Recently, one of our large multi-site customers went live with a totally updated and revamped site. The thought occurred to me that this is a topic that "anyone" responsible for the regular care and feeding of a website needs to have at top of mind. To the point of sounding like a broken record I'm sure, I remind my clients regularly that websites are very much like real-estate. The main difference is instead of the mantra being, "Location, location, location. It is content, content, content." To be honest, content is only part of a successful formula for creating a site that continually draws traffic and continues to grow your business. A website is made up of three primary parts: content, technology, and visual (look and feel), at its simplest level. All of these foundation bits and pieces needs to be kept current and not looking stale. Why else do you occasionally put a fresh coat of paint on the old homestead?
The majority (think ALL) of professional websites are created using any one of a number of available content management systems (CMS). These differ from "old school" websites that are made up of static pages that for the most part require knowledge of HTML (the language spoken by websites) in order to update them, or perhaps putting a call into your web developer. As efficient and user-friendly as CMS systems are, they need regular attention to keep them current. A great example of why your technology layer must be kept up-to-date is the wild stampede to everything mobile. Unless you are a regular tech-industry follower, you very likely don't know that this year, for the first time in their history, the sales of traditional desktop PCs decreased. The next question you need to ask, "Why?" The simple answer is smart phones, tablet PCs, and the like are absorbing the purchase dollars that once went to desktops. The balance between all differing types of Internet-enabled devices is well on its way to striking a new norm, but the shift is not over, and no one knows just where the shift will end. What that means is, if your company website is not mobile friendly, you will lose traffic. It's as simple as that. Customers will want to browse your site using what-ever widget they are holding and expect similar (not identical) information and features available to them. They will be aware of the limitations of a given device, but don't expect them to be willing to use your site while squinting at a smart phone screen while trying their best to click microscopic links.
Visual / Features
Face it. People are visual creatures; tastes and expectations change. That old avocado colored refrigerator you thought was cool back in the 70s, is considered a dinosaur, and not only in color. Your content can be minutes old. Your technology can be the latest. However, your site color theme and lack of features can be putting you in the ice box in your customes' minds. Here are some things to think about:
• Keep the color scheme on the site current with the times. Back in the day as browsers became more feature rich, folks began adding visual elements to sites to take advantage of the new capabilities. Compare your site to a few of the big boys. I would be willing to bet that you'll find that yours looks dated. The standards lean towards simple, clean, and read-able.
• Does your site take advantage of the social media ties? As I mentioned in previous blog, social media ties to your site help drive traffic and create a cohesive multi-channel approach for your company's web face to the world.
• Does your site create the feeling of "community"? Let's say your organization offers courses in under water basket weaving. All folks with such an interest love to communicate and interact with each other. Why not implement features on your site that allow them to do just that? Doing so just add a bit of administrative time to the site, but in the long run, if done right, it is well worth the effort.
• Do you offer a "mobile" version of your site? If not, get after it ...
I don't want to leave you with the impression, that site facelifts need to happen every other month. However, they need to happen more often that you might think, and very likely more often than you hoped. Some might say longer, some might say shorter, but I believe a good rule to follow is the 18-month rule. Remember the "new and improved" product labels at the grocery store? Got your attention, I'll bet. Use it as an opportunity to communicate your expanding services and product line to your customers. Think of it as investing to grow your business ... Just think about it ...