Remember the last amazing website you looked at? What was it that stood out about it for you? I’m sure like the rest of us you look at hundreds of websites in a given week, some of which you frequent regularly, and others you pass over as you move around the internet. The great thing about the internet is you can still come across websites that look like they were designed in 1997 (and probably were). At the same time you have the most popular sites, like Facebook, that are making incremental design changes on an almost daily basis. Like anything in our world, the one thing that is true about web design is that it changes. Thankfully web design is always improving, making it easier to consume information. We’re learning new things about user experience every day and there’s an army of web designers out there obsessed with testing your interactions on the web, and improving.
Here’s the situation. There’s a large portion of the business world that has a website, but unlike e-commerce companies like Amazon, it is not their primary source of customer interaction. For these smaller businesses their website acts as a brochure that either attracts new customers or provides validation that they are a bona fide professional business. A lot of these businesses view their website as a one time cost and do very little to update it over the years, and then one day wake up and notice the internet around them has changed, and they’re still wearing the equivalent of a web designer leisure suit (yes I’m talking to you flash). The rest know they need to do something but don’t think their website is doing much for them. But I’m not just picking on small businesses. While the government still views them as small, many multi million dollar businesses are still relying on web systems that were built for them years ago, most prime examples being found in the banking or public utility sectors. One thing that keeps these large small businesses locked in is being so behind that the cost of change has grown too big, and with the fear that people will react negatively to a large change no one is willing to put their neck on the line and stand up for change. And I get it, the job market is competitive and it’s safer to stay where you are. Change is scary on all fronts, but without change we can’t grow, and growing is just what we need. Here’s a news flash for you:
Your dated design is killing your conversion rate.
I know. It hurts. And not everyone can tell the difference between good design and bad design, but most of your customers can. Using web analytics can be a great help to businesses who are trying to measure the effectiveness of their website. You may be thinking to yourself, “my website is just an online brochure, I don’t really get business from my website”. But I’m willing to put my neck on the line and bet that your potential customers are reviewing your website before making a decision to purchase from you and if you’re neglecting one part of your business, they might link that up to neglecting others. Thankfully, with a little attention paid to the right things, we can tell how your website is doing. Watching things like your bounce rate, pages viewed per visitor, returning visits can all be helpful indicators to how your web design and content are affecting your conversion rate.
Here’s a real world example. It’s been a few years since you’ve bought a new pair of clothes. You’re happy with what you have so you haven’t really put any energy into it and when you did buy, you bought quality so you’re all set. You’ve started to notice that the world around you has changed. People are no longer wearing stripes, they’re wearing polka dots (humor me, it could happen). Those baggy jeans you’re wearing have been replaced by a slimmer fitting tapered legged wonderland, and all of the sudden you start to stand out in the crowd. It’s not in a bad way, but people start to make assumptions about you based on your appearance. They assume your age. They assume that you don’t keep up with the times or you just don’t understand fashion. One day you wake up and decide it’s time you get yourself some polka dot shirts. You’re wearing your nice new outfit and people are noticing. All of the sudden the donut guy gives you a free donut and life is good, all because you updated your look! Sorry, I got carried away. The point is, you’ve gotta keep up or your going to date yourself. People like fresh and new. You don’t have to pave the way for the future of web design, but if you want to maintain a high conversion rate keeping up with web design trends will help you reach your goals.
Another comparison. A lot of small businesses look at websites like a building or a car. It’s a big purchase, that is true, but unlike a car or building almost 100% of your website is incrementally updatable. If you’ve built your site on a quality content management system that is actively being developed, you can update the code on your site regularly with minimal investment. If you pick quality paid website plugins, you don’t have to worry about the functionality breaking and updates come regularly. And, like a wardrobe, rather than making a complete switch every couple of years, a website design benefits from regular tweaks and small updates. Changing a word here or an image there and seeing what effect it has on your conversion rate.
How often should I be updating my website design?
How often you make changes to your web design is heavily dependent on your industry, what product your selling and how your website fits into your marketing mix. So, the answer is that depends, but there’s a couple bare minimums you can live by. You should be reviewing your analytics at least monthly, and if you’re relying on your site for marketing, making adjustments to improve them. At minimum we feel that a site should be evaluated for design changes every quarter (that’s 4 times a year) and if your design is over 4 years old you’re probably way past due for a redesign. A year is a long time on the internet and things are changing a mile a minute. Time is relative and the speed of change on the web is different from the speed of change in package design or brand identity. The same is true for your content. Your website content should be updated regularly and content that is expired should be re-written or removed.
If it’s been a while since you’ve updated your website, take a look at your analytics and see how it’s doing. If you’re not finding the kind of results you’re looking for, updating your web design might be the solution you’re looking for.
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