In the world of digital marketing, the idea that a website redesign needs to happen every three years or so, is viewed in many circles as a standard cost of doing business. Often, the perceived need to scrap the current site and start over with a new one, hangs like a dark, six-figure cloud over the finance department, while marketing directors work to build a case for a fresh, new digital presence that reflects the current brand and helps to drive new business.
One might think that an environment of constant website churn is a welcome reality for an agency such as ours that develops and designs new sites. What’s not to love about the potential of a new cycle of business?
The truth is, I have one word to say on the matter.
I’m frequently asked how often should a website be redesigned, and my best answer is, “How about never.”
The mindset that a new website is the solution when the current website was never effectively cultivated is actually a big source of frustration for me.
We need to approach the website redesign conversation from a different angle. There are, of course, good reasons to redesign a site, but I advocate for first considering all other alternatives. If the conclusion is that a redesign is necessary, I then believe that the goal should be a solid determination to create a foundation which may lead to never redesigning it again!.
Even though we’re surrounded by extremely talented web designers at Solid Digital (and we’re not looking to inch anyone out of a job), we view a redesigned website as simply a starting point. Extracting real value from a website requires focus and consistent attention, but what I find, all too often, is that organizations look to a new website with all sorts of shiny new features as the solution that will fuel competitive advantage on its own and drive a wide range of other objectives.
Spend Time in Your Site
We find that a website’s value is far more of a function of the ongoing attention that’s paid to it, than the impressiveness of its design. Your website is at the core of your digital value, and as such, it needs to be cultivated with expert care and attention.
During 2020, most of us have spent more time at home than ever before. We’re working from home, children are attending school from home, we’re cooking and eating more meals at home than ever before, and we’ve sought new ways to entertain ourselves at home. In the process, we’ve given a lot more thought to how to make our homes work better for us. That might mean a renovated kitchen, an actual home office, getting rid of clutter, new wall colors that spark creativity, fixing the cracks, creating some inviting areas in the yard for outdoor gatherings, maybe even adding on. What we have not done, though, is brought in a bulldozer to knock it down and start over from the ground up.
Lots of great insights about how to make the home work better for us have resulted from just being in it, and realizing that it can serve as a lot more than a place to crash at the end of the day.
I can run with this analogy all day, but my point is that essentially the same principles apply to websites. The more time we spend with them and in them, the more we recognize their potential, and the better they are going to work for us.
On the other hand, if we ignore our greatest digital asset by letting the content get dated, letting it fall out of sync with what’s going on in the rest of the organization, or generally just not paying attention, its value starts to diminish.
Google is Paying Attention
Efforts to optimize the potential of your website by drawing visitors to it who are looking for what you have to offer is largely an exercise of playing by Google’s rules. Google currently accounts for 86.86 percent of all Global search activity, and a big factor in how a site gets ranked by Google: quality content that is regularly updated and refreshed.
Marla Aistrope, our Digital Marketing Strategist recently pointed out that seeking to curry favor from the search engines can and should be a key driver of content strategy. She emphasized though that regularly adding relevant content, ensuring that content is up to date, and that the tone and branding of a site is aligned with current goals, is a solid goal in and of itself.
Consistent updates also offer an opportunity to ensure that the most up-to-date best practices are being applied. Google is constantly refining it’s ranking algorithm, and goes back and forth on some key factors such as how much of a meta description appears in a search result. Being tapped in to where Google stands at any given point, is critical to many facets of SEO.
Google looks at a lot more than just content. Navigation is a critical issue — for users as well as for Google. If a new services page gets added, for example, updating the site’s navigation hierarchy is essential for letting Google know that the page is important, which will also help to direct people to the new information.
And then there’s the issue of how long it takes a site to load. Google has no patience for long load times, then again, these days, none of us do. That’s another big reason why a site that’s developed correctly the first time, and supported with plug-ins that are designed to optimize efficiency and are updated regularly, is important to staying in Google’s good graces.
When to Redesign a Website
Despite best efforts to make a site work, there are times when parting ways and deciding to no longer throw time and money after a losing proposition is the right direction – changing course and opening the door to new possibilities. In a recent post titled Is Your Web Vendor Holding You Hostage I addressed some untenable factors that signal it’s time to start over. Among them:
- Not having access to or ownership of the code,
- Contractual language that restricts the ability to easily modify the content or design,
- Restrictive service or support agreements, and
- Reliance on little-known on largely unsupported software or CMS platforms.
Other reasons to consider:
- Inability to manage and create content on your own due to CMS configuration/programming
- Re-branding, merger, or acquisition which will impact aesthetics
- Extremely out-dated design which is not mobile or modern-browser friendly
Bottom line, any feature or factor that restricts the ability to update and enhance a site is a deal breaker.
Put Your Website to Work
As the saying goes, “If it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t happen,” and that’s as true for websites as our own personal and business goals. Too often websites get ignored, or fall off the top of the list, and that’s a function of not planning or prioritizing.
The most successful websites are fueled by an editorial calendar, with a plan for the blogs that will be posted for the month and the quarter, and there are key performance indicators in place for
- number of organic visits per week and per month,
- visits from social media channels,
- downloads of particular content,
- signups for events,
- new leads, or
whatever metric is driving business.
A/B testing needs to be in place to continuously revise and get smarter about what works best.
This year, as we spent more time than ever before in our homes, with online connections serving as the primary link to the outside world, we looked to websites to do a lot of heavy lifting, and it became more clear than ever before that websites define what an organization is all about.
Your website is your store. It’s your most important representation of your entire brand.
When it’s well designed and developed for the long haul, it can serve your organization’s needs for years and years to come.
Interested in a conversation about how to optimize the value of your current site. Let’s talk!