A Decade of Homepages: An Inside Look at Our Website Redesign Strategy

    by Erik Devaney

    Date

    June 5, 2014 at 8:00 AM

    hubspot_homepage_redesign-1Confession: To date, I’ve probably redesigned my personal website approximately abajillion times. Yep ... abajillion.

    I’ve switched platforms twice, swapped in at least a dozen templates, and “rebranded” my website with new logos, colors, imagery, and copy more times than I can count. Now that I think about it, I’ve probably spent more time redesigning my website than I’ve spent actually creating blog content for it or promoting it.

    Looking back, it’s clear what my problem was: I never had a clear plan of attack. I never figured out why I was actually redesigning my website. And I never scoped out my redesigns ahead of time, which meant I never knew how long they were going to take or how much they were going to cost. My redesign strategy -- and perhaps “strategy” is too strong of a word here -- was to start messing with stuff and hope for the best.

    Fortunately, since this was my personal site, I never really felt any serious repercussions from having such an ill-conceived approach to website redesign. I wasn’t monitoring any KPIs or optimizing anything, so it really didn’t matter that I was regularly tweaking (and breaking) stuff with reckless abandon.

    Now, here at HubSpot, it's a different story.

    As an inbound business, our website plays a major role in everything we do. Redesigning it doesn't happen on a whim after a few mojitos: It's carefully planned, benchmarked, and analyzed so we can understand what kind of impact the redesign will have on our business. 

    And in contrast to my random redesign outbursts, HubSpot's last decade of redesigns (okay ... almost decade) are always carefully focused on solving specific problems and/or promoting specific ideas.

    (Note: If you want to learn more about how we organize website redesigns, check out our new, hands-on resource: The Ultimate Workbook for Redesigning Your Website.)

    When you look back in time and see how HubSpot's homepage has changed over the past decade, the reasons for those changes are usually obvious. However, to glean even more insight into why we chose certain redesigns, I simply turned to our company's wiki.

    And we figured that information shouldn't just live on our internal wiki -- anyone who planned on doing a website redesign for their company might want to see how one company went through some good (and maybe not-so-good) redesigns to end up with the homepage they have today.

    Now, let's take a stroll through memory lane, shall we?

    2005

    HubSpot_Homepage_2005

    Ah, yes. 2005. That one time when we had a blue sprocket in our logo.

    Not our finest work, but people seemed to resonate with the stock photo of the pensive-looking man in the blue shirt. Let's see how things looked a year later ...

    2006

    HubSpot_Homepage_2006

    Much better. No more blue in our logo and no more pensive-looking stock photo. But more importantly, we can see the transition from what was really just a placeholder homepage in 2005 to a homepage that's actually conveying a message.

    That message? Well, it's inbound marketing ... only, there's no mention of "inbound marketing." In fact, there's only a single mention of the word "marketing" on the entire page. 

    For a company that's in the marketing software business, we probably should have incorporated a few more SEO best practices into the homepage.

    2007

    HubSpot_Homepage_2007

    Boom. Now we're onto something: "Turn your website into a marketing machine." It's clear that we're dealing with marketing now, which is a step in the right direction.

    Also, the purple has been replaced by a bright splash of orange, and the top navigation and background have been given a dark gray makeover. Both of these changes helped to stylistically align the homepage with the orange and dark gray of the HubSpot logo.

    Brand identity? Getting stronger. Overall quality of design? I mean, those funnels are pretty terrible. I'm looking at them thinking ... "Oh, so HubSpot sells extra large funnels?"

    The question that this homepage still fails to answer effectively is what HubSpot actually is. "Turn your website into a marketing machine" ... sure. But how? Are you an agency? Are you a dev shop? Tell me what you are!

    2008

    HubSpot_Homepage_2008

    Alright, we're getting closer. HubSpot is a system. In fact, it's an inbound marketing system.

    Unfortunately, that still doesn't tell us a whole lot about what HubSpot is selling. After all, a "system" could imply something free, like a diet "system" where you only eat grapefruits and jalapeno peppers (yuck). Or it could be like a workout "system" a.k.a. a set of DVDs that costs three easy payments of $29.99. The bottom line: The homepage is still lacking clarity.

