People generally fit into one of two groups when it comes to web design. Group one wants to design their website once and never touch it again. That group is wrong, and thankfully, is rapidly shrinking. Group two wants to continually change their website, often including a complete redesign every year. That group is also wrong.
Most people should redesign their website every few years. There are a few reasons behind this:
Branding and goals
Your website needs to reflect your current brand, and that may change over time. This is something you should evaluate every 6–12 months.
It’s equally important to make sure your website aligns with your goals.
A while back, I had a client who generated most of their revenue by selling their services, which were not very profitable or scalable. They wanted to begin selling more of their self-study training courses, which were much more profitable and infinitely scalable. The problem was that their website emphasized their services, and they refused to let us change the emphasis to their courses, so, as you probably imagined, nothing changed.
Don’t be afraid to take a short-term hit to achieve a long-term goal.
Your website needs to reflect current design styles. It’s not a matter of being trendy, though—it’s a matter of meeting the expectations of your visitors. If you’re website is stuck in the previous decade, visitors will think, either consciously or subconsciously, that your business practices are too.
You don’t need to jump on every design trend, but you do need to stay up to date.
Do you remember all those “cutting-edge” Flash-based websites that were popular in the late 90s? If you’re wondering why you don’t see them around anymore, it’s because they sucked!
Sure, they offered features that couldn’t be achieved with HTML and CSS at the time, but search engines couldn’t crawl or index their content, so they didn’t rank in organic search, and they came with a plethora of usability problems—visitors were forced to wait through intro animations, they couldn’t use the back button, and it was impossible to bookmark individual pages. What once seemed like pure magic, is now a catastrophe.
More recently, responsive design has become a necessity due to the massive increase in mobile traffic over the last few years. This has rendered most of the websites online today virtually obsolete. People can still access them, but Google will not rank them as highly as a comparable websites that are responsive, and visitors are more likly to leave a website that isn’t responsive.
What answers do you need before redesigning your website?
Before you start sketching ideas or even talking to web designers, it’s absolutely critical that you have clear answers to the following questions:
Why does my brand exist?
Your brand forms the foundation of your business, influences the culture, and determines who it attracts.
What is your brand’s reason to exist?
Who is my ideal customer?
You shouldn’t target just anyone willing to pay for your products or services. You should only target people who will be passionate about your brand. (Yes, that means you’ll turn some people off.)
You need to figure out who can’t live without what you provide. For Moz, it’s search engine optimization professionals. For The Art of Charm, it’s people who are dedicated to self-improvement. And for Cigars and Sea Stories, it’s fellow veterans who place tremendous value on our brotherhood.
Figuring out who this is will play a huge role in redesigning your website because you’re redesigning it specifically for them.
What is my primary goal?
A website designed to sell a service will be very different than a website designed to sell a product, so it’s critical determine your primary goal. Once you know the answer to that, nearly all efforts need to push towards that singular goal—I don’t mean 51/49%, I mean 85/15% or more.
Why should someone chose my company over a competitor?
Skip the ambiguous fluff like “we’re the best,” or “we provide superior customer service,” and instead, identify quantifiable reasons.
One of our clients, Hospitality Environments, which sells luxury beds to 4 and 5-star hotels, is an excellent example of this. Instead of simply saying they have the best beds, they present medical research conducted by several world-renowned hospitals confirming that their beds improve circulation and healing, help people fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and sleep more deeply. And rather than telling hoteliers that guests would be willing to pay more for a room equipped with their beds, they present independent data from major hotels like Hilton, Radisson, and Marriott, showing that they do.
Why should someone chose your company? Give them clear, quantifiable, and objective reasons throughout your new website.
Who are your top 3 competitors?
If you had a dollar for every time I heard a client say “we don’t have any competitors,” I would be sitting on a beach, retired already.
Everyone has competitors, even if no other companies offer the exact same products or services as you. So you have to only burger restaurant in town that sells 100% free-range burgers on gluten-free, organic buns? Great! But until everyone in town knows that, and they know why it matters, you’re still competing with every other burger place in town. And even people who know that your product is superior may not be willing or able to pay more for it.
So, yes, you always have competitors.
If you can talk to old prospects, try to find out which company they chose over yours and why. That information will be priceless.