01 Apr Is your Website in a coma?
You only have a handful of seconds to convince your visitors that your website is the right place to be. Get those first impressions wrong and they’ll be clicking back faster than a flash. Websites have been around for enough time now, that the Internet is littered with out of date information and defunct businesses. Here are some clear signs that your website has slipped into a coma.
[Tweet “If your site has more tables than a wedding reception dinner, we need to talk.”]
Your direct competition looks better than you
Do you find yourself looking through the websites of your competitors wishing yours was as good? This is a clear sign that your website is on life support and not doing well. Good design inspires confidence and trust in your visitors.
Even if your competitors have poor, out-dated websites, it may be time for a redesign. If no-one is standing out in your market, then it is only a matter of time before someone steps up to become the leader. It may as well be you, giving you that first-mover advantage, helping you to become the go-to-site in your industry or sector.
No clear calls to action or goals
We see this a lot with websites that were built during the great digital land rush of the late nineties and early aughts. Everybody rushed to have a website because everyone else had one but with little thought to what purpose the website served. If your site is generally there to generate leads, everything that doesn’t directly funnel your users to submitting an email address or phone number is just noise.
The same is true for a sales website. Every page and every bit of content should be designed to get visitors adding items to a cart and then checking out with minimal effort. Additional content might seem like a good idea but if your customers lose interest while looking at this content and then leave, your goal has failed.
How does it look on modern screens & mobiles?
This is probably one of the clearest signs that your website is a breath away from joining the undead horde. 10 – 15 years ago, websites were usually designed to display optimally at a single fixed width. This width was decided based on the most common monitor resolution at the time, 1024 x 768. Websites that were designed with this screen size in mind often look too small on todays standard screen sizes (which are both wider and higher resolution than before, with 1920 x 1080 being the new de facto standard).
Modern website design practices take into account the range of different screen sizes that may be used to access your content, this includes mobiles and tablets. Layouts can be designed to change and adapt to the increasing variety of screen sizes in todays technology landscape.
Can you update it?
Do you have to pay a geek every time you need something changed on your site? If so you could be wasting hundreds of pounds every year. A modern site will usually include an easy to use content management system (CMS) that will allow you to make basic changes to text and images on your site. Some will even allow you to add and remove whole pages and sections without the need to employ someone with specialist skills.
The Internet is constantly changing and evolving. Often, sites are built to use third party data for certain functions such as displaying social media content from Twitter and Facebook or displaying location information from Google Maps. These third parties change the way they talk to websites over time and it’s not unusual to find that these changes will break the integration with your website.
Long load times
[tweet “Google now uses page load times as a central metric when deciding how to rank your site”]
People don’t like waiting. This is taken to the extreme when it comes to the Internet and websites. If your website is taking more than 3 seconds to load, chances are people will go and try somewhere else before they have even seen your offering. This extends to all areas of your website and is especially true for ecommerce websites. If your customers suddenly find they need to wait 10 seconds for the checkout page to load, they will give up.
It is also worth noting that Google now uses page load times as a central metric when deciding how to rank your site in search results.
Do people actually get past your homepage?
If your site doesn’t look like it will meet your visitor’s requirements, they’ll leave pretty quick. This is what Google Analytics calls a ‘bounce’. A high bounce rate tells google that your page isn’t providing the information or service required to visitors arriving from their search results. This in turn, does huge damage to your SEO and before long you’ll find yourself at the bottom of the deck.
Is your site full of content that is out of date? Do your articles relate to events that have been and gone? Your visitors want to know that your website is relevant today. It is great to have archive content but you must make sure that your website has new or updated content regularly to maintain a good position in search results.
Ideally you want to be adding something new every week. But at the very least aim to add something new or make small changes and updates every month.
[tweet “As a general rule of thumb, a website has a shelf life of about 5 years.”]
When was the last time you really overhauled your website? As a general rule of thumb, a website has a shelf life of about 5 years. Somewhere around the end of the 3rd year you need to start reviewing and auditing your current site. If it hasn’t kept up with the pace of technology, then be prepared to take action sooner.
Design overhauls generally need doing more often as trends in design move faster than trends in technology and development. I would certainly think about trying to schedule a redesign every 3 years at most with many businesses opting for annual facelifts.
If you are about to commission a new site, make sure that the new system will allow for a complete change of the look and design elements without needing to rebuild the entire backend system.
Unused sections & features
Are there whole sections or features of your website that don’t get used. Is it really worth having that discussion forum that hasn’t had a discussion in it for 5 years? All you are doing is signalling to your visitors that your site is a ghost town. Your analytics will tell you what content actually gets read and what is just collecting dust.
Copyright in footer
Is your footer copyright date is anything other than this year? An out of date copyright notice tells visitors exactly how long you have ignored your website for.
Does your website have an animated intro sequence? Or even worse, is it one big interactive Flash animation? Flash was fun for a while but it is now poorly supported, has long load times and is near impossible to SEO. If your site is heavily Flash dependant, it is definitely time to start again.
Tables, tables, tables. If your site has more tables than a wedding reception dinner, we need to talk. Tables were once the standard layout tool of web developers everywhere. Unfortunately, they haven’t stood the test of time. Tables based sites have a very heavy code structure and are prone to all kinds of layout issues across different browsers. If you’re not sure if your site is laid out in tables, right-click on your website and view-source. If see td and tr tags everywhere, then your site is based in tables.
You’ve probably noticed that Social Media is everywhere. There’s a good reason for that. It provides a direct channel for traffic to your website. It also allows you to engage with your visitors in discussion away from your main site. Referrals from Social Media to your website have a massive impact on your SEO and is now one of the core metrics used by Google when ranking your page.
Lets not also forget that Social Media is a marvellous marketing tool for you to exploit. Whatever your personal feelings are toward the various Social Media platforms, they can be used to great effect in driving traffic to your website.
Ok, so we have determined that your website is truly in a coma. What can you do about it?
First you need to really think about why you need a website, who will use it and what you want them to do. Have a look at our guide to writing a website specification.
Next you’ll need to find a suitable agency to design and build it for you. We’re always here to give advice and early consultancy so feel free to get in touch. Either way, make sure you check out the portfolio of anyone you are thinking of using. If you like their existing work, chances are they’ll be able to build you something great. Take a little more time to contact some of their previous clients and ask them about their experiences of working with that agency.
Finally, don’t expect your new website to last forever. Plan design refreshes every 1 – 3 years and complete overhauls every 3 – 5 years. Continually test, update and audit your website. Don’t wait for your business to suffer before deciding it is time for a change.