There’s no getting around it. Website redesigns are a lot like getting a root canal at the dentist’s office. No one looks forward to it.
But like an infected tooth, your ailing website is going to hurt your business until you do something about it.
Unlike an infected tooth, however, your website won’t send any overt signals that something is wrong. You can look for symptoms, however, and once you’ve diagnosed a few problems, you’ll be ready to tackle a redesign project with your dent … er … web developer.
Here are some signs that your business website is ready for a redesign:
(Take our quiz at the bottom of this blog too!)
- The site was built more than three years ago, and, well, you have not made a single change to it since.
- Customers call you and start the conversation by saying “I looked for such-and-such on your website but couldn’t find it.” It’s worse if someone says, “I looked for your website but couldn’t find it.”
- No one has sent you an email using your website’s contact form since Aug. 19, 2017.
- You’ve tried looking at your website on your mobile phone and either the text is really, really tiny or the site just won’t open.
- You have time to check your Facebook news feed while waiting for your website to load on your desktop computer.
- You open your website and all you can see at the top of the page is your business name and a giant photograph.
Redesign for More Than Appearance
It should be clear from the list that a website redesign project is not just about changing how your website looks. Like a car, websites have a lot of important but unseen parts. Design elements like images, type style and size, how many columns and where to place social media buttons are just part of the picture. Those elements should take a back seat to other factors when you redesign your website. In other words, form follows function.
If your website doesn’t function well enough to suit modern web surfers and online shoppers who seek instant gratification, you will lose their attention, possibly forever. That’s why the first considerations in any website redesign should be how your site behaves on mobile devices and how quickly your site opens on all devices.
Given that most people now use mobile devices to do their online research and shopping, it only makes sense that priority number-one is creating a site that is “responsive” to the device that is being used to view it. That means choosing a website framework that is coded so that the site’s appearance fits correctly on both a Samsung Galaxy phone and an iMac desktop computer. The big, beautiful photo on your homepage might look great on a desktop machine, but it’s just in the way for someone using a mobile phone to find your address or phone number.
Search Favors the Mobile-Friendly
There’s another reason to make sure your redesigned site is mobile-friendly. Because so many people use their mobile phones for web searches, Google’s search engine now favors sites that are easy to read on small screens. All other things being equal, if your website is mobile-friendly and your competitor’s site is not, you’ll win the battle for search engine rank.
Speed is a critical consideration in a web redesign. Impatient web users won’t wait more than a few seconds for a website to open before moving elsewhere to find what they want. In fact, Google’s standard is that a site should load in 2.5 seconds or less. Improving speed is another “under-the-hood” fix that involves working with your web developer to make sure image files are small enough to load quickly but big enough to look crisp. We’re talking milliseconds in most cases, but the larger the image file, the longer it takes to open in a browser.
You can also improve site speed by optimizing the code that creates your site; building in some cache software that allows web pages to be shown without loading all of the data each time a page is opened; and limiting widgets that require information to be pulled from other websites, like a weather forecast on a resort website.
Add a Site Security Certificate
There’s one more mechanical thing that should be incorporated in every website redesign — adding a Secure Sockets Layer certificate. An SSL certificate encrypts data such as names, email addresses and credit card information. No matter how you use your site, we recommend you obtain an SSL certificate. Google’s Chrome browser already labels sites without them as “not secure,” and Google has clearly stated that its search engine favors sites with security certificates over those without them. So, no matter how relevant your content might be, Google will penalize your site if it doesn’t have an SSL certificate.
Now that we’ve mentioned contact forms, we may as well move on to some of the content every website redesign should include. An email contact form is on the list. One of the primary functions of your website should be to give people an easy way to contact you. Contact forms also give businesses a way to build an asset — a list of email addresses for existing and potential customers. When used responsibly, those email addresses allow you to foster relationships that result in both sales and goodwill.
Web Redesign Should Support Your Brand
The content on your website should also fortify your brand, help people understand the value of doing business with you and help prospects evolve easily into customers or clients. Like a sign hanging above a store on Main Street, your website is a focal point for branding. Without being overwhelming, your branding should be a consistent presence throughout your website. And from there, the same branding — logos, typestyles, taglines, etc. — should carry through to your social media pages, your emails and your online advertising.
As you think about new content for your website, don’t forget that your site’s primary job is to generate business. Take the time to map out content that clearly describes your value proposition and helps prospects who are just seeking information move further along the sales funnel toward becoming customers. If content doesn’t serve your website visitors on their journey toward a purchase, don’t keep it. And when it comes to content, don’t overdo it. Make sure you’re providing enough information without overwhelming site visitors.
And It Should Look Nice, Too
Finally, yes, you do need to spend some time thinking about what your site looks like. Keep it simple. Subtle animations and movement are OK, but the days of flashing “click here” buttons and auto-play video and audio are long gone. Photos are important, too, but make sure they include people — preferably some of the people who are involved in your business. Potential customers want to know who they’re likely to be dealing with, and casual photos of you and your business support the customer journey.
Like a root canal, the worst part of a web redesign is knowing you need one. But once you get through the process with a web developer you trust, you will have a marketing tool that helps you communicate with customers and grow your business.