Tips on How to Redesign a Large (Dynamic) Website

    August 1, 2006

Redesigning large dynamic websites can either be easy or problematic. Read how you can redesign your large website easily and efficiently.

How hard is your site to change?

Before you actually make any changes to a site, you need to understand how hard it is to adjust your site at all. There may be several types of large sites:

  • large static sites using pages with .html extension
  • large sites with Server Side Includes without a CMS
  • sites with a content management system

         -using templates for layout

        -using built-in layout

These site types are different in terms of how easy it is to change the site look. Let’s see how exactly it works for them.

Static sites

Large static sites, usually on HTML, are quite rare. If you want to change such a site easily, you’ll have to use Server Side Includes and any programming, if needed.

To redesign your site with SSI to the site, you’ll have to do the following:

  • create a new layout, which includes all necessary design blocks and content
  • divide the page into parts: the includes
  • introduce the Server Side Includes code into every page on your site

Though this may be hard work, but it is required for the site to be edited easily. Otherwise, you’ll be editing every page on your site manually forever.

You can always install a CMS for an often updated website: it’ll require putting all the content in the database, though.

Sites without CMS

Large sites with Server Side Includes but without CMS are quite common. To change the site design, you just need to create a design and divide it between includes. Most likely, you’ll need to create the includes from scratch and readjust the pages accordingly.

Large sites with CMS

These sites are the most popular, because, usually, large sites require extensive efforts to maintain them. There are a lot of CMS’s, but, generally, they can be divided into two groups: customizable and non-customizable.

Sites with customizable CMS

Websites with adjustable CMS can be edited. How easily it can be done depends on the content management system. Some use templates (default visual layouts, used for different types of pages), some change the page look with the help of a user interface. Basically, it may be best to use a CMS on templates to be able to customize the layout. To redesign such a site, simply redesign the templates your CMS uses to change the site appearance.

Sites with non-customizable CMS

On the other hand, sites on CMS that can not change visual layout should be best redesigned with the help of a better CMS, or, if the site is small enough, just with Server Side Includes. This simply means that the site layout needs to be designed from scratch and the site owner has gained a chance of setting up an easily-customizable back-end solution for his website.

Summing up

In short, how a large site can be redesigned depends on how it was built. If it is possible to adjust a template layout, so much the better. However, if a CMS can’t change the site appearance, it’d be best to replace the CMS with an easily customizable CMS, which is also web standards compliant (on CSS).


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Yuri F is a usability consultant for MyNeatSite, a company, specializing in redesigning websites. Make your site load faster by optimizing your site images.