Annie Hurst from Off-Center Design talks about website redesigns and how to know when it’s time for one. Annie is a graphic and web designer who works with businesses to raise their visual branding to the next level and make their mark on the web with a fabulously designed website that is not only nice to look at but also very functional, mobile responsive, and SEO-friendly. Let’s hear from Annie …
Are you ready for a website redesign?
If you’re not sure whether it’s time for a website redesign or not, you’re not alone. If you’re not a web designer or “techy” kind of person, then you probably aren’t sure whether your site has a shelf life (you know, one of those “best by” dates that means you should throw it out and get something new after that date), or if you only need to update it as your business changes or grows, or what the deal is with your site.
Let me make it easier for you. Let’s cover some questions that will help you determine whether it’s time for a redesign.
When was my website originally created?
If your answer is, “I have no idea,” then it’s probably time to get a redesign. So many rules have changed in technology and in the internet world, and it’s important to keep up with these changes. If you have outdated technologies, chances are your website isn’t visible in a Google search, or it’s being penalized by Google.
To rank well, websites have to be mobile responsive, which means they need updated periodically to match the latest trends in mobile browsing use. Also, the browsers we use on laptops and desktops are changed and updated frequently as well. Sometimes, this means that your website’s code needs updated to be displayed properly on certain browsers.
Was it done by a professional, or did I create it myself?
Many business owners wear many hats when they’re launching their business. While I do the same thing in my business, I’m also aware of my limitations and an advocate of “let the professional do what they do.” For example, I would never try to install my own toilet; no, I would call a plumber for that, for sure. Yes, I could probably look up a video on YouTube to learn how to to do it, but would it work perfectly? What if something is slightly different about my bathroom than the one in the video? What do I do then?
Similarly, when you build your own website, you should expect that it’s not going to perform as well as if an experienced professional built it. After your business has brought in a bit of revenue and is self-sustaining, it may be a good time to consider handing the torch over to the plumber—or rather, the web designer.
Is my website mobile-friendly?
This is a big question. We briefly talked about mobile responsiveness above, but what does that mean? And how do you know the answer?
If you don’t know the answer, open your website up on your smartphone or tablet. Does it resize to fit your screen width, or does it have vertical and horizontal scroll bars on the side and bottom of the screen?
Another way to figure it out is to open your website up on Quirk Tools, and play around with the different screen views.
If your site is not mobile-friendly, you may as well not be online because search engines aren’t going to put your website on a search results page.
Do I own my domain?
If your domain (www.mybusinessname.com) has another company name attached to the tail of it like www.mybusinessname.wix.com or www.mybusinessname.wordpress.com, you do not own your domain. This means you’ll have to buy your domain and a hosting package to get started on a new website.
Why is it important to own your domain? Because it’s your address on the web. It’s where people go to find your business. If you don’t own it, then it’s like renting: the landlord could sell it right out from under you—or worse—go bankrupt, leaving you with a zero day eviction notice.
Additionally, it adds professionalism to your brand to not have a .wix or .wordpress on your address. And being stuck with .wix or some other builder, the customization on your website is limited by what that platform allows.
Do I have the money to invest in a quality website?
Be real and upfront about your budget, and remember that you get what you pay for. Just because your friend’s son, Johnny, has a girlfriend who successfully built an online blog site doesn’t mean she’s qualified to build a company website for your business. If you don’t have a realistic budget, you may want to consider waiting and saving up first, or else you may find yourself spinning your tires.
What’s working? What’s not?
Give yourself some grace here, because the answer may be: “I have no idea.”
Start thinking about how your website visitors are interacting with your website. How are they finding it? How are they communicating to you? Do you think the colors are grabbing their attention in a positive way, annoying them, or boring them? Do you think the images you’re using fairly represent your company, and are resonating with your audience? Have you communicated your purpose, your services, and your product information to your customers in an understandable, well-thought-out, and easily readable way?
Really take some time and think about the statement you’re trying to make on the web. Think about what you want to say, how you want to say it, and how you want to be perceived. Then ask yourself if your current website lines up with your answers. If it doesn’t, do your best to identify why. But don’t kill yourself over it, because at the end of the day—your website professional should be able to help you out considerably in this area.
Do I have a narrow focus of my target market or audience?
A website whose primary audience is women over the age of 60 will look and function very differently from that of a site whose primary audience consists of teenage boys. Be specific about who you hope will be accessing and visiting your website. You may even consider writing personas about 3-5 different “ideal” customers.
