Is your website past its prime?
And if it is, do you dread a new web design so much that you’re willing to insist that “it still has a few more years left in it” before something needs to be done?
You’re not alone. We are all creatures of habit and don’t usually like change. That often applies to our websites as well. If we do agree to experiment with change, it is with great hesitancy and the reassurance that if we don’t like the new scenario (whatever it may be), we can return to what is comforting and familiar about our world.
Although this is both understandable and acceptable when it comes to human relationships and endeavors, it is NOT acceptable when it comes to web design. The fact is, website owners often hang onto a web design for too darned long, and when they do, their visitors are the ones to suffer for it.
So back to the question: is it time for a new website? If you suspect that it is—or even if you think your website is fine, it’s time to at least give the question some thought. Just how do you know when it’s time to replace your current website with a new web design? This article should make it easier to recognize the signs.
Sign #1 – Your site is just plain ugly.
The old saying “I saw it with my own eyes” holds true in Sign #1. If you can only bear to look at your website for a few moments before you’re compelled to look away, it’s probably time to adopt a new web design or find the right web design professional to build a site for you.
Your visitors want to see a sleek, pleasant, cleverly-designed website—not a website that looks old enough to have been designed by someone’s grandfather. For example, if your site has dark background colors, weird fonts, or stretched or pixelated images, you’re going to scare away your potential buyers.
If you use floating or faded text, blinding backgrounds, blinking animations, silly music that auto-plays the moment a visitor lands on the site, or cartoonish headlines outlined with freakish drop-shadows, your visitors will assume (and rightly so) that you’re not tech-savvy enough to even be on the Internet.
They’ll probably also think your content is as old and stale as last week’s loaf of bread. In this case, you definitely need a new design—or at least the services of a professional website developer.
Sign #2 – It isn’t responsive.
The Internet is making the world smaller in more ways than one. Not only is it making different worlds and cultures more accessible, it’s also making “things” in the world smaller…including your website.
How do you make a website smaller? You make it responsive, of course. According to “How Do I Know It’s Time For a Website Redesign,” by Lisa Gulasy (Kunocreative.com/blog, 2014), Smartphones and tablets now account for 55% of Internet usage in the U.S. Because there are so many gadgets, devices and tablets on the market today—and because many more are being created as this article goes to press, being responsive is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity.
If a visitor surfs to your site and encounters a humongous logo, text that careens off the screen, or images that cannot be re-sized for easy viewing, they’re going to steer clear of your site like yesterday’s garbage. In these cases, a new web design or professional website designer should be at the top of your to-do list.
Sign #3 – Google has no clue that your site even exists.
Let’s face it, Google has the goods on just about everyone…and everything. In the year 2000, Google became the Number One search engine on the Internet. In addition to handling searches, it can also keep track of you (and your website) via Google maps, Google Hangouts, Google emails, and as of mid-2015, via its own mobile wireless service.
With all this connectivity, you would think Google could locate any website on the Internet, right? Why, oh why then, can it not find yours?
Research shows that if your site doesn’t show up on Google, it’s typically because you don’t have any content on your Home page, you’ve been blacklisted, or you’ve squished everything (i.e., products and services) onto the same page.
If content and where to put it are the major problem, choosing a new premium WordPress theme should do the trick.
These themes offer hundreds—possibly thousands—of choices and make it easy and enjoyable to get a fashionable website up and running in no time.
If you don’t have the time or skills to lay out your own WordPress site, plan on investing in premium web design services.
Sign #4 – Your site hasn’t aged well.
A website isn’t like a fine wine; it doesn’t necessarily get better with age. That being said, sometimes you can take one look at a website and know that it has simply grown old.
Even if your website still functions fairly well, you may need to consider other options before you write off choosing a new design. For example, if your website is square and drab and looks completely unoriginal, as if it came from some obscure stencil pattern or cookie cutter, or if it just looks old fashioned like something from your grandmother’s dress closet, it’s definitely time for a facelift.
If you can’t bear to look at it another moment, invest in a capable website design company to customize a functional and beautiful site just for you.
Sign #5 – It’s more than five years old.
Technology changes—and improves—at the blink of an eye. What seemed innovative a year ago may seem like old hat today. This goes for websites, too.
Even if your website still looks pretty good for its age, the fact that it’s getting older is a hint that it won’t have all the options and functionality that are currently available today. As mentioned earlier, today’s websites should be responsive, offer minimalistic designs, have super-easy navigation, and use a kinder, gentler color palette.
But if your website is more than five years old, chances are it won’t have any of these amenities.
Other signs that your website needs to be re-designed (by you or by a professional designer) includes whether it offers live chats, online sales and payments, and even video support. If it can’t do any of these wonderful things—and if you had no clue that options like this existed in the first place, you definitely know it’s time for a change!
Sign #6 – You use those annoying pop-up ads.
