Like many San Franciscans I read SFGate every single day. A cup of coffee, my local news fix, and then I'm ready to face the world. But when I reached for the paper earlier this week my routine was derailed - the home page had undergone a major redesign.
After a reluctant attempt to embrace the new look I thought, "Gee, seems like SFGate has been the same forever. Has it really changed that much?" So I visited the Wayback Machine, dug out old copies of SFGate, and made this timeline of the site's evolution:
Here's a close-up of last year versus current:
Conclusion: Until this latest redesign the SFGate home page had remained virtually unchanged since 2002.
To the design team's credit they are doing a fantastic job of accepting feedback and addressing questions in the wake of the redesign. As of this writing there are 164 public comments about the redesign; some are amusing but snarky critiques ("Annoying, busy, fluffy and broken..."), others make useful observations ("The new page crashes Internet Explorer on my smartphone..."). The comments are worth browsing both as a consumer and as a web analytics professional.
My relationship with SFGate is simply as a consumer; I know nothing of their corporate approach to web measurement. And yet I can't help but wonder how they are measuring redesign effectiveness. Or, for that matter, how any of us are measuring redesign effectiveness whenever we do redesigns.
I am full of questions:
- Did the design team do any multivariate or A/B testing?
- If not, was it a conscious decision or just the path of least resistance?
- Do they have a plan in place for measuring the impact of redesign on visitor behavior (and ultimately, on the bottom line)?
- Was measurement baked into the redesign project plan or was it more of an afterthought?
- Were web analysts involved early on, and if so, in what capacity?
I want to know!
I believe, as an industry, we are now more inclined to consider measurement as a valid and necessary part of redesign than we were a few years ago. But I still think we've got some evolving to do.
Just the other day, by way of Future Now's Bryan Eisenberg, I read that 76.7% of internet retailers do not do multivariate or A/B testing. And that's just retail, arguably the most evolved of web verticals! What about the rest of us? Are we making the most of site redesign measurement, or is there still room for improvement?
As always I'd love your feedback.
[I have written about the site redesign measurement process before: here are 3 ways you can prepare for site redesign measurement.]