I just spent two days coming up with a new design for DrywallHowTo. It is always tough knowing when to go through the gruelling task. In truth, by the time you create a new layout, and transfer the pages to the new format, you could have done the research for, and have half-written a new website.
As many of you already know, I am a fan of underdogs, and have a tendency to try to help out my lagging websites. But a major rewrite is too much to do for a laggard. For a laggard you might write a few emails to attempt a few link swaps. But to buy photos, create an entirely new stylesheet, and meticulously test and rewrite the code there needs to be some possibility of a return on the time invested.
DryWallHowto is one of my more popular sites, but truth be known I was never happy with the way it looked, and I felt that the structure of the page was not the best mix of content and ads. Besides, it just looked rather plain. What I had done right in the first place, however, was to create some in-depth, well-written, articles, that anyone looking to do some drywalling would find useful. This was why the site took off in the first place in spite of the feeble job I did on the initial design.
The already good information needed a better design to make the site look more professional. People link naturally to good material that is well-presented. Sure, they will link to good material, but who wants to link to something that looks like h-e-double-thoothpicks? What you are willing to link to is a reflection of who you are, and most people would rather look good than be right.
I must confess that another reason that I redesigned the website was that I have a site on another, similar topic - Cottage Style Decorating – that does far better with regard to revenue. I can’t give you click through ratios, that would be unprofessional and violate you-know-who’s terms of service. Nevertheless, the difference was marked. So I took the general idea of one website and applied it to the other.
(Yet there is often a great difference in click-through-ratios based on the nature of the information presented. I often get fewer clickthroughs, but more links from informational websites that emphasize “how to”.)
So when does a web publisher (the term “webmaster” is now passe’ for those of you who don’t know it yet) embark on a rewrite, redesign, reformat, do-over? I would say that it must have moderately good traffic and be on the brink of breaking out. The redesign must have potential to increase links-in or revenue or both.