Does your Web site need a redesign?

September 29, 2012
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Many businesses and organizations are relaunching brand new Web sites… and with good reason.

Technology is changing, design trends are coming and going, how sites are used is changing, even things such as social media and community interaction are changing and shaping how Web sites should look and function.

Redesigning Web sites today isn’t just about changing the look and feel. With technology changing and different problems needing to be solved, redesigning and overhauling Web sites goes much deeper than just the way they look. The functionality, presentation, how they load and how well they can be updated are all things that are prompting owners and managers to redesign their company’s or organization’s Web site.

Is your Web site conveying the right image and delivering current information? Here are a few questions to consider when it comes to your own Web site.

Is your Web site responsive?
There has been a very big push in the last couple of years to make Web sites more device-friendly. With a multitude of various devices able to access the Web now, the Web design community has made it clear that it is time to rethink the way we design Web sites. It is no longer good enough to design a Web site for a desktop or laptop computer, especially with millions of people accessing the Web on their smartphones, tablets, TVs, gaming, and music devices. This really became apparent due to the growing need to make sites work on all devices without hindering user experience.

Does your current Web site follow the principles of responsive Web design? Can it be easily viewed on all devices, from large desktops to smartphones, without hindering the experience? If you cannot confidently say “yes,” then it may be time to review how your Web site is working and considering at least changing your current Web site to be responsive.

Is it hard to keep updated?
When was the last time you updated your site? Why? If the answer is because it is hard to update, then determine why this is. Is it because you just don’t have time or you don’t have the knowledge? If you just don’t have the time then you should look to find time to help keep your site updated (because an updated site keeps visitors coming back). If you find that you just don’t know how, then this could be a sign that your site needs a revamp.

It could be as simple as hiring a Web developer to install a content management system (CMS) so that you can update the site yourself, or as large as needing to completely start from scratch and create a new Web site that will allow for easy updating. A CMS is often the default reaction for new Web sites being developed today as it does allow for easy updating and it also has other benefits as well. You will want to keep your site updated and fresh, and if that is difficult to do now, then take some time to evaluate why.

Does your Web site take a long time to load?
Closely related to responsive Web design above, the trend now is to make sites load faster and not download so much information. This is because there are Internet providers and smartphone carriers who are limiting the amount of data we are allowed. With these limits being placed on our usage, we would be doing a disservice to our visitors if we make them download tons and tons of information, imagery, and scripts just to view our site while costing them precious data.

Most Web developers agree that if your site takes longer than five seconds to load, then you should look into optimizing your site. After about five seconds on slower bandwidths, people become disinterested and will leave your site. If your site is taking longer than five seconds to load, look into why your site is taking so long to load or consider a redesign that will allow for less loading of certain elements (like background images, textures, custom fonts, etc.).

Are visitors navigating past your home page?
This may be hard for you to gauge unless you have special analytics software running on your site that lets you see what visitors are doing. Google Analytics is excellent in this case and is free to sign up and put on your site. If you have Google Analytics or another service, look through your stats to see if people are navigating deeper into your site. Often, there are metrics and things already calculated for you to tell you this, but if not then take a look at the last couple of weeks worth of visitors.

If you are starting to lose visitors, then you should either take a look at your home page to see if you can make it more enticing, or consider a complete redesign of your site to make visitors want to navigate further into your site and read what you have to say.

Is your site slowly losing visitors over time?
Very closely related to finding out if visitors are navigating past your home page is to see if there is a slowing trend in visitors coming to your site at all. Are you finding that visitors are not coming as often as they had before? If so you may want to consider revamping either the content on your site or your entire site to entice more visitors to come and visit.

While having a slowing trend in visitors may not mean a complete redesign is necessary, it is often a good indicator that either your SEO is not working for you or your site is becoming stale. It is more than likely the latter of the two. When your site starts looking like it hasn’t been updated in a while, visitors will be turned off and will go elsewhere for their needs. Search engines will also not rank you favorably in this case either, as they like sites that are constantly being updated with new content.

When was the last time you completely overhauled your Web site?
It seems like such an obvious question, so why don’t I have this at the top of this list? Mainly because this is not a very strong indicator of needing a new Web site. A general rule of thumb is you should completely revamp at least the look of your site every three years, and possibly the functionality every five years. Those years don’t sync up together when you put it on a calendar because even though technology is changing really fast, it isn’t changing as fast as design trends on the Web. For instance, we have had smartphones for at least six years but we are just now starting to look at Web design as responsive to the device we are using.

If you can’t remember when the last time you completely revamped your Web site was, then that is a good indication that it may be time for a redo, simply because technology and design trends have probably changed significantly since then (i.e. post-Web 2.0, responsive Web design, HTML5/CSS3, social media integration, minimalist designs, etc).

Are parts of your site not functioning properly?
Does your site have things that are broken or constantly giving you error messages? While it is often a simple fix to correct these broken elements, it could indicate a bigger problem: your site is disorganized or is being mishandled. This is often solved and prevented by using a content management system that can manage your content so that you are not losing pictures or broken links to improper or accidental management of your site.

If you have tons of broken links, error messages, and missing images, then you should consider a complete Web site redesign that will include the installation and use of a content management system. If you only have one or two broken links here or there, then take some time to fix those as soon as you can.

Do search engines even know you exist?
Much can be said about good SEO in terms of getting your site on search engines, but it actually doesn’t require a lot of work for you to make certain things happen that are favorable for SEO. Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo like sites that have content that is constantly changing, coded properly and isn’t heavily based on images.

If you are virtually nowhere on search engines, then it may be time for a new Web site to help boost your SEO and search engine visits. Since most people will find you through a Google search than directly typing in your URL (for most Web sites), playing nice with search engines so that they will find you and put you in their results will go a long way with getting visitors to come to your site. It is up to you to make your visitors stay, however, through fresh content and a nice looking site.

What is the copyright year in your Web site’s footer?
If the copyright statement in your footer has a year that is anything other than the year 2012, chances are you haven’t updated your site for at least 10 months. Your site is pretty stale at that point. If it says 2011 or earlier, then you are signaling to your clients that you haven’t updated the site, and they will leave. This is a good signal of needing a Web site redesign.

Of course, it is your decision whether (or not) your Web site needs a redesign.
Just because your site takes a long time to load doesn’t mean that it is time to start from scratch and create a new one. This could easily be solved by having a Web design professional take a look at your site to see what is slowing it down, and working with them to resolve that. And if your site is losing visitors, it may need a content updating.

But if several of the situations above are happening to you, then it is time to revamp your Web site so your business or organization is not left in the dust.

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