New website features, styles, and trends appear daily. Some disappear quickly and others become a standard which other sites follow for years.
Best practices for websites may be technical or related to design and content. Some standards have remained for years, while others change year after year.
Think of some website features or styles you’ve experienced:
- Parallax scrolling
- Graphic sliders on the homepage
- Autoplay video
- Background music
- Pop-ups for email signups
- Logo placement left, middle, or right side of the page
- Main navigation on the top or left side of the page
- Social news feeds
- Tiled content
- Hover effects
- Monochromatic sites
- Pages with mostly graphics or mostly text
- A full page call to action that doesn’t disappear unless you scroll
Some of these were fads that quickly faded. Others have remained for years. For example, nearly every modern website today has its logo at the top left of the website.
At its core, a website is built on three elements:
- Design: Includes images, layout, fonts, brand colors, and other styles that support the brand.
- Content: Includes text, images, downloads, audio, and video.
- Code: Not all code is created equal. Following code standards respect Google’s search requirements and should be easy to update by any developer.
All three website components are critical to building an effective website. What exactly is an effective website? It’s one that enables you to achieve your business goals.
We use WordPress content management system (CMS) for each website we develop. In many cases where we are designing a website from scratch, the client already has a WordPress website. How do you know if the project requires a complete redesign or only some updates?
Here are some questions to consider:
1. Does the design meet modern standards, regardless of the brand style?
For example, one of the most beautiful homes I’ve been inside was far more traditional than I’d prefer. Yet, it was classy, inviting, and the layout fit modern lifestyles. Websites are similar. Your company can be conservative, but the website experience can and should be forward thinking and focus on brand building and engaging visitors.
If the design does not meet modern standards, do you only need to make minor changes to fonts or replace a few stock photos? If that’s the case, simple revisions will do. If you need to change the entire structure of your website, including page layouts, image dimensions, content width, and overall presentation of content, a total redesign is usually more efficient.
2. Is the path from A to Z clear?
The most intuitive websites don’t have sub- sub- sub-menus so visitors can see your entire offering and decide what they want. The most effective websites help visitors to understand they need your product or solution and make the path to getting there easy. Even grocery stores are designed to purposely lead us through the produce section, past the bakery, through the dairy aisle, and toward the meat section. That’s intentional.
What do you want your website visitors to do? You want them to buy, of course. We know that visitors don’t land on a technology website and then immediately choose to buy. Yet, many tech websites are designed poorly because of that wrong assumption. Visitors need to understand, very quickly, what you are offering and why. Then you need to build credibility and provide further opportunity for engagement and education. Think of it as leading visitors down a path rather than pressuring them to buy.
If your current website does not offer a clear and enjoyable path to buying, you may need to completely redesign your website to accommodate restructured content. It depends on the degree of content restructuring.
3. Is the content easy to find?
What would grocery store profits be if the manager said, “Our customers are educated; they already know what they need,” and then proceeded to organize shelves by the size of the food items? Yet, often tech companies take this approach to website layout and content organization. They put the responsibility for finding content on the site visitor. Like the point above, it is your responsibility to lead your visitor where you want them to go. That responsibility extends well beyond the top navigation. It includes the entire layout and good content organization.
4. Is the brand message clear and engaging?
Effective tech companies review the brand message on their website quarterly, or on a regular basis to be sure the brand message is accurate and still resonates with the audience. Nearly every tech company we’ve served has to revise their message, even a little, because of how technology changes.
Here’s an example. In the early days of the web, companies promoted the fact that visitors could now shop 24/7. It’s funny to think of that now because that’s the nature of the web. Over time, companies realized that shopping 24/7 was not a distinguishing factor. In a similar way, today’s latest technology will be laughable tomorrow. Be sure your message is compelling to your audience.
To Rebuild vs Revise: That is the Question
The answer to redesigning or rebuilding is not clear-cut because it depends on two main things:
- The state of your current website, and whether it helps you meet business goals.
- The changes and functionality you want or need to incorporate to better engage your audience and move visitors further down the sales cycle.
When deciding whether your website should be upgraded or scrapped altogether, it is important to know what your goals are and if your current site can meet those needs. For example, if you have an older website built mostly with HTML, you probably can’t incorporate many of the new features seen on more modern content management systems like WordPress. If you have a newer website with updated code that meets current standards, maybe small revisions are all that is needed.