“Have we measured this, and if so, what does the data tell us?”
“Have we talked to our users?”
If you’re redesigning something, whether it’s a simple feature or your entire site or app, you need to start with these two questions.
Both of these questions are designed to stop you in your tracks, and make sure you’ve got the evidence you need before you start working to redesign something. Redesigns take time and money, and you shouldn’t do it based on gut - you need evidence.
It’s easy to come to the conclusion that you need to do some kind of redesign. Either something doesn’t feel like it’s working right, you’re just tired of the current approach, or something else has cropped up that makes you uneasy. The problem is, going with your gut can cause a few problems, not the least of which is the fact that more often than not, your gut is wrong.
By starting with these two questions, you do two things. First, you slow down the process, and prevent yourself from acting reactively, which allow you to evaluate if a) you should actually do this, and b) if you do, what the best approach is.
Secondly, asking these questions lets you set a starting point, a beginning state, on which you can measure the effect of the redesign. If you know your current conversion rate, or average transaction amount per sale, then you can compare your redesign work against those benchmarks, assuring that your work has actually improved the condition, not worsened it. The same goes for talking directly to users - understanding their experience now can be measured against how they talk about their future experience, giving you a feeling for how successful the change was.
It’s easy to jump in and start changing things, based on your intuition and gut. You get a feeling that something needs to change, and rush right in to start fixing it. Next time, try stopping and answering the two questions above (to which the answers should be “Yes”). You’ll end up with a much more pointed redesign effort with real measures that can help you gauge effectiveness.
Never forget, sometimes, the answer to “How should we redesign this?” is “We shouldn’t”.