Generally, it’s because they aren’t just slapping a new coat of paint (er, HTML+CSS) on the same pig. In the most successful cases, they’re a complete rethink of what the site is trying to communicate and a complete new set of ways to make that happen.
That appears to be the case with the redesign of the MIT Sloan website. It’s a sign of how bad the previous site was that I missed the redesign happening back in March of this year. But the b-school that I came from has come a long way since I was the sole MBA blogger back in 2001-2002. There are podcasts, official and unofficial blogs, and news feeds galore, all of which combine to give a much richer picture of everything that happens at the school. Compared to the 2004 site redesign, which put a thin veneer of Annoying Flash Movie on top of largely the same static content, it’s revolutionary.
It all conveys what I think is the unique strength of Sloan: it’s a school that’s focused, despite its size and institutional veneer, on empowering individuals and encouraging entrepreneurial endeavors. And to that end, it’s great to see the aggregated feed of Sloan student blogs right alongside official podcasts and other school-developed content, all together in the Sloan master feed. Of course, it would be nice to see everyone posting more often, but nobody’s perfect.