The short answer is, “If you think your site needs a redesign, it probably does.”
Just like cellphones need to be upgraded every few years, so does your website.
But what exactly might need upgrading?
Is a website redesign just a digital facelift so you look more attractive online or are there other factors to consider?
Also, how do you determine if your site needs just a few tweaks, a major overhaul or somewhere in between?
Today I’m going to break it all down for you and show you how to properly evaluate your site so you can determine whether or not it’s time for a website redesign.
NOTE: For discussion purposes today we’re going to assume you’re a small business or a professional service provider where the primary goal of your website is to demonstrate trust to clients, prospective clients and peers. We’re looking at how you’re presenting yourself online and how others perceive you.
BONUS: Here’s a free website redesign checklist to help you determine (a) if your website needs a redesign and (b) what specific areas might need improvement.
How To Quickly Evaluate Your Website Like A Pro
Here are the 3 areas that determine whether or not a website redesign might be in order:
For me, this one’s a deal-breaker. If a site is not mobile-friendly (aka “mobile responsive”), don’t pass go and don’t collect $200. This needs to be fixed ASAP.
The numbers don’t lie:
- A 2016 report from comScore shows that 65% of all digital media time is spent on mobile and 35% on desktop. Not to say desktop isn’t important anymore, because it is. Most transactions still take place on a PC. But the fact is a large (and growing) percentage of people are accessing the internet from their smartphones.
- In late 2016 the mobile tipping point was reached, meaning mobile/tablet internet usage overtook desktop usage for the first time worldwide.
Today, having a site that’s not mobile-friendly is one of the quickest ways to make people feel you’re behind the times and out of touch. It’s all about perception.
Yes, you say, but “My clients are different. They’re not techie. They don’t surf the web on their phones.”
That might be true, but it probably isn’t.
I work with clients in a variety of industries — medical, dental, spa/salon, financial, light industrial, to name a few. Back around 2014 the average percentage of their traffic from mobile devices was about 10%. Today that percentage is often 30-40-50%. Here’s an actual screen shot straight from Google Analytics:
So, not sure if your site is mobile-friendly? Here’s are 3 quick ways to definitively answer that question:
- Use Google’s free Mobile-Friendly test.
- Visit your site on a smartphone. If you have to pinch and zoom to magnify microscopic text, your site is not mobile-friendly.
- Again, visit your site on a smartphone. If you cannot quickly and easily navigate your site with just your thumb or forefinger, your site is not mobile-friendly.
Unfortunately there’s no switch you can flip to magically solve this problem. If a site is not mobile-friendly, it’ll have to be upgraded using web technology that makes it display properly on mobile devices. Once upgraded, your site should be good for years to come.
In my opinion, this one factor (i.e. mobile-friendliness) by itself is reason enough to redesign your website.
2. Visual Appeal.
When you mention website redesign, most people think about updating the visual aspect of a site. And rightly so, because the internet is a visual medium, and appearance and first impressions matter.
Just ask Shark Tank host, Barbara Corcoran:
Or how about Gene Simmons of KISS:
SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald
Obviously, assessing the visual appeal of a website is subjective. But here are some measurable, observable things I would look at:
- Organization. Is the site’s content just a cluttered mess, randomly strewn about? Or does it appear orderly and organized? Are they trying to jam too much stuff on the page? Or are they leaving a little bit of white space so you can breathe?
- Layout. Are they using a standard website layout and things are where you’d expect them to be? Or are they trying to be “unique” by using an unconventional, even bizarre layout that’s confusing and frustrating?
- Logo. Does their logo look stylish and professional or does it look amateurish like they created it with clip art? When you click the logo does it take you back to their homepage? PRO TIP: A logo that links back to the homepage is a standard best practice in web design and is a subtle indicator of attention to detail.
- Text Density. Are the pages on the site heavy on text like you’re reading a complex, scary legal document? Or is the text broken up into smaller paragraphs, using bullet points and images to make the content more visually consumable?
- Font size. Is the font size too small throughout the site? Four or five years ago and beyond it was standard to use a font size of 11-12 pixels for the body text. Today, body text usually 16-18 px. Larger fonts are much easier to read, plus they just look nicer. Headings and subheadings should be even larger at 24-36 px so they stand out from the article text and make it easy to skim the page.
- Consistency. A hallmark of any well-engineered website is consistent style throughout the site. That means consistent layout, fonts, colors, graphics … everything … from page to page.
- Graphics. Does the site use modern, flat graphics or old school 3-D graphics? Back in the 2000’s, it was common for web graphics like buttons to use bevels and heavy drop shadows to create a 3-D effect. Web graphics have evolved and the style is now “flat” (see below). It’s ok to use bevels and light drop shadows to create a little depth, but be very careful not to overdo it because it’ll quickly make your site look like circa 2003.
- Favicon. This is the little icon that appears in the tab of your web browser and when you bookmark a site. Are they using a custom favicon? Or does the tab of the browser just display the generic default icon? Using a favicon is a subtle indicator of attention to detail.
- Copyright date. This might not seem like a big deal, but I cannot believe how many websites have copyright dates that are 2-3-4 years old or more. When you see a copyright date of 2014, my internal dialogue automatically asks, “Are they still in business? Is the information on this website still valid?” Don’t give visitors a subconscious reason to doubt you.
- Broken links. Are there links that lead to pages that no longer exist resulting in a “404 error, page not found”? Broken links taint the information on the page as well as make you look sloppy.
- Link styling. Links are traditionally blue and underlined so you know they’re clickable. It’s ok to deviate from tradition a bit, but don’t get too artsy or cute here. However you choose to style your links, just make sure they’re consistent throughout your site and obvious to your reader that they’re clickable links and not just read-only text.
