google finds that page loading times drastically affect bounce rates, as users expect fast loading speeds. Addressing this may also require a redesign and notably enhance your SEO.
  • Low accessibility scores—Speaking of SEO, the website redesign vs website refresh debate rages on as regards accessibility scores. Some will argue that a targeted refresh ensures ADA compliance, but redesigns tend to work best when CMS migrations are necessary.

As you can see, such metrics are typically quantitative. As a redesign will often require considerable resources, time, and effort, it's often best to base the decision to opt for one on tangible, robust metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

For such metrics, you may collect insights and analytics from sources like:

  • Google Analytics and other website analytics tools
  • Website heat maps
  • Your sales reports

That's not to say you can't also use qualitative data, like direct user feedback. If anything, such data might offer some much-needed confirmation.

However, redesigns might best rely on tangible data on your website's effectiveness – and your bottom line.

Signs You May Need a Refresh

Conversely, you may not identify any pressing performance needs that necessitate a redesign. You might already have an SEO-friendly, accessible WordPress website performing fine. 

However, over time, you might feel that your logo doesn't represent your business's values and identity anymore. Perhaps your style doesn't resonate with audiences as well as it used to, and you fear eventual underperformance.

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In those cases, the website redesign vs website refresh debate is settled; a refresh is all you need.

Consider such cases as:

  • Rebranding or branding changes—Perhaps it's time to rebrand or polish your brand image to best meet your marketing goals. A website-wide refresh might be necessary if you design a logo from scratch or realign your brand direction.
  • Polishing your visual identity—Adjacent to the above, you might target a new audience segment or seek to modernise your look. Perhaps your analytics nudged you in this direction, or you feel the time is right. In either case, some visual polish is likely due.
  • Adding new content—You might be leaning on new, SEO-friendlier, visually rich content to elevate your website. In those cases, your website architecture would remain intact – so a refresh to accommodate your new content should suffice.

These choices might come from such sources and data as:

  • The direct audience, user, customer feedback, surveys, social media comments, etc.
  • A/B testing results that show visual polish can enhance your website's effectiveness
  • Your own branding goals, content marketing strategies, and so on

Generally, refreshes can rely more often on qualitative data, but not exclusively. They can be in response to emerging needs, as proactive measures, or simply as desirable polish.

Still, unlike redesigns, refreshes tend to be more superficial and less resource-intensive. Therefore, you may approach them more liberally.

Website Redesign vs Website Refresh: Practical Factors to Consider

Mobile-First Design Example

So far, we've discussed the terms and the principal differences between the two. We touched on typical practices of each and explored signs that might suggest you need to consider one or the other.

But there's more to making your final choice between the two, even more so if you're driven by specific goals, as opposed to simply wishing for welcome bits of polish. What are the practical factors that differentiate the two?


The scope of the two will initially differ – even though both can narrowly focus on an individual design element. 

A refresh will typically focus on more superficial elements, while a redesign will drill down to the core of the design. Thus, a refreshing effort will often have a narrower scope and come with fewer management difficulties. 

In contrast, attempting to redesign your website may be harder to monitor as it progresses.

Of course, neither should be challenging if you're receiving an agency's web design services. This factor is primarily worth noting in cases of in-house or DIY projects.


In project management, completion time is also a crucial factor to consider. You've likely assumed as much, but a redesign often takes longer than a refresh.

Granted, this factor will not affect your live website's operations. You're not weighing periods of downtime; both will typically take place on a test site first.

Instead, your desired completion time makes this factor relevant in the website redesign vs website refresh dilemma. Your goals may be time-sensitive; you may, for instance, need to halt a conversion rate decline by Tuesday. 

In these cases, you'll need to consider your exact goals' timeliness. If a goal can't wait, you may need to entirely entertain other practices or an alternative approach.


Finally, the two differ as regards costs. Of course, typically, website redesign costs much more than refreshes – but final costs can differ significantly.

Factors that will inescapably affect your project's final cost include:

  • The scope of your project—Selective, focused projects will naturally tend to cost less. Of course, this also depends on what you do and whether it requires additional groundwork.
  • The same services you need—The same services you require will considerably affect the final cost. Applying a single service across a website may cost much less than selecting a dozen different services.
  • Your chosen professionals' prices—Should you choose to employ the services of agencies or other professionals, their prices will also differ significantly. Quality services tend to cost more, whether refreshing or redesigning, but market research is always highly advisable.

Especially if you're running a smaller business on a tighter budget, the final cost is a fundamental factor to consider early.

Website Redesign vs Website Refresh—Making Your Choice

Website Redesign Vs Refresh

Finally, hopefully with all the relevant information in order, you should be ready to make your choice. We may give final pointers and round up the above if you're not here.

Discreet design interventions, starting with your goals in mind, is vital for all but the most minor. You will be spending time and resources, so your redesign or refresh should directly serve specific, relevant goals.

For instance, you might intend to:

  • Reduce your website's loading times to reduce bounce rates
  • Enhance your website's user-friendliness to improve lead acquisition rates
  • Increase conversion rates to improve final sales numbers

In such cases, you may find that your website:

  • It lacks functionalities that would allow it to perform better for your audiences and customers
  • It is sluggish and unresponsive, hampering its user-friendliness and diminishing the User Experience
  • Needs to migrate to another CMS, revamp its architecture entirely, or otherwise undergo drastic changes

If so, you would need a redesign; there's simply no other way to meet your goals.

Conversely, you might be seeking to:

  • Improve your brand image to reach a new audience and expand
  • Realign your brand's values and image with your website's visual identity
  • Improve your content's effectiveness and improve your content marketing performance

There's much more room for creativity for these goals and typically fewer technical obstacles. A simple refresh will suffice to meet these goals, and creative touch-ups may be all your website needs.


To summarise, the website redesign vs website refresh is quite simple. If your goals require superficial changes and visual polish, a refresh should suffice most of the time. If your website lacks functionalities and underperforms because of it, a redesign may be necessary. 

Of course, your final choice will have to rely strongly on your goals, analytics, resources, and other personal factors. There is no universally “better” option among the two, as each serves its purposes. Consider what you seek to achieve before all else, and the better option for your website will soon become apparent.

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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