The Real Reason Website Redesigns are Expensive

The Elevate Team
The Elevate Team

All too often, businesses embark on an overhaul to redesign their e-commerce site thinking it should be quick, easy and hopefully, not expensive. Most companies will also have grand visions for their new website,wanting all the bells and whistles, as well as what it will achieve in the long run for the growth and scalability of the business.

To achieve a redesigned e-commerce site that ticks all the boxes — a strong digital strategy, compelling branding, seamless UX/UI, cutting edge design, and high quality code, to start — you’ll need to shift your perspective towards longer-term thinking, invaluable results, and a price tag that will give you the high ROI you expect. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. And for us here at Elevate, that means first-in-class e-commerce sites that do your brand justice, and get the results you deserve.

In this guide, we break down exactly why e-commerce redesigns cost what they do, the three key stages of a website overhaul, and why we think it’s worth the investment.

Site Redesigns Aren’t Just About the Website

Sounds counterintuitive, right? Although it may seem like it on the surface, a website redesign is not actually all about the site itself.

A website brings together aspects of strategy, marketing, design, and development. It also unifies your brand’s visual identity and messaging in one place to best connect with your customer. There are a lot of moving parts and resources that need to come together to create an effective e-commerce site.

That’s why it pays to work with an agency that understands the value of a holistic approach to site redesigns. And why, sometimes, fast and cheap doesn’t always cut it.

Stage 1: Quality Website Design Takes Six Months and a Healthy Budget

Strategy and design is the first stage of a full website overhaul, and could take a minimum of six months alone. You should be prepared to invest six-figures for this part of the process.

When you opt for quick and fast turnarounds, the slashed price and minimized timeline is borne out of cut corners and lackluster design quality and finish. By contrast, a six month (or longer) design process provides space for the meticulous pace of work that delivers the world-class digital experience your customers deserve. Good design translates directly into an impeccable user experience to streamline your customers’ interaction with your site and your brand — ultimately improving chances of conversion.

Within these six months, you’ll go through various design steps to bring your e-commerce site to life. It’s difficult to itemize each stage of the journey, because in many ways a site redesign’s value is intangible. Here we’ve summarized the process into five rough phases:

  • Digital Strategy

    At this step, you’ll work with your design and development agency to hone in on your overarching digital strategy. Your e-commerce site is a central component of your overall digital marketing strategy and impacts everything from your consumers’ experience, conversion rates, SEO rankings, and revenue. You need to ensure that your redesign will help the site support marketing and align and facilitate your overarching business goals. This is arguably one of the biggest value propositions offered by an expert design agency: making the link between your site, its design, and how it forms part of, and facilitates, your overall business goals.

  • Content Audit

    Ahead of starting the design process, your design agency should conduct a thorough content audit in which they sift through all existing content on your site with a view to ranking its current effectiveness. This should help to inform and optimize your future content strategy, and identify any gaps in content that may need to be created. Rather than simple black and white elimination, an experienced design and development agency will leverage the results of their audit to make executive strategy recommendations that will result in a stronger website post-redesign.

  • Wireframing

    Wireframing is a key stage of the web design process in which the proposed web design is mapped out in a kind of blueprint. You will gain a high-level overview of how a user will interact with key features on each page. It should also help provide clarity to the user journey.

  • Sitemapping

    A sitemap complements the page wireframes by identifying how each page works together. Moving beyond UX/UI considerations, the sitemap will outline your site navigation and which pages link to one another.

  • Visual Design

    The visual design is the final stage of the design process. This involves developing the visual identity of your e-commerce site as communicated through the lens of your brand: The color palette, fonts, photography, illustrations, diagrams, iconography and other visual and interactive elements that are drawn together throughout your site to tell your brand’s story.

Stage 2: Development, Another Three to Four Months

Once the site is designed, it needs to be built (aka developed). You should expect the development side of things to add another three to four months onto the timeline. Though you may be seeking a quicker turnaround, carving out the time to accommodate watertight quality checks and higher code quality is more than worth it — and will save you time down the road.

This includes:

  • Development

    The development phase of your e-commerce site redesign is when the developers bring your design to life. This is the stage at which all these concepts and blueprints translate into an actual functioning website. Front-end development handles the look and interactions of the site while back-end development tackles the complex systems that connect what the user is trying to accomplish with the business operations. From virtual try-ons for cosmetics to real-time pricing and order processing, development is when a wild concept becomes reality. It’s also the phase in which expertise and experience are so essential.

    Opting for a cheaper developer may have its advantages from a financial perspective, but you’re likely to walk away with a more poorly constructed website and lack the crucial support mechanisms needed to address issues pre- and post-launch. Ultimately, you risk spending more to fix issues in the long run.

