This seems to be the year of the website redesign. So many companies and startups are relaunching brand new websites, 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 websites should look and function.
Redesigning websites today isn’t just about changing the look and feel. With technology changing and different problems needing to be solved, redesigning and overhauling websites 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 website redesigns on the daily basis.
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Feel like you could be getting left in the dust with everyone around you launching new websites? Below are several questions to ask yourself when it comes to your own website to see if it is time to join everyone else in the year of the website redesign.
Is your website responsive?
There has been a very big push in the last couple of years to make websites 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 websites. It is no longer good enough to design a website 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 thanks to Ethan Marcotte who in May 2010 published an article entitled “Responsive Web Design” which has now become the foundation of the growing need to make sites work on all devices without hindering user experience. (If you have no idea what I am talking about, then that article will help clear things up for you.)
Does your current website 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 website is working and considering at least changing your current website to be responsive. Hiring a good web designer and/or developer, or brushing up on the ideas and principles of responsive web design may be needed to help bring your website up to par with the multitude of devices available.
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 website that will allow for easy updating. A CMS is often the default reaction for new websites 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.
Are there functions and features that are no longer used?
As websites mature and grow, it often becomes apparent that certain parts just aren’t working well anymore and are becoming outdated. One that I can think of is the Facebook Fan boxes that show who of your friends like a particular site. Do you have something similar on your site that isn’t working anymore for your site’s purpose?
Social media share buttons have been getting a lot of slack recently for becoming exactly that. Some web designers argue that they are not as effective as they once were and are swearing to remove them from their sites. Is there something similar on your site that isn’t working? If so then it may be time to either remove it, or if it is a major part of your site, restructure or redesign your site so that the underperforming feature is long gone.
Does your website 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, I first recommend hiring a web designer or developer to 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.
If you don’t have such a service running on your site, then sign up for Google Analytics or StatCounter and bookmark this article and revisit in a month. After then, follow the tips above to determine if it is time to redesign your site or not.
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. I will take a gamble and say 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 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 website. My 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 website design as responsive to the device we are using. However, the “Web 2.0” look has come and gone in a matter of about four years (roughly 2006-2010).
If you can’t remember when the last time you completely revamped your website 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). However, like I said it isn’t a strong indicator mainly because different sites have different purposes, and may not need to be overhauled as often or may need to be overhauled more often than others.
Are parts of your site not functioning properly?
Does your site have things that are broken or constantly giving you errors like the dreaded “404 not found” message? 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 website 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. While you can often help by keeping your site updated yourself, things like making sure the site is coded properly may need to be investigated by a web developer with SEO experience who can look to see if there are any coding elements that could be causing problems for you where it comes to search engine optimization.
If you are virtually nowhere on search engines, then it may be time for a new website 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 websites), 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.
Is the copyright year in your footer any other year than 2012?
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 website redesign, especially if that year is 2007 or earlier.
Ultimately, you have to make the decision on a redesign
Just because your website meets some of the points discussed above doesn’t necessarily indicate that your website needs an overhaul. For instance, 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 designer or developer take a look at your site to see what is slowing it down, and working with them to resolve that. Also, if your site is losing visitors, it may not be because of the site design, but rather the content on the site. A revamp in content only could help improve this without completely gutting what you already have.
My best bet is that if several of the situations above are happening to you, then it is time to either hire a good web designer or take on your website redesign yourself (if you are a designer or developer) and revamp your site so you aren’t left in the dust.
In the end, you have to make the decision on whether your website needs a redesign or not. If you are starting to get the feeling that maybe it is time to redesign your site, then contact a web designer and chat with them about why you feel your site needs an update. They can often help you determine if your site just needs some tweaks or if it is truly time for a brand spanking new website.
Image Credit: Ed Jones/Getty Images