- Imagery. Is the site using high-quality, hi-res pictures to help communicate their message? Are they using custom images they took themselves or stock photos purchased online? It’s perfectly fine to used stock photos purchased online as long as they’re tasteful and well-done, and not the cheesy, cringeworthy ones you’ve seen on dozens of other sites.
- Image sliders. A few years ago these were all the rage in website design, but they’ve kind of fallen out of favor for a couple reasons. First, they slow down your site. Second, they’re usually just eye candy that takes up valuable space. Most visitors are not going to just sit there and wait for your slider to scroll through all the images.
- Trust badges. Are there badges and logos like the Better Business Bureau, certifications or awards you might have earned, trade associations you belong to, logos of notable clients you’ve worked with, etc? Trust badges allow you to “borrow authority” from other businesses or organizations people recognize.
- Social media profiles. Are you active on any social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn? If so, are there icons on your site linking to each of your social media profiles making it easy for people to connect with you? PRO TIP: If you’re not active on social media or your social media profile is not complete, be careful about encouraging visitors to visit your social media profiles. It can make you look like an amateur that doesn’t know what they’re doing. When in doubt, leave it out.
- Color. Does your site use too much color to the point of being overwhelming or distracting? Or not enough color? Perhaps a bigger problem is using colors that don’t fit your brand. It’s no accident that police officers wear black and blue. That’s because black and blue communicate authority. At the very least, you want your website colors to match your offline marketing materials like brochures, business cards, displays ads on TV or in magazines to achieve congruency.
Bottom line, people are going to form impressions about you and your company based upon your website.
Are you happy with the image your site is projecting?
3. Effective Messaging.
Sure, you want your site to look nice, but it’s got to have some substance, too. At the end of the day, people are coming to your site for information, not because of how pretty it looks.
Here’s how to evaluate the messaging on your site:
- Clarity. Can visitors tell right away what the site’s about? Or are they still scratching their head wondering if they’re at the right place, even though they’ve read your homepage 3 times?
- About Us page. After your homepage, your About Us page is one of the most visited pages on your website because people want to know who are the people actually running the company. Do you have a headshot so people can see what you look like? Are you sharing a little background about how you started your company and why you do what you do? For more info on creating an amazing About Us page click here.
- Brevity. People are busy, so you want to get to the point ASAP. Can you say what you have to say using fewer words, sentences and paragraphs?
- Navigation. Is the navigation menu well thought out to get people where they need to go as quickly as possible? A common problem on a lot of sites is they have way too many items in their navigation menu. Currently best practices in web design are that you should have 5-7 items max in your navigation menu.
- Contact info. Does your Contact page list a physical street address and telephone number to let people know you’re a real business? Or does it only display a contact form and nothing else? If you have an office where clients come to see you, does your Contact page have a map? Do you show a picture of your building so a new client knows what to look for? Is there a prominent landmark to help new clients locate your building? Do you let them know where to park? Have you listed your hours of operation?
- Testimonials. Are you prominently displaying all the good things your clients have to say about you? If not, you’re missing a golden opportunity for your current and former clients to vouch for how much they like you and what a good job you’ve done for them.
- Audio/Video. Are you using audios or videos to help tell your story and explain what you do? Audio-visual media is so much more “information dense” than just words on a page and can really help prospective clients feel comfortable with you very quickly.
- Call To Action (CTA). Are you being specific and telling prospective clients exactly what you want them to do? Do you want them to download a free report? Watch a video? Call you for an appointment? Fill out an application on your website?
- FAQ. Do you have a Frequently Asked Questions page with answers to all the questions you get asked over and over and over? The more, the merrier. PRO TIP: Make sure to address pricing. Even if your prices vary from project to project or client to client, at least provide a range to give them a ballpark idea. Prospective clients will greatly appreciate your openness and transparency because many of your competitors are afraid to talk about pricing on their websites.
- Above the fold. This is a term from the newspaper industry indicating that your most important headlines and information should appear “above the fold” near the top of the page and the lesser priority items near the bottom of the page. Is the most important content on your website easily visible and “above the fold”? Or is it buried deep in your site requiring multiple clicks to get there?
- Email list mechanism. Do you have some sort of mechanism to stay in touch with prospects after they leave your website? The vast majority of your site’s visitors will neither make a purchase on their first visit nor will they ever return to your site after they leave. So you really need to try and get their email so you can stay in touch with them. This is especially important if you sell big ticket items.
- Blog. Do you have a blog on your site? Having a blog allows you to publish content that educates prospective clients and demonstrate your expertise. It also provides data that search engines can latch on to and publish in their search listings, possibly sending a bunch of free traffic to your site.
- Social sharing buttons. Are you displaying social sharing buttons that make it ridiculously easy for visitors to share the valuable, useful info they find on your site?
How’d You Score?
Did you determine …
- Your site looks ok, but your messaging is pretty weak and needs work?
- Your messaging is decent, but you’re scoring pretty low on visual appeal?
- Both messaging and visual appeal need an overhaul. Help!
- You came through with flying colors. All is well and you’ll reevaluate in 6-12 months.
Remember, the primary objective of your website is to project a feeling of trust by looking the part, demonstrating that you’re friendly and competent, and that you can genuinely help them solve their problem.
If your site needs help, don’t put your head in the sand and pretend there aren’t any problems.
Roll up your sleeves and take steps today to begin fixing your site. You’ll create a site you can be proud of and also one that motivates more prospects to raise their hand and say, “Yes!”.