  • Migrating Data

    An e-commerce site redesign can also be leveraged as an opportunity to refine, consolidate, and reorganize your website’s content. Data that needs to be migrated during a website overhaul can include copy, photos and images, or videos - the things that make your site yours. There is also often tons of important and sensitive data related to the back-end systems that run the website that need to be migrated, including pricing models, SKUs, inventory management, customer order history, customer account information.

  • Quality Assurance (QA)

    Once the developers have built your e-commerce site, it’s time for quality control. Quality assurance is essentially an audit from the development side to confirm that your e-commerce site is up to standard and has met all the predetermined requirements. This is an opportunity to identify pain-points or vulnerabilities ahead of the site launch, and allows your development team to fix any faults. It’s also the time to identify any visual defects that might otherwise detract from a consumer’s overall experience with the site (and your brand).

    The inherent design and flows should drive conversions, not make it harder. And though it’s possible to make these kinds of assessments in-house, it’s also beneficial to get a fresh, external perspective that can help you to optimize your e-commerce site and maximize its performance. An experienced design and development agency will have stringent standards and a ruthless eye, ensuring that every single granular detail is up to scratch.

Stage 3: Marketing, to Bring Your Brand to Life

In addition to design and development, you need to invest in your copy and content to ensure your brand’s vision and story are cohesive and in alignment across your website. Working with a full design and development agency that offers marketing expertise ensures that your website and brand voice develop and grow in tandem. This is something that requires a cross-sectional approach, providing you with:


Effective and professional copy is absolutely essential for a powerful e-commerce site. A website without copy is like an empty scaffolding. That’s why working with an agency that can deliver both high-caliber design and powerful copy makes for a winning formula. Good and cohesive copy should be in synergy with your site design, bringing everything together and resulting in a powerful platform that drives conversions and maximizes your revenue.

Design Style Guide

An organized and structured style guide will help to maintain brand cohesion and design continuity for future site updates or content production. Though it's possible to build one out in-house, this will require substantial investment of time from your internal teams.

Working with a unified agency like Elevate ensures that your customers’ experience with the site and connection with your brand stays consistent through all their interactions. We save you time by giving you the framework you need to effectively and steadily maintain your site for the long-term, so that it will continue to look and feel like it did when we handed it back over to you.

Site Merchandising

Site merchandising is the process of getting your website ready to do its job: sell your products. It is a critical part of any business’ marketing and e-commerce strategy. Site merchandising is more than just getting your site ready to sell, it’s about getting each item that you’re selling ready with its respective information.

When your site has been designed and built, it’s still only a shell. Site merchandising is the process of populating all the gaps with content, such as product photography, copy, marketing promotions, try-on technology, and more. This is the stage at which your brand comes to life through your site. However, it’s essential to approach site merchandising as more than a box-ticking exercise. Knowledge of digital design, digital marketing, and consumer psychology is pivotal here to ensure that your site merchandising works to elicit a response in your customers, and ultimately, drives conversions.

Email Marketing

Another element of an extended scope marketing service can include designing key marketing email templates. Your marketing emails are an extension of your brand identity and are key to product promotion and driving conversions. Delegating your email template designs to your design agency makes sense, since you’ll be guaranteed designs that correspond with your overall brand identity and aesthetic.

Plus, design isn’t just about visual appeal, but about drawing a response from your target audience and ultimately, driving action - whether that’s a sign-up or purchase. That’s why drawing on your agency’s expertise in promotion and driving conversions can really pay off in the long-run.

Bonus Step: Post-Launch Support for Optimization & Management

Once your site is ‘complete’, it’s not actually finished. In fact, this is only the very beginning of your e-commerce site’s new life. That’s why, unless you have the in-house capability, opting for an expanded scope service in which your design agency continues to manage your site makes for a smooth transition, getting you on your feet to take the reins yourself.

Post-launch, your e-commerce site will require constant monitoring and oversight. You’re likely to need ongoing developmental support moving forward. Plus, key metrics and analytics as to how your site is doing should be leveraged to continually optimize and refine its performance. This is critical to capitalizing on organic growth and maximizing the ROI you get on your new website.

Though budget is undeniably a big factor when it comes to a site overhaul, we’re firm believers that it’s almost impossible to put a price tag on moving your brand forward in such a significant way. Shift your understanding of a site redesign away from pure visuals or UX/UI, and see it as an extension of your business’s identity. Entrusting your site to a design agency that understands that your site is more than just a transactional platform is key to getting the results you’ve been looking for.

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