What keywords are they searching for? What information are they searching for on the web? Be as familiar as you can with your customers. What are their interests? What jargon do they use, and what jargon do they not understand? What are their pain points, and what words will they use to search for a solution?
If your website isn’t designed to speak to a specific audience, then it’s time to change that.
What are my goals?
Are you trying to look better than your competition? Are you trying to be on page one of Google’s search engine results? Are you only interested in having a web presence because you feel like you have to, or are you ready to start seeing income because of your website? Everyone’s goals are going to be different. Do your best to identify yours so that you can determine if your website is living up to your needs.
Does my website open my business up to a lot more opportunity?
Let’s face it: if you’re online and you’ve developed a really amazing website with a mind-blowingly awesome creative brand, chances are you’re going to see some revenue as a result. Obviously this is not guaranteed, but with the right strategy in place and the willingness to be a constant work-in-progress, you will eventually see an ROI (return on investment).
Can I measure my ROI?
Be ready to measure the ROI. How will you know where your new customers are finding you? Well, you can ask them or use Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools to see where they’re coming from. But at any rate, you can’t measure success if you don’t have a measuring tool.
Is my website promotion-worthy and up-to-date?
A website is not a one-and-done thing, and it will not survive and perform well completely on its own. Ever.
I feel like that’s worth repeating. Don’t expect to build a website, never touch it again, and expect it’s going to bring in all sorts of revenue and visitors. It won’t happen; I promise.
You have to be active, ever-changing, fresh. Be prepared to update your website at least once a month with either a blog post, a text content update, a new photo, etc. Involve your website with social media platforms. Create a conversation about your website. Spark interest. Give potential clientele a reason, a want, or a need to visit your website. Drive traffic to your website!
Would you quietly open a business, never putting a sign out front, forgoing all advertisement, speaking of it to no one—and expect it to be successful? Similarly, your website will not perform for you if you don’t tell people about it.
To be able to proudly shout about your website from the rooftops, it has to be a site that you love. You have to be confident about what it provides to potential clients and what it says about your business.
If you’ve decided that yes, it is time for a website redesign, there here are a few things to consider.
Budget Time to Your Redesign
Start by talking to a few designers. Ask them about their approach. See if they sound like a good fit for your style.
A website redesign is a huge undertaking, and there’s a lot that goes into the process. Be prepared to deliver high-quality photos, information, business goals, testimonials, competitor information, and anything else related to the success of your website to your website designer.
Remember, a website designer may be excellent at what they do, but they probably have zero idea how your business operates and how it provides what it does. You will need to supply this information.
Business owners are often surprised at how long a website takes to build, but more often than not, the process is held up because they’re not able to provide the information, photos, etc. needed to build the website.
Ask About the Maintenance Fee Upfront
A website is never finished, and should always be viewed as a work in progress from the owner’s perspective. In order to rank on the web, you need to keep your website fresh, both on the front-end and on the back-end. Updating your text content often to provide new information not only keeps new visitors coming in, but it also helps with SEO and ranking.
Also remember that technology is ever-changing, and you will need to keep your securities up-to-date with regular software updates and maintenance. If you consider yourself to be fairly tech-savvy and you have a smidge of spare time to devote to your site, you may be able to do this on your own. However, if you barely have time to eat breakfast in the mornings and you’re not sure what a kilobyte is, you’ll probably want to leave your web maintenance to the professional.
Ask the web designer about maintenance packages when you’re still determining if you’re the right fit for each other. They’ll gladly let you know the price, features, and the benefits.
- If you have to brush the dust off of your website,
- If you created your website on your own three years ago and your business is finally getting some traction,
- If your current website is not mobile-friendly,
- If you do not own your own domain,
- If you have a realistic budget ready for a quality website,
- If you know who your target audience is,
- If you have specific goals in mind,
- If you’re ready for more business opportunities,
- If you’re able to be active on the web via social media, blogging, etc. (or hire someone to do this for you),
- If you’re able to commit to a few hours to meet with a web designer and provide all the necessary information,
- If you’re ready to maintain the site—either by yourself or by paying a monthly cost for the pro to do it
…then you’re ready for a website redesign.
Annie is a quirky artist-meets-tech kind of gal who loves geeking out over new designs, updated website functionality features, and giant books with nothing but PHP code from cover to cover. Learn more about Annie.