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We’ve all done it: We click on a link to a website, and we are taken to a site that brings us back to yesteryear. It’s not that we’re flooded with warm feelings of nostalgia, so much as we ask ourselves if we should immediately hit the back button. When it comes to websites, we’re consumers. We expect a certain type of user experience from the websites we visit. Right or wrong, it is the reality of the world-wide-web we live in. If that site from which visitors are fleeing is ours, it will make it very hard for us to sell, promote, inform, connect, facilitate or whatever task it is that we are hoping to accomplish through our site. Keeping our websites up to date with current design trends and customer expectations is important. If you’re wondering if the time has come for you to look at redesigning your website, let us offer a few suggestions.
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Web design styles change like anything else. Take a look at some of the most well-known sites on the internet, and you’ll find sites that have evolved considerably over the years. I’ve attached examples of tech-blog cnet.com from 2006, and from today. The user experience has changed dramatically, as it has across the entire internet. Today’s web uses minimalist design to create a less confusing user experience, and increase conversion rates. That’s not to say it’s ugly, but that it uses white space appropriately, and understands that when it comes to visuals, sometimes less is more.
Internet connection speeds have increase dramatically in recent years, and designers are less constrained by the load times of large images and videos. Historically, websites were less visual, with more text to minimize load speeds. While I am sure that there are still people out there with dial-up internet, ask yourself when the last time you heard the familiar shriek of a modem connecting to the internet was.
Pay attention to the websites that you visit regularly. They will give you cues about shifting design trends. You don’t need to redesign your website every time there is a change, but when you look at other sites, and then at yours, does it appear like it might be time for your site to get some work done?
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Cnet.com in 2006
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Cnet.com in 2016
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If you don’t have Google Analytics (or some other analytics script) running on your website, you should. The data that we are able to collect from analytics is a great tool at helping us maximize the effectiveness of what we’re doing on the web. One of the key pieces of data that we collect from Analytics is our bounce rate.
Ideally we want our visitors engaging with our site. We want them reading through our content, signing up for our mailing list, purchasing a product, signing up for an account, etc. A bounce is when a visitor lands on your page, and then exits without engaging in a meaningful way. If your bounce rate is high, it could signify that either people are not finding what they’re looking for when they land on your site, or that they just don’t care to give it a look. We don’t want our visitors to land and leave, so you should look at this as a good indicator that some changes need to be made.
I will make this caveat: Your bounce rate is not the be-all and end-all. You could be having a lot of bots crawl your site. You may notice, for example, that you have a ton of traffic from Russia or China, and it’s all bouncing. That may be a completely different issue. You might need to filter your data so that it doesn’t include traffic that comes from these bots.
Over 50% of North American adults carry a smart phone in their pocket (or purse). We have our devices with us, and we use them to access the web. Every year mobile Internet use is increasing, and it is very important for us to make sure that our websites provide a good user experience for those accessing them from phones and tablets.
In the old days, (I use that term loosely, since we’re talking just a few years back) your website would serve a completely different, stripped down version of itself to those accessing it from a mobile device. More recently sites have become fully responsive. A responsive site will optimize its layout for the width of the screen on which it is being viewed. Items that are in columns will become stacked, and navigation will change formats so that your content can be easily read and interacted with on mobile.
Google’s search engine rankings take into account whether your site is mobile friendly, so you should make sure that it is. Google offers a free mobile-friendly test to make sure your site (or any other for that matter) is in compliance with their mobile-friendly guidelines.
Having an awesome website doesn't do you much good if no one can find it. If you are unable to find your site on search engines, you might need to consider a redesign, or at least optimizing the site that you have for search engines.
It wasn't that long ago that Flash animations were all the rage in web design. Flash has fallen out of favour in recent years, and the rich animations that it allowed are no accomplished using other technologies. One of the big problems with Flash is that it did not play nice with search engines. If your site uses flash extensively, you might need more than a few tweaks to fix the problem.
You might get customer feedback that is as obvious as, “Hey, you should really do something about your site”. More likely you’ll hear feedback from customers that they were unable to find the information they were looking for, or that features of your website were not working correctly. Often times we like to hear the good feedback that validates what we are doing, and dismiss the negative feedback as the rantings of a a few. When you get negative feedback from your customers, take the opportunity to view your site from their perspective. Is there action worth taking that would no only satisfy this one individual, but also improve the user experience of the rest of your visitors who may have said nothing at all? If you’re getting a lot of negative feedback, perhaps it’s time to make that feedback design considerations for a new site. Provide the feedback to your designer so that he or she can try to remedy them while redesigning the site.
I remember when I used to have to wait for minutes for webpages to load. Maybe you don’t. We’re so accustomed to snappy webpages that we just don't stick around long if they don’t load. If your site is consistently slow, you might need to look at upgrading. I would like to point out that it could be an issue with your hosting provider. If you’re using the absolute cheapest hosting you can find, you might be better served to upgrade or switch your hosting package.
Gone are the days where you need to hire your web designer to make simple changes to your site. You still need an experienced hand when making major changes, but changing an image, or updating some text should be simple enough for any end user to accomplish.
Many websites are built on Content Management Systems (CMS) such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal,etc. WordPress, for examples, makes up about 20% of sites on the Web today. A CMS is software runs on your web server, and it allows users to login to an administrative area where content can be added, and pages can be edited with about the same level of technical difficulty as editing a spreadsheet or word processor document. The CMS also allows your sites to be more dynamic, as it will automatically feature new content, and archive older content.
If you’re spending (or probably should be spending) a lot of money on simple updates to your site, it might be more cost effective to look at redesigning your site with a CMS.
Finally, a good indicator that your site needs a redesign is to look at the sites of your competitors. If their site looks better, has better features, Search engine rankings, and loads faster than yours, you should look at improving your site, or risk falling behind.
While it is impossible to determine the lifespan of a website, it is important to periodically asses the state of your site and to adapt to new design trends, user experience trends, features, technologies, etc.
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