Websites are living entities that adapt, evolve, and attract people in different ways as technology advances. Your website can and should engage the world around you like an active salesperson. It should build relationships with your audience, involving them in an ongoing dialog and allowing them to interact with the site in the manner that best suits their needs.
However, many websites still operate like a digital brochure with static, linear content. They speak at visitors, but don’t engage them. Or worse, corporate websites often grow into a “Frankenstein” model of patched-on segments added in a short-term attempt to keep up with business or market evolution. These scenarios are common and very understandable. Redesigning your website can be a significant undertaking, which is why it, unfortunately, often gets pushed under the rug.
So, how do you know when it’s time to consider a website refresh or redesign?
Your website should be
- Mobile and Tablet Friendly
- Easy to Navigate
- SEO Optimized
- Not Flash-based
If it’s been more than five years since you redesigned your website, it’s likely you need to consider doing so now. Website coding and development technologies have advanced significantly in the past few years, and web browsers have changed accordingly. The influx of new devices and related social tools has created a new standard for website performance; older websites simply can’t keep up.
If it’s been more than five years, your site also probably looks “dated” and has content that is no longer as relevant as it could be. We’ll touch on content more in a moment.
Mobile and Tablet Friendly
One of the most significant developments over the past few years is the increased use of smartphones and tablets for viewing web content. Whether your audience is at extremes on the age spectrum, or extremes on the technology spectrum, these technologies are becoming ubiquitous and cannot be ignored. The nature of your business and the goals for your website will help define whether you need responsive web design, web apps, or standard design optimized for multiple devices.
Easy to Navigate
Businesses often design their sites around what they want to say rather than what their visitors want to know. This strategy is a sure-fire way to lose your visitors (and potential customers). The average visitor will look for just a few seconds to find the content they need. If they don’t find it or a clear path to it immediately, they will move on to the next site in a mouse click. Visitors want options, clear content categories, and the ability to define their own path through your website. Information architecture is critical. We can work with you to create website content strategies that quickly bring your visitors to the information they seek, while providing engaging content teasers in the periphery that keep them at your site and learning more about your business.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Search engines are run by complex algorithms. They are designed to scan the entire volume of Internet content and return suggestions for your search request in microseconds. These algorithms get more advanced every year in an attempt to provide better search results and to restrict SEO ranking abuse. The result is that today there really isn’t a way to “beat the system” of Internet search rankings, and anyone who says there is, is selling something. The key to improved SEO isn’t a tool or service – it’s content, content, content. This content must be written around your key search terms, and it must be “searchable” – not embedded within images or Flash content. Several other factors can boost your search rankings, but most hinge tangentially on content. We can help you define a content strategy to meet your specific needs and enable the functionality on your site so that you can manage your content seamlessly.
Content is king in SEO, and you need to be able to update it easily. That is why most websites today rely on a back-end CMS (Content Management System). A CMS is a database that interfaces with your website to serve up the content displayed on your site. Most CMSs have a very user-friendly access interface that allows non-developers to add content, such as text and images, easily. Many CMS systems even enable non-developers to add new pages to the website and schedule content to be updated or published remotely on a schedule. CMS-based websites can vary widely in their design and implementation costs, ranging from affordable pre-designed Word Press templates to completely customized systems developed in Drupal, Django, and other frameworks.
A few years ago, Flash was the main way to create engaging interactivity on your website, but today it can significantly hinder your objectives. Flash content is not search engine friendly; the search engine bots that tirelessly scan the Internet to log and categorize existing content can’t read Flash content. This is terrible for your SEO. In addition, Apple products do not play well with Flash, so iPhones, iPads, iTouches, and Safari won’t view your Flash properly, if at all. With new coding functionality that displays well across all systems, there is no need to rely on Flash today. You can achieve many of the same effects with other methods that will boost your SEO and device compatibility.
Many businesses struggle to use social media effectively within their communication strategy. Social tools allow you to engage your audience in a dialog. They keep you present in your audience’s mindshare and offer invaluable opportunities for feedback and market pulse. The methods for effective use of these tools is a topic for a separate article in itself, but for the purposes of this article, it suffices to say that social tools can be some of the most cost-effective communication tools in your marketing communications arsenal. They can and should be tied to your website and its content strategy.
This is perhaps the most persuasive reason to consider a website refresh or redesign. Is your site effectively meeting your marketing communication goals? Do you have defined goals for your website? Are you measuring progress on those goals? Do you have analytics in place to measure website statistics accurately? These are critical questions to consider when evaluating the effectiveness of your website. If it isn’t meeting your objectives, it’s time to consider a refresh to get it back on track.
Canal Branding can help you review and evaluate your site, develop a content strategy to meet your goals, create social strategies to connect with your market, and ensure that when people visit your site, they get the information they need quickly and stay longer to learn more.