Radical Vs. Evolutionary Web Design – Which works best?




Evolutionary web design is not my idea, nor is it a new idea, it is just often overlooked.

I figured I would resurface the differences and options between the two.

“Radical Web Design”

Every 2-3 years, a company decides its time to redesign its website in order to make it relevant to current standards. An agency is picked, the site is created, and whala, a totally new website and user experience is launched. God forbid it contains any elements from the previous site. Its almost like buying a new car. You are sick of your red 4 door sedan, its time for a new big black truck! In the web design world, this is called “Radical Web Design”. This is the standard protocol and utilized 95% of the time.

“Evolutionary Web Design”
Here is another lesser known strategy in web design which is called “Evolutionary Web Design”. Google, Amazon and many others implement this strategy. This is when you take small elements of the website, overtime, and test them. The site constantly evolves, one part at a time. The process never really ends, and there is never a drastic change. One might test 2 different navigation layouts, category colors, page layouts, fonts, etc.. Sure, if you looked at the site between 2-3 year gaps, they would be really different. But on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, it would be hard to see the differences. Changes are slow, most users don’t see them, and only things that are proven to work with conversion testing are made live permanently. To use a similar reference to the car buying one above, this would be like buying an old clunker and tinkering with it overtime, painting it, adding to the engine, to create the perfect vehicle.

Think about it ….

When was the last time that noticed Amazon.com redesign their website since the 1990’s? You haven’t. Amazon.com is the poster child of Evolutionary Web Design. If they decided to do a radical shift in layout, colors and flow, their conversions would plummet and they would most likely lose billions in revenue over the weeks post-launch. Most of the hundreds of new site launches I have been involved in saw a lower conversion rate for the first couple of months post-launch.

Their are times where Radical web design is appropriate, there are times when evolutionary is.



When Radical Web Design is Best:
1. Your site doesn’t have the technical capabilities to perform the things its needs to. Perhaps you sell stuff online but your site lacks the core eCommerce functionality
2. You have rebranded your company and its important, beyond just the web, that your site matches your brand.
3. You have changed your product line drastically
4. Your site is greater than 5 years old (probably too late to go
5. Budget constricted – Evolutionary web design is typically much more expensive. Since there is no project, rather, an ongoing effort, you will need to incorporate monthly budget to it, forever.
6. Site traffic is less than 5k a month. You would have too little traffic / theories involved in evolutionary web design.
7. Your boss or investors are waiting to be “wow’d” by a new site. Bad reasoning, but hey, sometimes that matters!

When Evolutionary Web Design is Best: (For the record, so long as you have enough traffic to test, this is 99% the better route to go)
1. You are simply trying to increase the conversion of your website, but the core functionality/technology is adequate.
2. You have greater than 20,000 visits in traffic (yes, doesn’t match up to the radical web design traffic number, there is grey zone here)
3. You have budget and patience.
4. You have the support from the company, and you can incorporate testing into the culture, and part of the business process.

If you have any questions on this or want to chat about this topic, reach out to me!