Throw out any idea of using a calendar to schedule your business website updates. Your website should be updated based on business goals and objectives. Like any resource, if it is not working for you anymore, it needs to be changed. The good news—it is rare a website needs to be totally rebuilt.
How to know when your site needs a refresh
Do research. Using Google analytics, software or an external service, determine the traffic patterns you are receiving on each page of the site. Here are signs you need to update your website:
- Are people not visiting? This may be partly caused by what you are doing or not doing to drive people to the site. Externally, incorporate the URL on collateral and social media posts. Internally, incorporate a blog onto the website to increase search engine optimization (seo).
- Do you have a high bounce rate, meaning people are visiting but few convert to your call to action? Analytics can tell you how long visitors spend on each page, and if they use triggers such as clicking on a call-to-action button. A better design can turn these interactions around.
- Have your branding or color standards changed? Perhaps your marketing and collateral has evolved, but these changes have not been incorporated into your website. Your site needs to reflect your branding, as it is likely the first place people go to find out about your business.
- Are there new products or services not on your website? Business growth might go beyond adding a few items to an existing site and warrant building new pages. Don’t miss out on sales because people are not aware of what you have to offer.
- Does the site appear outdated? Have you read comments from customers or staff that the site looks outdated or doesn’t function well? Take a critical look at the site, and sites of your competitors, and upgrade to contemporary standards in appearance and functionality. This shows you are paying attention to your business and customer needs.
Determining when to update your website
If your site has not been re-engineered in several years, you might be working harder than necessary on maintenance and losing digital customers in the meantime. Here are indicators your site needs a rebuild:
- Not adapted to mobile. The number of mobile users browsing websites surpassed desktop users is 2014. Statistics from comScore indicate that during August 2016, the average American spent 84 hours browsing on their smartphone, compared to 34 hours on a desktop. This mobile audience is going to grow, and you need to capture it.
- How to tell if a site is optimized for mobile. If you call up your website on a smartphone and it looks like a shrunk down version of the desktop view, your site is not optimized for mobile devices. Any interaction the consumer must do, such as zooming in to see the unreadable parts of the site or too much scrolling, increases the odds they will leave the site.
- How to fix it. To make this change, a site is rebuilt in design and coding. Some web design companies specialize in mobile refresh, but do your homework and look at a portfolio before choosing a company. After the redesign, the desktop version will appear refreshed, and the mobile version will stack up nicely, with large icons and an appropriate menu system suitable for small screens.
- Your site is too complex or difficult to maintain. If you need to hire a programmer to make simple changes to your website or your site takes to long to load, it’s time for a change. Employees with average technical skills should be able to learn how to add content or make updates to an integrated content management system.
Users expect a quick response. If your site takes more than a few seconds to load, a visitor might jump to the next site without seeing yours. Make a list of what you want your site to do, how you want to manage it internally and what you want it to look like. It is helpful to review and note the URL of other sites that you like as far are color palette, layout and functionality. This will give your team insight when proposing a new design.
Who should be involved in the redesign process?
There are key groups that should be involved in any web design process. I consult with a global company that recently rebuilt its website used by customers for training and building career documents such as resumes. The site looks great, but the design and engineering part of the company did not consult with the staff who works with customers on the site or with customers. There is a complicated menu system that leaves visitors confused. Currently, as a work-around, staff instructs clients to use the search feature to find what they are looking for, while people on the back end scramble to fix the design.
Not asking for feedback is like driving with your eyes closed. There are ways to collect customer data, such as adding a form on a page and asking for feedback or emailing customers who looked at the site but did not take action and surveying them. Questions could be:
- What is their opinion of the proposed design?
- What problem were they looking to solve or task were they looking to accomplish by visiting the site? Did they accomplish it? What was the degree of difficulty?
- Was information easy to find? (Imagine if my company had asked customers that question!)
It is crucial to survey staff who will be using the site; but understand, their feedback will be different from customers. The opinion of others, including friends or the person or board paying for the site rebuild, has little relevance compared to those who will use the site.
Big websites such as Amazon rarely make major changes—they evolve over time. Once obstacles are resolved, such as updating for mobile, employ a method to obtain feedback on changes or new features that you are adding based on business goals. Update your website as each new change is launched and will maintain a fresh look that is user-friendly.