A few times recently I have had interesting website redevelopment conversations with clients, which all started with the same statement:
I think I need to refresh the design of my website.
In each conversation, having reviewed the site in question, my suggestion was that it wasn’t a case of needing to change the design of the site, it was something else.
Before I look at what I believe the issue was, let’s look at why people so often feel the need to update their website design layout.
The evolution of design
Inevitably, the design process is led by fashion and as such, is constantly changing. It is the job of web designers to continually come up with new website layouts and styles. Furthermore, in addition to the creative flow in website design, developing technologies open up new design opportunities.
With this regular flow of new design, it is easy to fall into the trap of seeing a new layout (which is intended to give an initial ‘Wow’ factor) and comparing it with your own website which you have probably seen every day for months – if not longer!
Most of us are not graphic designers so the above process is leading us down a path of inadequacy!
Only a graphic designer can create good design & that will cost me
To be fair, if your website is more than 4 or 5 years old, it might be that development in web technology means a new website can bring benefits to your business way beyond a new look. This is particularly true if your site doesn’t display well on mobile phone screens. Take a look at your analytics to see how many of your visitors are using phones and tablets. The results may surprise you.
So, if there isn’t a technical reason why you might need to refresh your website but you still feel in need of a change, where should you focus your attention?
Beyond the Design
Quite simply you need to look beyond the graphic design of your website with the transient ‘wow’ factor and consider instead, how well your site communicates your business message to your visitors.
This communication has 2 elements:
These come together under one word: Usability – Does your website communicate the message you want to communicate and make it easy for visitors to explore (and respond to) the aspects of your proposition that they are interested in?
The combination of words and images on your website are the essence of communicating your business message. We often see a new website with a smart and up-to-the-minute overall look that certainly has an initial wow factor but when you actually start to read what the words, you realise that all the focus has been on the design and none on the actual content and message.
Reviewing the words and pictures on your website can be very revealing. Try to forget what you know about your business and put yourself in the shoes of your ideal target website visitor. Is it clear what you deliver? Do they see how they can benefit from your services?
A common mistake people make is to be vague about their offering in the hope that people will get in touch to ask questions. In practice, it is more likely they will move on to a website that looks like it can give them what they are looking for!
If you think your website needs a refresh - look at the content
The purpose of your website homepage is to quickly and easily show someone they are in the right place for what they want and then make it clear and straightforward to access more detail. Asking people to read too much on the home page can make this harder so an image-rich, clear message homepage with good, clear navigation options is the way to go – IMHO.
Don’t just leave your navigation to the main menu. Make sure that images and keywords in the text all link to relevant content. Having multiple links to eth same content is absolutely fine. Different people use websites in different ways so whatever their preferred approach make it easy for them.
With so many websites being based on WordPress and similar platforms these days, it is easy to refine and develop the navigation options on your website without going down the road of a new design.
Website Development – A process not an event
For many businesses developing a website is a project. Whether you do it yourself (or, more often, commission someone to do it for you), a site is built, the fee is paid then that is it, until ‘I think I need to refresh the design of my website’
In fact, website development shouldn’t be a one-off event. Rather, it should be an ongoing process that is fully integrated with your business and, to this end, developing your website is about content evolution and maintaining effective navigation.
Don’t put off developing your website because it will be a potentially costly design project, take an objective look at what your site says. You may find some modest, practical changes can make a big difference.