March 9, 2020

Website redesigns typically happen every 3-5 years. What if you're due for something new but aren't yet ready to spend on a full rebuild?

Redesigns are an essential part of maintaining and extending a website. And while opinions and statistics vary, we see clients doing them roughly every 3-5 years. The schedule depends on an organization’s program priorities, content and branding updates, site usability and available resources. That last part, available resources, can be a big impediment to taking on a redesign.

If you’re stuck between too little budget to effectively mount a major rebuild, but are looking to freshen up your public face to the world, may we suggest rethinking the visual language you use while keeping the infrastructure the same? In other words, and in this very specific case, let me introduce you to the recent work we did for Up to Us, a non-profit organization working with college students on the issue of fiscal policy and the national debt. We’ve worked with them for several years as their ongoing technical support partner, helping to maintain their current website with occasional technical and design updates. 

The website for Up to Us was launched over 3 years ago, and while still working well from an infrastructure perspective, the organization was looking for a way to give their site a mini-makeover, a way to freshen up without redoing everything.

Old homepage for "Up to Us"
The old homepage for Up to Us used images that hadn't been updated in awhile. While the images were professional, they didn't correspond at all to any kind of storytelling or context with where they were placed. The new illustration language sought to correct that.

Up to Us had been using the same hero and other landing page images for awhile, so the initial ask was to help them source high-quality images that would work better with new messaging and promotional text overlays. But they were having a hard time finding the right images that spoke both to the activities they were undertaking and giving the site a more modern, approachable feel. We planted the idea of replacing the majority of their hero images with illustrations. For them, it would be an entirely new approach, a new visual language, that would help tell their story. Moving from images to original illustrations built around a unique style has helped the site *feel* new without doing anything to the underlying content or technology infrastructure.

Screenshot from Up to Us homepage
The homepage uses the new visual language to give the site updated storytelling and look and feel without any other structural changes.

We created a series of illustrations, varied in size and features, but grounded in a single brand-friendly design that complemented their existing look and feel but gave the site a totally different feeling than before. We look forward to our next round of work with Up to Us and hope this serves as a reminder that it’s possible, and essential, to continue iterating on your site as new organizational priorities, people and programs emerge.

You don’t have to do everything to make a big impact visually. And because we’re a full service shop that provides strategy, design, and development for both big redesign projects and ongoing support, we can find creative ways to make big progress on lean budgets.