The World Wide Web is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to market your business. For this reason, it is very important that you update your website to keep it relevant, fast, and safe.
Trends in web design change almost daily, so it’s good to keep up with them. Regular design updates can actually save you money. It’s not about “keeping up with the Joneses” – it’s more about keeping up with web standards. Consistency while browsing the web is important, especially for those who aren’t savvy with technology.
Additionally, search engines like Google are constantly updating their algorithms to provide the best search results. Updating your website to best address these updates is critical to maintaining your site’s ranking.
#1: Visual Appeal
The appearance of your website is a direct reflection of your business. You need to position yourself and your company as an authority in your field. First impressions are vital to portraying this vision, so it is critical that you redesign your website regularly to stay on top of the latest design trends.
Likewise, if your site looks outdated and structured poorly, potential clients may subconsciously think that your business is outdated and structured poorly as well. Your website should highlight your products and/or services in a positive light that encourages visitors to find out more about you, which potentially leads them to hire you or purchase your products.
Your website should also be designed to look nice and be easy to navigate on multiple device types. Regardless of whether visitors view your website from a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone, it should dynamically adjust for each of these devices. You don’t want to alienate any potential clients, so it’s imperative that you maintain a responsive design that accommodates all modern devices.
You hear stories all the time about websites getting hacked. The most publicized ones usually include a defaced homepage that shows some terrible message about who hacked your website and why they did it. However, there are many other sneaky ways that hackers use to compromise your website. Sometimes they will hack into the backend of your website and use it as a spam server, which can slow your website down to a crawl and eventually gets you blacklisted. Blacklisting means that your web address (domain name) is added to naughty lists on servers all over the world that block others from visiting your website and sending email messages to you. As you can imagine, that could be a big problem for your business.
To protect you, your website, and your email from being hacked, one of the most important things you can do is to make sure your website’s software stays up-to-date. Whether you are using WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, or other content management system (CMS) or even hand-coded files, you need to make sure that these programs and software keep up with modern technologies.
Another consideration is your hosting account — make sure you are hosted with a reputable company that cares about security. Sometimes there are some extra hassles that come along with security, but they are worth it in the long run.
First impressions may be mostly controlled by the overall design of your website, but that is only the beginning. Once you’ve grabbed their attention, you need to further interest them with great content. Your written words should be interesting while also providing important information about the products and/or services you offer.
When updating or redesigning your website, this is a great opportunity to fine-tune your content. Be sure to write copy that is simple, on-target, and effective. Remember, you only have 2 to 4 seconds to engage your visitors and hopefully convert them into customers — this isn’t just about wowing them with graphics — you have to use keywords and phrases that grab their interest.
From a marketing standpoint, your website’s effectiveness is critical. You need to keep an eye on your statistics — see what visitors are clicking on, which pages they visit, and how long they stick around. In addition to watching your statistics with a tool such as Google Analytics, there are other ways to study the effects of your website. Techniques such as heat mapping, conversion tracking and user recordings can help you better understand how visitors traverse your website and what causes them to contact and potentially hire you.
One great way to make your website more effective is to make use of calls-to-actions (CTA). A call-to-action (CTA) is a button or link that you place on your website to drive prospective customers to become leads by completing an action on your website. You need to make sure that your CTAs are clearly defined and are interesting enough to your visitors that they actually follow them. In a nutshell, you need to make it easy for your visitors to find the end goal and help them get there.
#5: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Now that you have a beautiful design and well-written content, you need to update your SEO settings so people can find you. SEO rules are constantly changing — you may have read articles about Google updating their algorithms — every time the search engines make their own updates, your website is potentially affected. You need to stay on top of the new iterations; the longer you wait, the further behind you become.
When you update your website’s appearance and content, this is a perfect opportunity to also update your SEO settings. These might involve reassessment of your newly-updated content, but it may also involve updating the underlying code associated with the new design. When you have your website redesigned, it is important that your web designer consider these options as he/she is rebuilding your site.
Visitor trends change as technology changes. For example, a common design aspect just a few years ago involved the notion that the most important information on your website needed to be “above the fold”. This meant that when a visitor viewed your website, you wanted to show them the most important features without requiring any scrolling. Nowadays, the majority of visitors use their mobile phones, which actually encourages use of your finger to scroll.
Another important usability feature has to do with navigation. Most websites these days use horizontal navigation, which is great on devices with larger screens. But when viewed on smaller devices such as tablets and smartphones, the navigation system needs to adjust accordingly. Modern websites often use what is called a “hamburger menu”, which is a small icon consisting of three horizontal lines. This symbol is now universally recognized as a button that opens a menu. In the case of smaller devices, the menu is displayed as a vertical menu, with enough spacing between each menu item to accommodate finger tapping.
#7: Load Times
These days, it is critical that you grab the attention of your visitors within seconds of their arrival to your website. While all four of the points above play a part in this process, none of them will be applicable if your visitors become impatient waiting for your website to load in the first place. Loading times have become so important that even Google is rewarding sites that load faster with better search results placement. Yes, that’s right — Google will place you higher in search results if your website loads faster than those of your competitors.
There are many factors that contribute to load times, including image sizes, optimization of your website’s file system, page caching, and even your web hosting account. There are methods available for optimizing all of these factors. If you serve many local clients and have a lot of traffic to your website, you should avoid “shared” web hosting, which accounts for the vast majority of hosting providers. Talk to your web designer and/or developer to find out more about options to speed up your website.
Security, SEO and content updates should be done at least monthly, in most cases. It’s important that your website be a safe place for you and your visitors, and content needs to be accurate and up-to-date.
Usability and effectiveness updates could probably be performed during an annual website audit.
Design and other updates, such as a design refresh, are recommended every 2 to 3 years – and even that can be a long time in terms of technological advances.
The points above are only seven of many ways to keep your website updated, fresh, and appealing to visitors. While there may be other reasons your websites needs to be updated, these are some very compelling reasons to consider doing so. Harness Media includes these features into our Website Packages. We also provide ongoing updates and improvements through our Website Care Plans, which allow you to run your business instead of having to spend precious time on updating your website (and taking the risks involved in handling them yourself).