In the web design industry it’s often assumed companies redesign their websites every 2-3 years. As we know, technology evolves rapidly and so does graphic design, user interfaces, and marketing communication. In order to maintain credibility online it’s important not to fall too far behind the evolutionary curve. Stay up to date by taking time each year to examine comparable websites in your market. In addition, browse some more progressive examples of website design in related professions and see what you can glean and cross pollinate to your website.
During your annual website comparison ask yourself the following questions:
1. Does your website stand up and present well next to the competition?
2. Have styles changed since you designed your website and is it starting to look dated?
If your website is starting to look a little tired and out of place, it may be time to consider redesigning your website.
During your website redesign process, here are some important things to consider:
1. Help your users achieve their goals. Consider the overall organization of information on your website from the perspectives of your clients. Put yourself in their shoes determine what their goals are when visiting your website. Make sure they can achieve their goals quickly without having to wade through unnecessary information. Ask yourself, is there any way you can bring to the forefront information or links that will make achieving their goals easier?
2. Make your users the hero. Look at the content on your website from the perspective of your clients. Is your website too self-absorbed? If your content talks about your firm more than it talks about your clients you may want to reconsider how you present yourself. Your business website is a portal for your customers, so it should cater to them and make them feel like they are the most important thing in the world. Your role should be that of a trusted guide to help them become the best they can be.
3. Select a supportive developer. When you choose a developer to help build your website, make sure they will be available to provide ongoing support. Websites are no longer something you can build and forget about. They are living, evolving documents that require ongoing attention, modifications, and security updates. It’s worthwhile to set up an agreement with a developer that includes an ongoing support component, so updates and changes can be planned and made in a timely manner.
4. Use a well-supported content management system (CMS). Does your website platform have an easy-to-use CMS? Part of being able to evolve your website is being able to make simple updates and changes without having to ask your developer. WordPress is a favorite because it has a large development community and as a result a lot of useful options and plugins. Another platform that has established itself recently is Squarespace. It emphasizes simplicity and a hosted, turn-key solution. Squarespace also offers plenty of support and hand holding for people without a development background.
5. Search engine optimization (SEO) doesn’t have to be complex. If SEO is important to you, it’s worthwhile to do a little work to increase your online footprint. Participate in social media or become an occasional guest blogger on another website. The more widely distributed your information becomes, the easier it will be to find you. Online engagement will increase the number of websites that link back to your website, which is something search engine algorithms view favorably. Updating your website frequently and keeping your content fresh will also help your search engine ranking.
6. Take security seriously. Platforms like WordPress are widely used and widely supported. However, the universality and network effect of WordPress is a double edged sword. It provides more development options and support, but it is also a large and lucrative target for hackers. With any website, make sure it includes a good security plugin, keep current with updates, and make frequent backups in case your website is hacked.
Websites are a valuable and almost required tool for communicating with clients. They are also a useful visual model of how your firm is organized, its personality, and its message. The process of redesigning a website can be a great opportunity for self-discovery and to learn and improve how your firm presents itself to the market. Use the opportunity to make your website as well as your firm even better.
Jonas LaRance is Marketing Technology Director at ALPS where he manages website and other software development projects, and provides a liaison between IT and Marketing. Jonas has a background in graphic design, industrial design, and marketing. He was born and raised in Missoula, Montana but began his career in the digital special effects industry in Hollywood, California. Jonas has enjoyed working for ALPS for over 11 years, both in the ALPS Missoula and Richmond, Virginia offices. He now lives and works remotely from the tech hub of Seattle, Washington.