For this month’s blog, I was asked to list my top reasons for updating your site. But that topic is a red herring. You need only one reason to “update” your site – because you can. That’s the beauty of websites, versus TV commercials, brochures and other kinds of marketing communications. You can and should refine, create and delete content, functionality, design elements and images in order to improve your visitors’ experiences. These updates should be an ongoing point of focus. They should be based on analytics, and the changes should come monthly, weekly or even daily, depending on the traffic your site receives.
So the real question isn’t whether you need to update your site. It’s whether you need to replace it. At M/C/C, we’re big advocates of something called iterative web design and development. In essence, that means your website should evolve over time in response to user actions. If you practice iterative design and development correctly (and luck breaks your way), you may never need to build a new website again. Instead of launching a new site every couple of years, your site could just fluidly become something else over time through an ongoing series of small improvements. Having just written that, I will admit that sometimes even the best-laid plans go astray when luck doesn’t break your way.
Here are five instances when you need to put your website out of its misery:
1. Your website is not tablet- or phone-friendly.
You might think this is a no-brainer, but we still run across sites that aren’t responsive to user devices. If your company has one, that needs to be fixed straight away. But merely creating a site with responsive design doesn’t address the issue comprehensively. You and your site developer should collaborate to determine the content that makes sense for a desktop user versus a tablet user versus a phone user. For example, a desktop user is most likely seated and willing to spend more time on your site, researching your story and consuming a great deal of content. On the flipside, a phone user may be inside a retail store about to purchase your product or a product from one of your competitors. With responsive design, you should choose the content you want to provide, not based only on the technological capabilities or screen size of the user’s device but also consider the information they’re likely pursuing on these different devices.
2. Your website uses Flash.
Yes, they’re still out there. The walking dead. Where’s Rick Grimes when you need him?
3. Your website uses core functionality that was once trendy but is now obsolete.
The number-one offender that comes to mind is parallax design. This was a thing for about six months, and I’ll admit I thought it was pretty cool when it was done right and for the appropriate brands. If you’re not familiar, parallax design was that thing where you navigated a webpage (often an entire website on one page) by scrolling up and down and various items moved around in separate layers in response to where you scrolled, e.g. an airplane flew across the screen when you scrolled past a certain area. Anyways, RIP parallax website.
4. It suffers from sprawl.
Over time, many websites, or more accurately, the people in charge of the websites lose their focus. The blame could rest on the developer side or the client side. Sometimes developers want to build the latest cool stuff, regardless of whether it makes sense. At some point down the road, if you take a step back, the site just seems like a cobbled-together collection of random plugins, carousels and video players. Meanwhile, on the client side, Randy from Sales may want a page on Topic X while Sarah the CEO feels strongly about Service Y. Oftentimes, these random pages get wedged into the structure of the site in order to appease Randy and Sarah. Then Steven in HR wants a page about Benefit Q, and Janice in Customer Support (“That dang Janice. Always Janice.”) asked for a secure portal for customers to access their account info. Before you know it, your site has become an overly complex conglomeration of disparate parts. Stab it. Stab it right in its barely-beating heart.
5. The effort to overhaul your existing site rivals that of building a new one.
Maybe your site looks dated. Maybe it’s html and you want it in WordPress. Maybe the content is not as relevant as it once was. Regardless of the reason, sometimes it takes nearly as much time and effort (money) to revamp a site as it does to just start over. Pull the plug. Let it go.
At M/C/C, we’ll continue to sing the praises of using analytics to optimize client websites in an iterative fashion as opposed to launching new generations of websites. It’s really the smartest and most effective way for a client to communicate with their customers. But sometimes life deals a bad hand and you find yourself looking at a site that’s lived well past its days.
Do yourself a favor. Pull up your site, lean in and listen closely to your screen. You just might hear it whisper, “Kill meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”