"What to Do with Your Outdated Website," Reprinted from May 16, 2017 Fredericksburg Regional Business Magazine.
If you suspect that your website is out of date, answer these questions and you’ll be sure:
Your website is out of date if:
- When you open in on a smart phone you have to pinch and squeeze the images to see them, or can’t easily read and take actions.
- The photography isn’t magazine quality, isn’t a great representation of your business, or pictures on your website come from stock photographs and look posed.
- You don’t have a way to add new articles and information easily.
- Customers can’t take an important action in the top half of the home page.
- You have mismatched colors, a different brand than the rest of the business, cluttered sections, or clip art or word art.
- You have text that is part of pictures or graphics.
- The website doesn’t collect customer information.
- It’s not clear what makes you different within 5 seconds of first viewing.
- You have lots of menu options that go wide and run in long lists when opened.
- The website opens slowly and has missing pictures, or is built with lots of dividers and visible frames.
The first rule of what to do with an out of date website - don’t build another one.
Most people don’t rush to get back in line after they buy something that doesn’t work. But that is what we do with websites - building a succession of websites that become outdated almost as soon as they launch. The only choice that most people know about is either to use one of the much publicized “free” systems, or to pay a developer, but there is another way to approach websites using the agile methods that are transforming the way technology is developed.
Start Your new website with A gameplan.
The right place to start with a move from outdated to effective, is to understand your target audience more deeply and build insights about what they want and need from your business online. Your customer relationship is most likely to always begin online - what kind of experience do you want that to be. What kind of convenience can you build in for customers - people really want to be able to research and answer questions online.
Use systems that are easy to update and developers that do routine updates based upon hard data.
The pain involved in getting a new website is that we view it like putting up a new storefront sign. We design it, pay for it and leave it up there until it begins to fade. (Some of us leave them up until they fall down). But the internet is more dynamic than creating a “billboard” approach to your website. What you spend months wrestling over and refining is going to only be a “best guess” based upon assumptions. Like the rest of business, it won’t survive first contact with the customer. Instead of putting it up and leaving it for two to five years we need a plan to improve it on a regular basis using a feedback system. The hard data from your website should inform what you improve next. Without a plan for routine improvement, you are moving back toward out of date faster than you think.
Read the Fine Print on “Free”
Read the fine print on any “free” or “almost free” web services. Many of these services have a never ending list of up-sells, and won’t really improve your digital presence. If you add up the total cost of what you really need, you aren’t saving much, just doing all of the work. Others will own your domain name, and the emails that are collected. You will have a very difficult time extracting your business from their clutches. That’s the same result as using Facebook as your website - Facebook owns the names and is constantly looking for new ways to make you pay to access them. Other services offer to put up a website for you to develop new traffic, but what they are doing is creating a website that captures all of the leads that would have come to you, while they charge you a monthly fee. They’ll own the website in this case too - ask whether a “mirror” website is involved, and you’ll know that is where this is headed. It can be a little but like people who sell government forms - if you knew where to look you could download them for yourself.
Look at the competition
Doing a few simple of the Google searches that your customers are already using will show you what your competitors are doing. You’ll have to decide if you want to meet and exceed the quality of what your competitors are doing. Do a quality comparison of the customer experience on your website versus a couple of your competitors.
There’s always a cost benefit analysis that we have to do with all of our marketing costs. Your website and digital marketing will be more trackable than any other type of marketing, which allows you to see the return. When you can provide something of value to your customer online through your website which can include product information, e-commerce, stories and how to’s, and customer service or lifestyle information it can be one of the most cost effective investments you can make in marketing.
Understand Your Pre-Sale Role Online
Most customers don’t make their purchase decision on the first visit to your website. They are on a buying journey that might last a few weeks or a year. It’s in this journey that important new customers first meet you, and your website has to have some sticking and return power if you want to win them during the time they are considering a purchase. Your new website should be designed to serve them in all their phases of decision and to deliver information that is valuable to them in the process. It should be a 24 hour sales person and a 24-hour customer service resource, ready to deliver what customers are looking for online.
Pain-free tips on who to do with your outdated website: