Small Business Website Tips
It’s a question we hear business owners pondering on a regular basis. When should they change their site? It’s important to keep in mind that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on your business, your industry, your customers, your budget, and more.
That said, we can provide some guidelines as to when your site might need a makeover. Here are five signs that you should consider.
1. Your site was built before smart phones and tablets took off.
The year 2007 was an important one: the first iPhone was released and so was the first Kindle (we mention Kindle because Apple’s response was to create the iPad, which came out in 2010). If your site was built prior to 2007, or even in 2008, 2009, 2010, it’s quite possible you weren’t thinking about how the site would render on mobile devices, like smart phones and tablets.
Mobile usage has exploded in the last two years, and predictions are that more and more people will be browsing and buying directly from their phones. The question to ask is this: how does your website render on the various mobile devices that are out there? The answer is probably this: “Not so well.”
The cornerstone of your website makeover should involve responsive design, which simply means that your site has been built in a way that it will automatically “respond” to fit whatever device a visitor is using: Kindle Fire, Samsung Galaxy, iPad, you name it. Read what’s ahead for mobile marketing this year, and why your website needs to be up to snuff.
2. Your site is still version 1.0.
In other words, you’re using the exact same site you had when you launched your business. Unless your business launch has occurred in the last three years or so, then it’s probably time to make some updates. (Another hint: if your site was built on the cheap, you bartered it, or your significant other’s cousin who was teaching himself HTML built it, then those are all indications it’s time to upgrade.)
This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to do a complete gutting or overhaul. But some items to consider that can help spruce things up include:
- New images
- Fresh copy
- Expanded sections, such as your About and Services/Product sections
- Expanded social media reach: do you have a blog and is it integrated with your site? Do you have easy ways for people to follow you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.?
- A new home page design — this will likely be your most trafficked page, so giving the home page a complete makeover (while still making sure it’s consistent with your overall brand) can be a good way to revive things.
3. Your business has changed, but your site hasn’t.
Your website should evolve as your business evolves. Services and product offerings will change. Management teams will expand/contract. You’ll have new pictures, new articles, new information to share. Your site should be dynamic, not static, in terms of the information it offers. Sometimes, to accommodate big changes, this will necessitate the need for a complete website makeover. A brand that recently decided to redesign its site for these very reasons is Animoto, which originally launched in 2007. Check out its rationale for changing its site and new brand identity here.
4. You hate your site.
There’s a difference between being bored with your website and hating it. Since you’re so close to your site and access it regularly, it’s easy to become “bored.” Be careful, though. Boredom on your part doesn’t mean it needs a makeover.
However, if you hate your website, this is a different story. How do you know if you hate it? Do you purposely avoid mentioning it to customers and prospects and, instead, direct them elsewhere, such as your company LinkedIn profile or business page on Facebook? Does your site embarrass you? (Again, there’s a big difference between thinking your site is boring and feeling embarrassed by it.)
Listen to your gut. If your gut is telling you it’s time to redesign your site, then your gut is probably right. The key is being able to identify why. So channel your “hate” into a punch list of real reasons. This is the way to evaluate if you truly hate something or if you’re simply bored by it. The hate list might include things like “the navigation is confusing or doesn’t make sense” or “the site appears amateurish…we’ve evolved from the start-up that launched such a basic site and now we need something that reflects where we are today” or “I’m so frustrated that I can’t make simple changes myself without having to go through my web person.” All of these complaints are legitimate and point to the need to mix things up.
5. Your customers hate your site.
This is the opposite of #4. Maybe you’re perfectly happy with your site or perhaps you don’t think about it too much, figuring, “Hey, it’s a website. That’s all I need.” But, at the same time, maybe you hear customers grousing that it’s hard to navigate. Or maybe your customer service folks are getting the same questions, questions that are all answered clearly (you think) on your site. Or perhaps Google Analytics is revealing that targeted traffic is reaching your site on keyword phrases that make sense to your business, but people bounce off too fast and your visitor-to-customer conversion is much lower than it should be.
Things like this could indicate that your customers and prospective customers are having a hard time with your site, either navigating it or finding the right information or perhaps bouncing from certain key pages, like the home page, for some reason.
Listen to your customers. If you’re hearing similar themes from them (e.g. “Your shopping cart system is confusing”), then you need to address these issues. This might not always involve a complete website makeover, but, in many cases, it will.
Before you do that, however, we encourage you to conduct some usability testing that will help reinforce what you’re hearing. Usability studies needn’t be long and involved or cost prohibitive. Companies like UserTesting.com allow you to set up testing and get concrete results that will inform your web redesign efforts. (And you should conduct testing again after a site goes live to make sure your new site has addressed the original issues.)
How often do you give your business site a makeover? What reasons drive your decision to freshen things up? Share your thoughts in the comments.