We’ve all opened a refrigerator door and been hit by the rancid smell of something inside that went rotten. The next step is to sniff around to identify and remove the offender. Fortunately, fresh items are either stamped with a “use by” date or show signs of rotting that can tell us right away when they’re no longer usable.
Though not marked as clearly, websites also give us clues that help us identify when something’s gone rotten. Technology changes, user behavior and interaction changes, trends change. Businesses that operate in any industry can benefit from maintaining regular updates to keep in line with the latest behavior to create a best experience for online visitors. Take a look at these eight tips to determine if it’s time to clean out your website and refill with today’s fresh practices.
1. Your site isn’t responsive or mobile-friendly
In 2013 for the first time, smartphones outsold traditional feature phones. This means that more of us are going online, and we’re not using our computers. A website designed expressly for visitors on large(er) monitors may make for a clunky and frustrating experience for mobile viewers. There’s no such thing as the “mobile” viewing experience anymore — we must consider the mobile viewer from the onset of any design project. Responsive design also speeds page-loading; keeping your customers waiting may be sending them straight to your competitors’ websites.
2. Your site is built with graphical text and/or Flash
Like a mullet hairstyle, a Flash website may look good to its owner, but is probably being made fun of by others. Again, blame mobile. Flash websites are difficult to update, and, more threateningly, are not SEO mobile-friendly. Visiting your Flash website from a mobile device, the viewer will get stuck with a slow-loading page, and then a missing image when their device doesn’t support Flash. Like the example above: this experience may also send your visitor straight to the competition. Modern sites use JQuery for animation and slide shows, thus allowing for live text that’s visible to search engines and easy to update with a content management system. Better for you, and better for your new, and returning online visitors.
3. You need a webmaster to update content
Whether you’re adding new text, photographs or just changing the business hours on your website, content must be fresh. And there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to update it yourself. If your site hasn’t been touched in a few years, there’s a good chance that it requires code to update and add content. We believe in empowering the client to add content, so we build all sites using WordPress so clients can add, edit and remove content at any time after the site goes live. P.S. Who even says “webmaster” any more?
4. Search engines are overlooking your site
Perhaps your site is built in Flash. Perhaps it uses a bunch of graphical text. Perhaps none of your pages are properly titled or tagged with keywords. While we still advocate for the human reader first, search engines must be a factor when creating your website. By utilizing SEO best practices both on-page and with meta data, Networks Plus can help lift your website’s SERP (Search Engine Results Page) to help more people find it.
5. Your design is behind the times
Just like fashion, interior design and automotive design, web styles have a shelf life. Though your brand essence may stay the same, the execution of your brand through graphical treatment and user interaction online should be examined for improvements in technology and functionality every few years. Even if your brand hasn’t changed, your customer’s online behavior likely has.
6. Your site isn’t social
Your website serves as a central hub, but your customers may prefer to interact with you via their preferred social media channel. Give customers the opportunity to find, follow and interact with you where they are — on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Yelp, or whatever social channels are most popular in your industry. Are users able to like pages on your site and/or easily hop over to your Facebook page? Does your website reflect today’s most popular social channels? If not, it might be time for a new site.
7. Your company, industry or brand positioning has changed
You have a new product, new location, new ownership — the website is now the most important form of branding and advertising, and must reflect who and what your company is today, and every day. Communicating your brand image appropriately online is the first step toward setting customer expectations for the experience they’ll have with your brand in person.
8. You’re not tracking site traffic
What pages are your customers visiting? What keywords are they searching for that help them find your site? Are customers putting items in their shopping cart and then not buying? What’s your bounce rate? Do mobile viewers visit more pages? Being a data hound is critical for understanding how your visitors interact with your site, and how you can continuously improve their experience. Having a beautiful website and not looking at the traffic is like buying an automatic Ferrari. What a waste.
Eliminating these rotten ingredients helps ensure your website is healthy, and your visitors are happy. Not every update requires a complete overhaul — the two most important things to consider are user behavior and brand identity, and evaluating the website updates should derive from these two factors. In creating a pleasant brand experience online for your target customers, you can drive repeat visits and set expectations for your brand image.