We all understand that pop-up ads can bring in revenue, increase SEO ratings and/or glean valuable emails for your growing contact list, but this doesn’t make them any easier to stomach. Pop-up ads are just plain annoying.
When visitors search for great content and find it on your site, you’ve already scored a victory. But if your article is riddled with pop-up ads that spring to life the moment a cursor barely brushes past a hyperlink, you’re going to make reading that content next to impossible—and this will only tick off your visitors.
There are better ways to increase your SEO ratings. There are also more convenient ways to send out a “call to action” to grow your contact/membership list. You can find out more about these new ways when you speak with a professional web designer about giving your site a facelift.
Or, you can purchase a snazzy pre-designed template that comes pre-packed with these features and options.
Either way, get those ads off your site (or at least reduce the overall number) or sheer frustration is going to drive your prospective clientele away.
Sign #7 – It has no security. In fact, you didn’t even know it needed security.
One of the worst things you can do is leave your site unprotected. When you do, it’s like throwing the site under the bus to be run over again and again. Plus, all of the work, sweat and tears you’ve already put into the site can be wiped out in an instant, especially if you don’t perform backups.
Even worse, leaving your website unprotected and at the mercy of viruses, worms, sql injections, junk, malware and the like doesn’t only affect YOU, it can also affect anyone who has the misfortune of landing on your site.
Visitors who may have been searching for something as innocent as a book review or a funny post about dieting may be redirected to a site riddled with hardcore porn or an advertisement about all the reasons they really need Viagra. Also, many infected sites are so contagious that the moment a visitor lands on them, the virus is immediately downloaded onto their computers.
Other infected sites can hijack visitors’ browsers or inject an alert that makes it seem as if their computers are infected or have a virus. Of course they don’t…but the visitors don’t know that.
If you have left your site unprotected and it spreads malicious files like these, your site will more than likely be blacklisted on Google and other search engines. When that happens, it will die a slow and lingering death.
The bottom line is, if your site is unprotected, PROTECT IT. But if you don’t know how or if the prospect of this type of tech work seems overwhelming, it’s definitely time to talk to a web design professional.
Sign #8 – It doesn’t match your logo, letterhead or business materials.
When you created your business, you had a certain service, product, or brand in mind. You rushed out and purchased business cards, stationery and other branding supplies, and then quickly set up your website to reflect this hot new brand.
Fast-forward five years. Your business is still thriving but your focus has changed. You’ve dropped a few of the services you once offered and added several new ones. You’ve also decided that your logo, letterhead and stationery need to be brighter and bouncier if they are to capture your clients’ attention. Feedback has been great and things couldn’t possibly be better. You can relax now, right?
Wrong! While you’re giving your brand a facelift, don’t forget that your website is also a major part of that brand. According to the Acquity Group’s 2014 State of B2B Procurement study, approximately 94% of business buyers research a business online before they make a purchase.
If these buyers land on your digital marketing site and are met by a cartoonish logo of a man snapping photos by the lake, they’re going to be confused. They won’t understand that your business may have begun as photography website but ended as a digital marketing site.
Even if you don’t need an all-new site to correct this issue, you might still want to hire a web design professional to take the hassle out of making the switch.
Sign #9 – You need to add new functions but don’t know how.
As your business grows, you’re going to need some new site functionality. For example, you may offer a variety of services and want to include a way for customers to book your services directly on the site. Or you may want to spread the word about your upcoming events, or even offer a .pdf download of your latest brochure.
These goals are definitely possible. Coders can custom-design booking scripts that can be added to your site. Also, anyone can save a Word document as a .pdf and offer it for download. In fact, there are a plethora of options out there, including plug-ins, apps and php scripts. But if the backend of your site is so outdated that you have no clue how—or where–to add these functions, it’s probably time to throw in the towel and go for a new design.
Sign #10 – You can’t manage your own content.
On the Internet, content is king. But if you haven’t figured out how to handle content long enough to upload it onto your site, you’re in big trouble.
If you have a website that needs some serious updating but you can’t figure out how to get to your Admin panel, it probably means there is no easy way to get to the panel. And if there’s no easy way to get to it, you probably own one of those sites where all content must be added via FTP (File Transfer Protocol), namely via file programs like FileZilla or FileFTP.
While these FTP programs are perfect for uploading or updating themes or large files, they can be a pain when all you need to do is add a quick blog post or change a photo on your Home page. These programs are often so tedious or intimidating, in fact, that site owners are forced to pay a Webmaster to handle content and uploads rather than tackle the job themselves.
Since not everyone wants to pay just to upload a little content, it’s often best to think of using open source website creation tools like WordPress and Joomla. They offer beautiful designs and super-easy content management, and as long as you can remember your user name and password to log into your Admin panel, you’re good to go.
Whether you pay for a new design or you design a user-friendly site yourself, starting over with something that’s super-easy to use should save you a world of headaches.