    Also of note: the two buttons in the header. That's us trying our hand at audience segmentation. We put one for "Marketing Professionals" and one for "Business Owners." If only we had the power of Smart Content back then!

    2009

    HubSpot_Homepage_2009

    2009: The Year of the Software.

    As detailed in the HubSpot Wiki, the redesign that led to this incarnation of the homepage was meant to solve a specific problem. That problem?

    People who came to HubSpot.com had no idea what we did. They had no idea what kind of software we made -- and some didn't even know we sold software in the first place.

    Check out the screenshot above and you can now actually answer the question "What does HubSpot sell?"

    Software! HubSpot sells software! All that "Get Found," "Convert," and "Analyze" stuff from HubSpot's past homepages now makes sense: That's what the software helps you do!

    While stylistically similar to 2008's look, the 2009 iteration of the homepage is more focused and more actionable. Not only does it convey that HubSpot sells software, but it also has a big fat CTA urging you to start a free trial of that software.

    2010

    HubSpot_Homepage_2010

    More improvements. Now it's not just "software," it's "marketing software." Also, in case you didn't notice, a decent number of people actually use this software. 

    In addition to incorporating social proof into the homepage's banner image, this redesign better organized information on the homepage, giving it a more modern feel.

    Overall, it's a solid design that does a decent job of conveying what HubSpot sells. But as the business grew, so did the competition. So, how could HubSpot differentiate itself from all the other "marketing software" companies out there?

    2011

    HubSpot_Homepage_2011

    All-in-one. That's how we distinguished ourselves from the competition with our 2011 redesign. We weren't just software, we weren't just marketing software, we were all-in-one marketing software.

    Looking at the wiki notes, there were many issues that this redesign sought to solve, but the top issue was that the previous design didn't make it clear what HubSpot offered.

    A key component that you're not seeing here is the video that lived on the homepage (where the gray box is now). This video further promoted the message of HubSpot being an all-in-one solution.

    2012

    HubSpot_Homepage_2012

    What a difference a year makes! Is it just me, or does the jump from 2011 to 2012 seem like giant step forward in terms of having a modern, beautiful homepage design?

    At this point in the business's history, we were getting a little more press, more people were familiar with who we were and what we did, so we decided to change our homepage style and messaging to better reflect the times.

    When reviewing the redesign notes on the wiki, once comment struck me as especially relevant, and I think it shines through in the design:

    " ... the bottom line in the choice between HubSpot and competitors should come down to, 'Do you want to transform your marketing, or do you want to keep doing the same old thing with new tools?'"

    2013

    HubSpot_Homepage_2013

    Big product news meant big homepage changes from HubSpot in 2013. With so many exciting features rolling out that year, we wanted the homepage to reflect how brand-spanking new everything was.

    While this design yielded great short-term results -- especially since it was promoted in conjunction with INBOUND -- it ultimately wasn't meant for the long term.

    The "new" HubSpot couldn't be new forever. 

    2014

    HubSpot_Homepage_2014

    So, here we are. 2014. It's been quite a journey.

    Our current homepage iteration was designed to meet several objectives. One of the main ones was to highlight how happy our customers are. 

    You could say that this design is sort of a throwback to our 2010 look, when social proof was front-and-center. Four years later, we're not only mentioning our customer base (11,000+), but we're also drawing attention to the customer satisfaction ratings we're getting on site like TrustRadius and G2 Crowd.

    Looking back, we can identify all of the reasons for all of the changes that have been made to the HubSpot homepage over the years. And somewhat unexpectedly, aesthetics always seemed to take a back seat to utility. It wasn't about making something prettier, it was about making something easier to understand and navigate for our visitors, leads, and customers.

    Thanks for going back in time with us! If you're ready to improve your website's design, follow along with our website redesign workbook and let us know if you have any questions! 

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    Written by Erik Devaney

    As a content strategist at HubSpot, Erik spends his days planning, writing, & designing resources for the modern marketer.

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