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When to Redesign or Replace Your Website

When out and about at networking events, a question always seems to be brought up once people learn that I’m a digital marketer. “We've had our website for quite a few years now- how often would you recommend a redesign?” While this seems like a basic enough question, the reality behind it is a bit more complicated.

Truth be told, there is no direct answer. It depends on the quality of the original designer, the complexity of the website, and the nature of the business- among many other factors. One thing I would recommend is to not take the opinion of a digital marketer at face value. They have a vested interest in you needing a new website, and most will immediately recommend a full rebuild. Do your own research and talk to a few different professionals before making a decision.

Now, with that being said, there are a few main mistakes that older websites make that can really limit your progress in the digital age. If any of these are not up to snuff, maybe it's time to talk to a professional.

Desktop-Only Design

If your website doesn't work equally well across devices, such as on desktops, mobile phones, and tablets, you are in serious trouble. In 2018 Google began penalizing sites for lacking a mobile page, and it makes sense why- over 80% of web searches occur on mobile devices. That is a pretty huge opportunity missed. Depending on how your site was built, this may be corrected without a full rebuild being necessary. Chances are though, if there is no mobile version, the desktop version is outdated too and requires an update as well.

Not sure if your site is mobile-friendly? Google has a nifty tool to quickly determine how much work your site might need to match current best practices for mobile web design.

The 2010 Website Design

Even if you’re not involved with web design, you know what I mean. There is a somewhat thin strip of actual content in the middle of the screen, and a corny intrusive design taking up the background. A few small images, a ton of text (usually a few points smaller than it should be), and a cluttered, disorganized structure. Remember how MySpace pages used to look? Something like that.

Some of these sites work fine on mobile, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re just not good. This is why it is so important to choose a reputable web designer that keeps up with current best practices- many sites with this style that I come across are relatively new. Before choosing a consultant or agency for your web design work, be sure to go through their portfolio to see the types of sites they’ve made before. If they don’t have a portfolio, do not hire them- there is a reason they aren’t giving you examples of their past projects.

If your site is recent but has this look, cut your losses and have someone else try to fix it. It’s worth the added investment for a site that is modern and optimized for conversion actions. If your site is old and has this look, it may not be the designer’s fault- the fact of the matter is this was considered good web design not too terribly long ago. In either case, talk to some professionals and get it fixed.

Lack of a Conversion Strategy

Okay, so someone is on your website. Now what?

If you say your website is strictly informational and your customers will just call you when they're ready, you need a wake-up call. Every website can be extremely valuable as long as it is optimized properly to guide visitors through key actions that drive revenue for the business. Problem is, this isn't exactly commonplace, even for recently built sites.

New, attractive websites can lack focus and any clear valuable actions. The good news is correcting this is usually pretty straightforward, especially for smaller sites- the bad news is that the lack of this action is costing you money.

“So our site doesn’t have a bunch of forms. What’s the big deal?” Well, it’s not just about forms. It’s about the way you structure your site to have the greatest chance of acquiring a lead. This is important for any business with a website, and imperative for any business with a website and a digital marketing budget. In no uncertain terms, if you have a digital marketing budget but haven’t first experimented with conversion optimization, you are wasting part of your budget every month.

Do you need a new website? No, probably not. But you should have a professional look at your current one.

Lack of Page Content & Images of Text

These are small signs of much larger problems. A sort of litmus test that I use to quickly find out if a website is bad. While they don’t immediately mean your website is terrible, these indicators hint at a much larger problem.

Obsolete pages and pages without much content at all hurt conversions by making site users chase around to find the information they want. More likely than not, they’re just going to leave and go to a site that’s less frustrating to navigate. If you don’t have the content, that’s fine- just keep a simpler site structure.

Text images are harmful for a few reasons. First, they are just bad form- a web designer immediately knows an amateur made the site based on this. The images often aren’t responsive, and look weird when viewed on mobile or tablet. Most importantly, the images aren’t machine readable by default so people with poor eyesight have trouble understanding and navigating your site.

If you’re a good person, you understand the need for your site to be equally accessible to everyone. If you don’t care about that, you should know that there has been a massive uptick in lawsuits related to website accessibility over the past year or two and having obvious issues on your site and doing nothing can make you liable. The Americans with Disabilities Act promises equal accessibility to all public spaces- websites are included in this. Don’t be a jerk and make sure everyone can use your site, okay?

Fixing these issues can usually be done without a full site redesign, but depending on how bad the site is and how large it is, you may want to just go ahead and redo it.

A website redesign is a large investment that requires a lot of consideration. Talk to multiple professionals, make an internal list of pros and cons, and try to determine how much your unoptimized site is costing you. By this point it is abundantly clear that digital is the future. The quicker you adapt, the more your business can grow.

Baylen McCarthy is the Director of Media and Digital Innovation at Waters & Bridgman and offers a broad range of affordable digital marketing consulting services for small businesses. If you're interested in getting in touch with Baylen, shoot him an email or leave him a message.

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