Out-of-date design, poor functionality and lack of content; you know it when you see. An outdated website could be driving away potential customers and even future employees. In today’s culture of instant information at our fingertips, research shows users can take as little as 17 milliseconds, but usually are between 50 (0.05 seconds) and 500 milliseconds (0.5 seconds), to form their opinion of your website. Clunky websites with a dated look can be quickly dismissed by a visitor. First impressions count and that includes your company’s website.
What to Do Before Developing a New Website
When considering an updated website, it is easy to underestimate the time and attention needed for development. Well-designed, new websites with great search engine optimization (SEO) rankings do not happen overnight, but with proper dedication of planning and resources, a great website is achievable. Developing a website strategy is time well spent that can yield huge results in the long run. Your website serves as an extension of your company and is often the only interaction a prospective customer or future employee will have. Companies train their employees to tell their story but can fail to have their website effectively tell that same story.
1. Establish Website Goals and Objectives: The first thing that should be discussed is the purpose of the website. Is it informational to showcase the company as a thought leader? Is it centered on demonstrating services and capabilities? A mix of both? Is the website a primary source of generating leads? Once the goals and objectives of the website are established, the design can be built to achieve them. In addition, referring to the established goals and objectives is helpful when making decisions on navigation, placement of call to actions, content and more.
2. Evaluate the Competition: It is important to understand the marketplace. Visit your competitors’ websites and ask the following questions:
- How does the company position itself?
- What is the feel of the website? Is the design dated?
- Is their website functional and easy to navigate? Can you find what you are looking for?
- Do they effectively state who they are and what they do?
- How do they describe themselves and their capabilities?
- Are there accurate and strong images to support the content?
- What are the call-to-actions?
- Are there case studies, white papers or blogs?
- How would you rate the overall user experience?
Performing this analysis will allow you to find the best way to shape your brand’s web presence while being relevant to your audience.
3. Gain Customer Insights: Want to make sure that your website creates a memorable and positive user experience for your prospects and customers? Ask them. After conducting our registered Zweck Analysis®, Vive interviews your customers to gain valuable thoughts on what they think about your brand, values and areas of expertise. This process identifies the strengths of your company, as well as key areas for improvement. This information provides insight into why people do business with you and what they are looking for. The customer feedback is useful in identifying how to position your company and optimize the new website for a strong user experience.
This is also an opportunity to revisit your messaging to ensure that it aligns with the values you are trying to promote. If a customer only views your website, what do you want them to know about your company and its people?
4. Leverage Employee Knowledge of Customer Pain Points: Front line employees have a direct pulse on the customer. With the ability to provide specific examples from the customers they serve, tap the sales team, customer support, quality personnel and program managers for common challenges, issues and concerns that can be addressed in the website content.
5. Craft the Website User Experience: After taking into consideration what the goal of your website is and how your website can be improved compared to your competition, plus information gathered from customers and employees, it is time to work with a designer to build the site map before diving to what it will visually look like. A site map provides the blueprint for how your webpages will be displayed and serves as a flow chart for navigating the website. While a site map shows the structure of your website, website developers will use the site map in the backend to help search engines crawl and read your website. Consider the following questions:
- Was important information buried deep on your old website?
- What is your message going to be?
- Are you going to include video?
- Where will you put downloadable items, white pages, case studies, brochures, etc.?
Modern websites are recognized today by having highly visual, clean designs with succinct wording. When designing your new website, consider user-accessibility to help customers find what they are looking for faster. Today’s standards for using a functional website is much higher. If a visitor can’t find what they are looking for, they will abandon it and ultimately your company altogether. As a general guideline, it’s SEO best practice to have about three clicks to navigate to any pages on your website, accordingly to Search Engine Journal. Be sure to include your most important information higher on the page before the user scrolls. It is also important to provide users with some direction. Include call-to-actions to pull the visitor through the website and generate more leads.
Another element to the design of your website is how to make it resonate with your audience. Looking at websites from a verity of sources is a great way to gain design inspiration for your website, but take note that what works in one industry, may not have the same effect in yours. Finally, consider how to brand your website to make it your own. Ensuring consistent brand colors, logos, and messaging throughout each of the pages helps to tie together the website while telling the story of who you are.
6. Audit Your Website Content and Add New, Relevant Information: Great designs only go so far, if it is not accompanied by the information needed by your audience. When creating your messaging, consider how you would characterize your brand. If your brand was a person, who would they be? What would they say? How would they say it? By understanding who you are, it is easier to create a consistent and effective message across your website that highlights the key points about who you are, what you do and what makes you unique. Updating your website also provides the opportunity to address a new capability or expansion into a new industry.
7. Evaluate if it is Time to Refresh your Logo: Is it time for a new logo? Refreshing a current logo or tweaking to modernize it often goes hand-in-hand with updating websites. A website redesign provides a vehicle to promote your brand refresh. It displays one cohesive, new look to be seen through multiple communication channels. If a new or updated logo is decided, start that initiative first as it could have a significant impact on the look and feel of the website.
What to expect to when you update your website
Increase in SEO and rankings: SEO is a huge buzzword you will hear tossed around when talking about websites. While this is a topic that can seem complex, it can be broken down to a simple question, “When I search a term, what comes up first?” Google recognizes frequently updated content within a friendly navigation experience meaning that a redesigned website will rank better in search rankings than a stagnant one. You do not just want to be found, but make sure you are found for the right things – what your target audience is searching.
To further increase SEO, it is vital to optimize the front end of your site. By tailoring each page to specific keywords and phrases, your new website will add organic keywords, which helps to boost your overall ranking. Another way to ensure consistent updates to your website is to add a blog or news tab. Not only are you updating your website, but also further establishing your brand with your target audience.
Increase Interaction and More business: Higher rankings yield to increased traffic to your new website creating more opportunities for lead generation and sales. More than that, a new website provides the opportunity to make a more memorable impression through the design and copy. When a user has their initial boxes checked by seeing an easy to navigate, modern website with relevant information related to what they were looking for they are more likely to stay on your website. With just seconds to make a mark on the user, what impression is your website making?