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How to Tell It’s Time to Update Your Website

When someone says your website needs updating, do you get all defensive?

Sure it’s a few years old, you say. The look and style is a bit dated, but it’s doing the job. I don’t need to spend money just to make some web designer happy.

This blog isn’t about the aesthetics of website design. It’s about having an effective website that works for you. Sure, there are visual cues that tell you when a company isn’t paying attention to its online image. But there are also behind-the-scenes symptoms that matter. And there are consumer trends that matter. We’ve written about website renovation before, but it’s a message that’s worth repeating. 
Here’s a look at some tell-tale symptoms, both functional and visual, and why.

Signs that your website needs updating

Outdated information. Does the date on your copyright notice proclaim 2010? Does your Events page alert visitors that you’ll be at a conference that wound up two years ago? The problem with content that’s literally out of date is that it makes the rest of the content look dubious. Are product descriptions current? Are the white papers about issues that still matter? How effective is your website if visitors feel doubtful about your information?  

Broken pages. A web page with broken external links is bad enough, but when an article or product description points to internal pages that pop up with the dreaded “404 not found” message, your content is definitely stale. The same goes for images that are missing, error messages, and functions (such as forms) that no longer function. Again, it creates doubt in the visitor’s mind about the relevance of your content, the quality of your business organization, or whether your business is struggling.

Difficulty updating content and images. Consider why you have the two problems listed above. Do you suffer from outdated information and broken pages because it’s difficult to keep your web pages updated? Is it a matter of getting more training on how to use your content management system (CMS)? Or do you actually need to have a web programmer make your changes? Fresh content helps your search engine rankings. A friendly CMS makes the process less intimidating and certainly less time-consuming. Older websites might contain hand-coded features that make it hard for mere mortals to change text and images. New platforms such as Wordpress and Drupal are designed with user-friendly content management in mind.

Poor site speed. The technical performance of your website matters. Tests by Amazon in 2007 showed that every 100-millisecond delay in page load time translated into a 1% decrease in sales. A study released by Akamai in 2009 found that 47% of web visitors expect a page to load in two seconds or less, and that 40% of visitors will abandon a page that takes more than three seconds to load. It’s safe to assume we’ve become even less tolerant of slow web pages since then. Add to that the growing use of Smartphones to browse the Internet, and you’re dealing with visitors who are even less tolerant of bandwidth-heavy sites because they’re limited to cellular network speeds. New platforms, smarter design decisions, and just plain better development techniques will optimize performance.

No support for mobile devices. According to a study by Walker Sands Communications, visits from mobile devices accounted for 31% of all website traffic in Q4 of 2013. Responsive design delivers a site that looks good and navigates well on a variety of smaller screen sizes. It’s friendlier than presenting a desktop-only interface to mobile visitors, and far less expensive than building a dedicated site just for mobile devices. Yes, this matters for B2C websites, but also for B2B. Whether business users are traveling or commuting, on the job site, or even just walking around on the shop floor, they are accustomed to accessing to the Internet wherever they are. 
No integration to social media. Are you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or LinkedIn? Are there icons to Follow or Like on your website? Do you really need someone to be telling you this?

Poor SEO ranking, poor traffic. You want to be SEO-friendly. Search engines favour sites with fresh content, so a CMS that lets you update content efficiently certainly helps your cause. Google, Bing, and Yahoo also favour sites that are coded properly – in other words, sites and pages that have been set up so that it’s easy for their bots to navigate and index. Broken links, redirected links, and duplicate content on the other hand, will earn you penalties. A website audit will turn up technical issues that prevent your website from ranking well.

Since more than 80% of buyers research online before making a purchase, good SEO and qualified traffic matter. Once they find you however, the site has to encourage visitors to stay. That’s where good design combined with good content comes into play.

Cutesy stuff. Nothing says 1990 like those animated GIFs, flashing banners, cartoony icons, midi music, or website counters (“You are the 9,876 visitor to this site”). Professional web design avoids all of these gimmicks because they are … well, gimmicky; and after the first five seconds, really annoying. Good design and good navigation will lead visitors’ eyes and mouse clicks to the information you want them to see and the call-to-action you want them to take -- while making a far, far more professional impression.

Cheap visuals. Logos or images in a white (not transparent) box against a coloured background. Fluorescent colour schemes. Logo that’s really WordArt text. Generic colour schemes. Busy web pages that force visitors to work hard to find what they need. All of these are more likely to make them abandon your site than go deeper to learn more about your company. How often do you hear the phrase ‘your website is your online storefront’? Many potential customers will never meet you face to face – this is how they form an impression of what it would be like dealing with you. Don’t let your online storefront scream ‘small and struggling’ to website visitors.
Do you need to update your website?

The symptoms above have very little to do with trendy, cutting-edge design, and everything to do with delivering a positive user experience. Start by auditing your website for SEO, traffic, and social media integration. Some of them can be resolved without a website redesign. They just take some time and attention. On the other hand, if several of these symptoms apply, it may be better to bite the bullet and update your website.

Here’s what to expect if you decide to update: a good website development project encompasses more than design. It begins with understanding your audience, marketplace, and the business goals for your website.

•    If you run Google Analytics, that data helps the project manager see which pages, functionality, or content have been the most popular, and factor this into the website plan. 
•    Navigation and page structure, the ‘bones’ of the website come next. You’ll need to collaborate closely when it comes to page structure, because this is where you finalize decisions to remove obsolete information, update content, or add new content. 
•    Only then do visual elements such as branding, colours, images, and style come into play. 
•    New website platforms such as Wordpress and Drupal are SEO-friendly and provide user-friendly CMS. This matters more than you think. A rule of thumb is to redesign the visuals for your site every three years and update completely every five to take advantage of new technology and functionality. This isn’t always possible, but good design and a friendly CMS will make it easier to give your website a longer shelf life. By changing banners and images, you can give your website a fresh set of visuals.  
•    Your web development company should also look after the technical tasks such as: retaining your existing URLs, re-directing links from popular pages, and keeping the same Google Analytics ID by transferring that code to the new site. 

Whether you are dealing with business buyers or consumers, your audience is becoming more and more comfortable with searching online, engaging over social media, and using mobile phones for Internet access. As a result, they get exposure to a lot of different websites. They’re attuned to how good ones look and work. For this audience, an outdated website sends negative signals about the company. 

If you want to get more from your website, ask Smartt how we can help. We can start with a website audit to identify all the technical issues for you. If you want a new website, we can start by creating a website plan that maps out the overall requirements to support your business goals.