Is it time to update your website? 7 considerations to guide the decision

By Kevin Johnson, EVP/COO

Kevin-JohnsonYour website is undoubtedly one of the most powerful communication tools you have in your marketing tool kit. Effective websites are a result of significant planning, development and resource usage. However, once your site is completed and made live to the world, the work and investment doesn’t stop there; the bigger job may actually lie ahead of you.

The idea of maintenance is common to all of our life experiences. If you don’t regularly change the oil in your car, you’ll end up replacing the engine; if you don’t take care of your health, you’ll end up sick; if you don’t mow your lawn, you’ll end up with a jungle, and of course we all know if you don’t brush your teeth on a recurring basis, well, you’ll end up with a new set of teeth.

The same thing can be said about your website. Without constant maintenance, your website will become irrelevant and provide little benefit for the significant investment you put into it up front. So the work doesn’t stop on launch day; in fact, it’s just begun. Developing a robust maintenance plan based on site objectives and analytics will help ensure the long-term health of your website.

How do you know if it’s time for an update to your site?

As a general rule-of-thumb, you should be updating the design of your website every three years and the functionality every five years. This of course does not apply to every website but is a good point of consideration to know if it’s time for a web overhaul. The following portions of this article will provide a series of comments and questions to help guide you with this decision.

Where do we start?

One important point to consider is the outsourcing of your site maintenance. There are many reasons to consider outsourcing your website maintenance, but among the best is the fact that an outside resource has a wide variety of technical and design personnel immediately available who have a broad array of experience. It is nearly always the case that the outside resource has a broader band of experience than the internal staff. This should be used to your advantage. Calling on the knowledge and resources of outside experts can help make this challenging process easier.

Why is it important to consider a website makeover?

The importance of your corporate web presence cannot be under estimated as it is designed as a tool to bring you business, market your brand, recruit new personnel and inform your customers of important information, just to name a few. Any piece of equipment or tool that has that much responsibility must be constantly monitored, adjusted and maintained for optimal performance. No doubt your company has an extensive, comprehensive maintenance program for its mechanical assets, as they are a critical component to your success. A strong argument can be made that the website is an equally important asset to your company and its customers.

Here are seven reasons to consider a website makeover:

  1. Websites must continually evolve and be refined to meet the increasing demands of your audience. Use of site analytics and user research will lead to updated usefulness of the site. A new search tool, automated forms, interactive maps or other helpful functions to improve the usefulness of the site must be constantly considered.
  2. Users judge your website by the look, feel and usability of other sites they use. Can users tell by one glance at your home page that your site hasn’t been updated in a long time? The basis for this judgment is what they find on other sites they use. Large imagery and simplistic minimalist design is now the standard for current web design.
  3. Your website should reflect progressing technologies and new browser versions. Technology today is like the wild-wild-west, something new and better almost every day. Plus there are a lot of bad guys out there looking for ways to disrupt the experience. This forces the major browsers and developers to constantly upgrade their software. These upgrades can cause older websites to break or produce undesirable results. Keeping your website up to date with current browsers is a non-stop exercise. Using standards compliant code should help your site stay working properly as new browser releases happen.
  4. Adding fresh material to your website on a regular basis keeps visitors coming back to see what’s new. Offering fresh content on your website is known to be a primary driver for repeat traffic. This could be a news feed, a traffic report or even the updated weather report. These current content items make your site interesting and also drive traffic and search engine rankings.
  5. Keeping your website technically “current” will help ensure an enjoyable experience for all visitors. While most people can’t see the technical side of the website, they definitely know when it’s not working. If your site is not designed to be responsive to a user’s device of choice, they will likely leave unsatisfied with their experience. There are also many new technologies to improve the user experience from a speed standpoint. These technical options are critical to maintaining an enjoyable web experience for your customers.
  6. Updating your website will result in your being able to better measure the effectiveness of the site against your objectives. There are a wide variety of tools available to measure website effectiveness, right down to individual buttons on pages if you so desire. However, in many cases these tools require that your website be running current technology in order to function properly. So if you need to make an ROI case for the website, thorough and accurate tracking is important.
  7. You could have the ability to make updates to the site yourself. An up-to-date website running a modern content management system makes it a lot easier to keep content current. You don’t need to be familiar with code. With a modern CMS, you can make content updates easily and frequently, by yourself. This will help ensure your site is current based on your evolving goals and objectives.

Some important questions to ask yourself.

There are many questions to answer when considering an update to your website. Take a few minutes to answer the questions below, tally your score and see if it’s time to consider an update.

General      

Have you updated your website in the last five years?  Yes: 0  No: 1

Does your website have a high bounce rate?   Yes: 1  No: 0

Content        

Is your content up to date?  Yes: 0  No: 1

Does your website reflect where your brand is going?  Yes: 0  No: 1

Does your website integrate with your social media platforms?  Yes: 0  No: 1

Is your site content easy to read and understand?  Yes: 0  No: 1

Are visitors navigating past the home page?  Yes: 0  No: 1

New Strategy, Target or Objectives 

Does your website compete well with your competitors’ websites?  Yes: 0  No: 1

Is there a new audience you want to attract to your website?  Yes: 2  No: 0

Is your website able to grow and expand with your business?  Yes: 0  No: 2

Are you planning to re-brand your products or company?  Yes: 4  No: 0

Are you easily able to build landing pages for specific marketing campaigns?  Yes: 0  No: 1

Visual Appeal     

Does your website provide a strong visual representation of your brand?  Yes: 0  No: 1

Can your website visitors easily find the information they are looking for?  Yes: 0  No: 2

Is the layout of your website cluttered and confusing?  Yes: 2  No: 0

Does your website look dated?  Yes: 1  No: 0

Do visitors know they are on your website no matter where they are in the site structure?  Yes: 0  No: 1

Functionality      

Is your website compatible with all modern browsers?  Yes: 0  No: 2

Does your website meet basic web standards?  Yes: 0   No: 1

Does your website automatically resize for all devices or offer a mobile specific site?  Yes: 0  No: 2

Is your programming language or functionality outdated?  Yes: 0  No: 1

Is your website built with table-dependent HTML?  Yes: 0  No: 4

Are parts of your website not functioning properly?  Yes: 2  No: 0

Does your website take a long time to load?  Yes: 1  No: 0

Site Maintenance            

Is it hard to keep your site updated?   Yes: 1  No: 0

Can you change frequently updated content by yourself?  Yes: 0  No: 1

Are there functions and features that are no longer used?  Yes: 1  No: 0

Use of Analytics

Is your site slowly losing visitors over time?  Yes: 1  No: 0

Are you satisfied with your search engine traffic?  Yes: 0  No: 1

TOTAL SCORE : _________.     If your total score is:  0-10, You’re OK for now, but keep an eye on it; 11-17, Time to start planning for an update; 18+, Time for an immediate update to your website.