Building a website is hard work – not just for us, but for clients too! You collaborate with your web developer to plan, design, develop, test, add content and test some more. After a lot of time and effort, your beautiful, brand-spanking new website is finally live!
And then you're done – right?
Your website is a moving, functional and evolving entity that requires tender loving care on a regular basis to get the best possible return for your investment. Put simply, your website is never done!
A website is like a car. If you don't fill it with petrol, take it to the mechanic and give it a regular spit and polish, it won't run like a dream, and it won't stay clean and fresh.
And this can lead to all sorts of conundrums!
Dated design can cost you business
For most organisations, a website can be the first point of contact that potential clients have with your brand. This rule doesn't just apply to ecommerce: people use the web to research anything and everything. Even if you're a face-to-face service provider, your customers are most likely going to check you out on the web before they pick up the phone (even if it's just to get your number).
If your website is stuck in the 90s and looks "so web 1.0", this doesn't exactly scream innovative, dedicated or reliable. Your quality of service will be judged by the quality of your website.
Ask yourself: when did you actually build your website? If it's two years old or more and hasn't had a design refresh, it's time for an update. This doesn't necessarily mean you have to redesign absolutely everything (your logo, for example, could be fine for reuse). But giving your homepage a fresh look and revising the look and feel of your header and footer areas, menus, and templates with some current fonts and clean white space can work wonders. Look at what competitors in your industry are doing and see how you compare. Always seek out recommendations from a design professional.
Content should be fresh and relevant
Out-dated content says "I don't care". And if you don't care about your website, then why should a potential customer?
If you have a blog or news article feed and your last update was in 2011, then you need to get onto that quick smart. It's better not to have a news section than one that is never used.
Keeping the content on your site up to date is important because:
It's good for Google
Google likes it when you put new content on your website. It will rank your site more highly in searches because you are keeping your content updated and this makes you more relevant to Google's users. In addition, if your content is good, other businesses will link back to it and genuine links to your content are good for the authority of your website on search engines.
It shows your customers that you are real
Regular blogs, product updates and other news show your customers that, your organisation is active and innovative in its market and things are happening. They will also know of course that you are alive (which we can't be certain of if your website was last updated in 2002).
It encourages return visitors by engaging with them
If you are posting new and interesting content, it adds value for users, and they are more likely to check back in regularly to see what you have to say.
Top tip: scheduling regular dates to both review and write content helps you keep on top of things and ensures that everything gets a look over at least once a year.
User habits change
Internet users have come a really long way since the nineties and noughties. Their expectations of what constitutes a good online user experience have increased and your website needs to meet those expectations.
Counterintuitive and buggy functionality is frustrating. Broken links, confusing navigation or a checkout process that doesn't flow smoothly are all user experience faux pas'. Think about what frustrates you when you use websites. Is your websiteguilty of any of the same errors?
But that's just scratching the surface. Consider your website audience for a moment. Who are they? How do they engage with your site? Why do they visit? Are you catering to their needs? If you have forms on your site and think users aren't trying to fill them out on a mobile device, this may well not be the case (analytics can confirm this for you). If you service older demographics and think they aren't looking for you online, so you don't even bother with a website at all, you may be surprised to find that they are. Stay on top of your users' habits so you can give them the best possible experience.
Top tip: ensure simple forms and links stay intact by using www.testomato.com, an affordable, automatic testing tool.
CMS software continuously improves
Like the car analogy, your website also has an "under the hood". It's your content management system you use to run your site, and this needs regular updates too.
Not upgrading your website leaves you (and potentially your clients) vulnerable to hacking. You'll also miss out on the awesomeness of updates which can offer added value in terms of new functionality features. These make it easier to manage the content on your website, which in turn, makes it easier to maintain.
If you don't get into the habit of maintaining your website, engaging with your customers and using Google Analytics to analyse their visit with you so you can constantly improve it, then you're missing out on all the web has to offer.
So don't leave it to grow stagnant! What TLC are you going to give your website this week?