I’ve redesigned my website and it looks exactly the same

If it’s one thing designers seem to love, it’s to redesign things. One of the easiest way for a designer to gain social attention is to redesign something public - like the next version of iOS, a well-known website, or even their own website. While this can be a great way for designers to prove - and develop - their skills, they all have one thing in common. They focus entirely on the visual design of their product. As any senior designer will happily tell you, a design is made from the combination of many things with the visual design being just one of many.

I don’t have a product of my own to work on, but I do consider my website as close as I get to having one. So I try to iterate on it, add features, remove features, and see what works. Even if you’re a frequent visitor, you might not have noticed that a week ago, my website was completely redesigned from the ground up. Everything still looks the same, but everything is completely new.

What does a redesign mean?

A redesign’s primary focus should be ‘improvement’. This can be done in a number of places, yet designers naturally tend to focus on the design bit by creating a completely new visual design and still using the same technology.

I’m proud that my website has got quite a lot of praise over the years for its looks and ease of use - two things that I obviously hold dear as a designer. So when I started to think about a redesign, I wanted to keep the design as close to what it was. So why a redesign to begin with? Well, the fact that people like the visual appearance does not mean there’s no room for improvement.

The classic Steve Jobs quote

There’s one quote that’s used more than a lot in the design scene and especially among UX-designers:

Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, “Make it look good!” That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. Steve Jobs

For an industry that loves to quote it, for some reason we seem to focus a lot on the what it looks like part and completely disregard the how it works part. For this redesign, I wanted to focus entirely on how it works.

Should designers code?

I don’t want to enter the “Designers should code” debate all over again, but it finally seems like we’re moving on from it. I do think it’s important to understand the difference between actually being able to code and the view from a designer seeing value in things that derive from the marriage between design and code - accessibility, speed, privacy and SEO to name a few. We design to solve a problem, to serve a business - coding is part of that. My own coding skills are fairly limited - I know my way around basic CSS and HTML, but nothing more advanced than that. Luckily, I’ve worked with a talented developer and there are a lot of tools designers can use to improve their website experience.

Accessibility & Privacy

My priority for my website is to “provide users with relevant content in the most accessible way.” While that might sound like a generic thing to say (and it is), living up to it is a whole other thing. You see accessible is a lot of things. To name a few, it means my website is easy to read and navigate all while keeping the site loading *fast*

I’ve also decided to remove Google Analytics (and any other Google scripts) from this website. The only analytics service I run is GoSquared, but with their option to anonymize your IP. Because GoSquared charges me to use their product, they don’t have to sell (your) data in order to be profitable. They are also fully GDPR compliant.

So by respecting your privacy, I’m getting a faster website! Talk about win-win!

Security

Designers - get your act together and setup a SSL for your website. That ‘Not Secure’ title next to your domain is not doing you any favors. Your audience notices. Let’s Encrypt offers free SSL certificates and if you use a service like Netlify (and you should), it’s literally as easy as flipping a switch. This will improve your Google rankings too. A safer web is better for everyone.

Google Lighthouse

Google Lighthouse is a handy tool I use to audit the quality of a webpage. You can run it against any web page. It has audits for performance, accessibility, best practices, SEO, and more. Have you tried thinking about how you could improve the experience of your users without necessarily adding features or doing a (visual) redesign? I’d be happy to help you define what those things could be!

lighthouse

The only visual change

So being a constant iterator, I couldn’t redesign the website without doing a single visual change. The only visual difference is the change in the primary text color - from #FE6963 to #9c0061, from a bright raspberry red to a darker aubergine purple. Why? Because the raspberry red did not meet WCAG contrast ratio requirements for AA-level. This updated color scheme passes AA and AAA for both small and large texts ✌️. Great design is for everyone.

Your next redesign

So what if for your next redesign, you don’t just focus on the visual design, but also consider what you can do to ultimately better serve your users? For sure, this could be through a more intuitive and user friendly design - but remember that it’s only one of the things that define how something works.

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