Sign # 11 – It’s a flash site.
With all the bad press Flash has received in the last few years, you wouldn’t think website owners would still insist on operating a Flash site. But trust me, it still happens.
Flash sites were once the most dazzling sites on the web. Now they’re just a bunch of fish out of water. A site done with Flash will flop on iPhones and iPads, and according to 10 Signs it’s Time for a Website Facelift by Nicole Denton (Hubspot.com, 2014), Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines won’t be able to read it.
What does this mean? It means that if the search engines can’t read your site, SEO optimization is out. And if SEO is out, your site is going to fade further and further into obscurity.
And so, if your website still uses Flash, yes, it’s well-past the time for a change.
Sign #12 – It’s too slow.
As mentioned before in this website series, the world is in a BIG hurry these days. According to research, the typical human’s attention span is only 8 seconds or less, so expect to lose potential customers if it takes your website longer than this to fully load.
KISSmetrics, the web analytics package, has conducted detailed research on usability issues that may affect your website. A portion of this research states that “47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less, and 40% of Internet users will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.” This 2-to-3-second time limit cuts the already lightning-fast 8 seconds allotted to attention spans down to a bare minimum.
What does all this mean? It means that if your site is just taking too darned long to load, it’s time to re-design it or start over from scratch with a newer, faster and more flexible website theme.
Sign #13 – You’re embarrassed for anyone to see it.
An old website design is a lot like your first car. Remember it? Perhaps you got it when you were much younger and have had it for what seems like forever.
It has seen you through many-a-storm, multiple relationships, and several moves to better neighborhoods, but as time goes on you notice all the dents and scratches and the fact that it’s a nightmare getting parts to keep it running.
It stops more often, runs hot at the most inopportune times, and is harder and harder to start in the mornings. And even though it still has a fairly smooth ride, all your friends have new cars and you don’t particularly want them to see you in yours. You have to make a decision: send it to a mechanic for a paint job and a major overhaul or trade it in for a new one.
That’s exactly how it is with an outdated website. It may be your first website—your baby. It may have lassoed many clients in the early days, and held down the fort each night as you finally closed your eyes for a good night’s sleep. But lately you’ve noticed that it freezes more often and is taking longer and longer to load.
You also notice that though it has been your faithful companion, it just doesn’t look good anymore. Just like that first car, it’s time for a facelift or a complete overhaul.
If your cheeks turn red every time a business or prospect asks for your website url it’s time to re-think your strategy. At least go to the showroom (in this case, a professional theme designer or a theme marketplace) and browse the latest models. Once you’ve made your choice, you can shed the embarrassment and find your next faithful companion (site design) in the process.
Sign #14 – User experience is poor.
Humans are basically kids at heart. They want to have fun! This means that your website should be a “fun” place, not a dark and creepy place that crashes the visitor’s system, re-directs him or her to an unwanted location, or gives everyone who visits a colossal headache.
As an example, I once had a visitor to browse one of my book review sites and email me with a surprising comment. I was very proud of that site and loved the way the book covers displayed and the visitor counter scrolled. I thought it was a happening place to be, but what should have been a pleasant virtual shopping experience was actually nothing less than total harassment.
The visitor emailed and asked why I chose to have a “thing” follow visitors around on the site. I had no clue what he was talking about; I never saw a “thing” when I was on the site because I always signed in on the Admin side.
But when I visited as a layperson, I realized there actually was a “thing” chasing visitors around. It was a clever floating Social network button I thought would make it convenient for visitors to share my content. Instead, it followed them like a scent dog and made browsing my site a big pain in the rear.
In my case, simply deleting that particular button solved my problem. But please remember, sometimes the problem is more than a mere button. Sometimes the entire theme is a hassle. In that case, you need to start over from scratch or purchase a pre-designed template that has all the functionality you’ll ever need.
Sign #15 – Your visitors couldn’t sign up even if they wanted to.
The fact that you even have a website shows that you’re comfortable with technology and realize that a large percentage of the world spends its time online. But comfortable or not, you can’t be “old school” about your visitors. You shouldn’t force them to call you or come into your brick-and-mortar establishment when they want to make a purchase.
Tech-life just doesn’t work that way. The Acquity Group’s 2014 State of B2B Procurement study revealed that “the majority of buyers surveyed (31%) say they want to research and buy [their products]online unassisted, with the option to receive phone support if any issues arise.” Your site will need to have the right functionality for this to happen.
You’ll need a secure payment gateway and the proper online forms they can complete to make their purchase, request a service, or get a question answered.
In other words, use a modern web design template or a premium customized approach (via a professional website designer) to create the perfect website. This way your visitors can choose between having you hold their hands throughout the purchase process or completing everything online themselves.
I hope these 15 “signs” will help you make the right decision about whether your current website is adequate for your needs, and what to do if it isn’t. Happy designing!