How do you feel when you look at your website? Proud? Confident that it’s doing its job and helping your business to reach its goals? Or are you a bit embarrassed by a clunky interface and a dated design? Obviously, if it’s the last one, then it’s time for a redesign but there are plenty of more subtle signs that may indicate your website isn’t all that it should be. To be successful in today’s always online world, businesses need to take their online presence seriously and this means monitoring the continued performance of their websites and making changes whenever they become necessary. Even if you think your site’s not too bad, there are probably improvements that could be made – and these are improvements which may bring clear benefits to your business. If your website isn’t doing a good job of putting your brand in front of your target audience, then you’re not taking advantage of the most important part of modern marketing. Your potential customers will be using the internet to search for products and services such as yours, check reviews, get opinions from their social media contacts and then weigh up the available options before finally deciding who to spend their money with. If your online presence isn’t up to scratch, then your competitors are the ones who will reap the benefits. So, in order to really figure out how well your website is performing, what aspects of it do you need to look at?
Well, to start with, unless you’ve spent the last few years marooned on a desert island, you should already have realized that the online world has gone mobile and your website needs to be compatible. Actually, a surprising number of websites are still not mobile friendly. If yours is one of them then, no matter how lovely it looks on the widescreen monitor in your office, it’s annoying the hell out of your customers who are trying to look at it on a mobile screen…not that they’ll be trying for long – they’re going to give up pretty quickly and move on to a site that CAN give them what they need. So, that’s an obvious one – your website must be optimized for the range of mobile devices that your customers will be using. If it’s not, you definitely need a redesign.
Even if the site looks good on a mobile device, when the user needs specific information that’s not on the home page, are they going to be able to find it? Over time, broken links can accumulate, product range changes can mean that help pages aren’t in the right place and content can get moved for reasons that seemed like a good idea at the time but nobody can now remember. Even if your navigation was perfect to start with (with no impossible to find options hidden in the last drop-down menu you would ever think of looking at, for example) older sites can be confusing. If you’re not sure whether any of these apply in your case, then ask someone who’s not already familiar with your site to try and find their way around it. If you don’t like what they have to say, then that may be another sign that you need a redesign.
Another problem that many older sites suffer from (not to mention far too many newer ones) is slow loading speed. Users will need to be very certain that whatever is on your web page is worth the effort if they are going to wait more than a few seconds for it to appear. In reality, it’s far more likely that they will be gone before a slow-loading page ever opens. There are lots of reasons for long page loading times and a good web designer should be able to look at the way that your site is set up and help you with updating or redesigning it to fix many of these issues. Some of the problems would not be that troublesome on their own but, in combination, issues such as long-running scripts, unnecessary add-ons, poor page design, over-large images or videos, or other optimization failings can be ruinous for your page’s load speed. Alternatively, the trouble may lie with your hosting arrangements or server environment. Whatever the cause, if an excessive load time is turning your customers away, you need to talk to someone about updating your website to fix the problem.
Of course, the most obvious issue that might cause you to think “I really should redo my website” is if it just looks BAD. This might sound frivolous and not even an urgent reason for taking action but it’s actually quite serious. Users will judge your website by the way it looks, even if they don’t do it consciously. An outdated site that looks as though it hasn’t been maintained will directly influence a user’s opinion of your business. They will wonder, “Why haven’t they looked after this site? Is something wrong? Are they even still in business?” If a user’s first impression of your brand comes from a poorly designed and carelessly maintained website, then you will probably never get a second chance to show them that that’s not the way you conduct your business. Have an honest look at your website – ask for an impartial second opinion, if you can. If you’re selling antiquarian books, then a slightly outdated website probably won’t upset your target audience too much, so long as it functions well in all other respects and loads rapidly. For most other businesses, if you’re serious about online marketing – and you should be – then you need to fix this.
If you’re not sure whether your site is attracting or repelling visitors, then that’s a sign that you’ve been neglecting an important aspect of online marketing – monitoring your website user data. You can use tools such as Google’s Analytics to find out more about the number of users who are visiting your site and how they are using it. One important piece of data is your site’s bounce rate – this is the proportion of users who visit a single page on your site and then do not go from there to any of your other pages. Obviously, this data has to be treated with caution and its significance will largely depend on the nature of your site. If most of your users are quickly checking your contact details and address, in order to come into your store, then a high bounce rate will probably not be a problem. If the purpose of your website is to lead the users through to product pages or other information that you want them to find, then a high bounce rate could be an indication that your home page is failing in its primary function. Whether this is due to the design or the content of the page will require further analysis but, if a high bounce rate does appear to be a problem for your website, then it could definitely be a sign that you should seek out website redesign services.
Your online presence is essential to your business and you will need to be prepared to make changes at any time if it appears that your website is failing to keep up with developments in search engine algorithms, user behaviour or the actual device or platform technology that your site is being viewed on. If you suspect that your website has fallen behind at any point, then you should talk to a web designer about what your options are. If the existing site is entirely hopeless, or you have a healthy budget and want to have a complete new website built from scratch, then you can choose to scrap what’s there and build fresh. However, when you have the basics of a website to start from, then keeping the elements that do work and redesigning the site, rather than replacing it, can work out to be a significantly cheaper option.
It’s always worth taking a look at your competitors’ websites and social media pages, to see how well your own online presence compares. Is your website competing well for visitor traffic and placement in the search engine rankings? Have your rivals added functionality that you don’t offer to your customers? Is there anything about the design of your website that doesn’t look quite as professional as some of the other websites? After all, your competitors are probably keeping an eye on your own site. Ideally, when they do peek, you want them to think ‘Wow – I really need to redesign my website’. If, unfortunately, your website makes your competitors’ efforts look good, then it’s definitely time to seek out website updating services.
An investment in freshening up an underperforming website is a good opportunity to give your entire online marketing effort a push. When the makeover is complete, you could send out a press release, instigate a new email marketing campaign or offer a special promotion to encourage visitors to ‘like’ you on social media and tell their friends about your brand. Make sure your social media pages are also looking their best and work well with your website. Have you covered all your bases, when it comes to social media? Is there a platform that you should have a presence on but don’t? With a new and improved website, this is the perfect time to look at your online relationships and see if you can attract links from relevant websites in your field or local community. And now that you do have an attractive website, make sure you keep the momentum up. Monitor your visitor numbers and try to improve on them. Keep adding interesting new content to maintain the site’s relevance and make sure that it doesn’t fall behind again the next time google changes its algorithm or someone invents a new type of device that requires a new interface. If you find it difficult to keep on top of all the online marketing tasks, then a web marketing service can handle these for you.
It’s vital to recognise that your online presence cannot be static. The digital world is constantly changing and evolving and your website must evolve to keep up. There is no such thing as a future-proof website design. The fact is that we simply don’t know what technological advances are around the corner. Web designers and online marketers can make educated guesses about how the current technology will evolve, building those into current designs and plans in preparation but, if recent history has taught us anything, it’s that changes in technology will continue to take us all by surprise. Who knows, smart clothing may give us screens on our jacket sleeves, meaning that websites will need to be optimized for an entirely new, short and wide interface. But don’t worry – if and when that happens, your friendly local web designer will still be on hand (no pun intended) to update your website and make sure that it’s compatible with the new devices, whilst your online marketing agency will be armed (OK – that one was on purpose) with the skills required to make the most of this new format.
Check out this article on how a bad website can really damage your business.
Leap Inbound offers friendly, local web design and redesign services to businesses in the Charlotte NC area. We can give you an honest assessment of the current state of your website and your best options for updating or redesigning it to meet your needs, so get in touch if the above has inspired you to treat your website to some TLC!