When did you last look at your website?
I mean really look at it. Not just a quick glance to check your last blog post published okay.
It’s funny how we spend ages tweaking the template, picking out the perfect images and rewriting our ‘about’ page. But once we’re (kind of) satisfied, it’s easy to launch and forget at least as far as the look of our site is concerned.
But fashions change, and your business changes. Your website needs to keep up if it’s going to keep working for you.
It’s often the first way people meet your business, and one study suggests you have only 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression. If people don’t like the look of your site, it’s easy for them to go elsewhere. Don’t wait till you see traffic dropping off. Put aside regular time to take a long hard look at your site. Are there signs that it’s showing its age?
It looks dated
There are trends in web design, like everything else. Out-of-date layouts and dowdy colour palettes make your business look old-fashioned.
Today’s look is all about simple elegance: a single column, bold headings, dramatic images, flat icons, and lots of white space. If you still have a multi-column layout, text wrapping around small images and ‘realistic’ icons, it might be time for a change.
Even if it looks fine to you, it’s good to ask your most honest friends for a second opinion. And if you want to be bang up-to-date, Econsultancy has shared their take on web design trends for 2016 and beyond.
It’s just not ‘you’ anymore
Beauty alone isn’t enough. Your site needs to work with your brand. Logos, colours, fonts and photography choices should be consistent across all your marketing materials. If you’ve updated your brand recently, did you update your site to match?
And if you’ve not updated your brand in a while, maybe it’s time? The style that worked when you were a scrappy startup might not work so well for a more mature business. A few simple tweaks can keep your look fresh: maybe a new call to action or some different photos.
It’s a mess
Too many headlines, buttons, and menus make it hard for visitors to find what they need. Particularly if you’ve added things over time and the original structure of your site has long since vanished under the clutter.
It’s tempting to offer lots of options. Something for everyone means everyone will click on something, right?
Research suggests the opposite: Kissmetrics highlighted a study that found limited choice can increase the chance of customers taking action. Less really is more.
Accidents happen. Publishing in a hurry, we forget to clean up the formatting or style the headings. Strange characters creep in, along with those typing errors that no amount of proofreading can catch.
Untidy text creates a bad impression, and makes it tough for readers to find what they’re looking for. Which is why you should always proof read things again, right after you hit publish. But we don’t always have time, so it’s good to go back over your pages now and then to clean up any little issues.
You may check regularly for broken links, missing downloads and expired image licenses. But did you know ad blockers can also make content disappear from your site?
Tools like Adblock Plus for Chrome can block fonts, plugins, scripts and images, as well as adverts. If you’ve never checked your site with an ad blocker running, do it now. Check on a phone as well as a desktop browser.
You can’t stop people using ad blockers, but you can make sure your site looks good even when they do. Use coloured backgrounds as alternatives to images. Make sure there are fallback fonts ready to take over when your fancy web font is blocked.
Oh, and on the subject of broken links: try Dr Link Check; it’s much quicker than testing everything yourself.
Smudgy or pixelated images instantly make your site look dated. Screen sizes and resolutions go up every year. The images that looked lovely when you first tested your site, might not look quite so good on the latest iPad.
If you still have the original photos that you chose for your site, you can reuse them to create new bigger JPEGs. If not, you might need to source new images.
And while we’re looking at images: are you still hanging on to any bad stock photos? Replace them for free with lovely images from Unsplash, StockSnap, and Death to the Stock Photo. Or get some photos of your actual team.
And what about you? Hairstyles and clothing can really date your headshot. Even if your photo isn’t on your site, it’s useful to keep an up-to-date image handy for writing and speaking opportunities.
It looks awful on your phone
Get your phone out and open your site. What do you see? An incredible shrinking site with teeny-tiny text? An oversimplified mobile site with giant buttons and half the features missing? A big black hole where a Flash animation should be?
Borrow as many phones and tablets as you can to check your site from all angles. There are so many different sizes on the market now. That’s why responsive sites can be a good option: the site detects different screen sizes, and adjusts layout and fonts to give the user a consistently good experience.
You can check if your site is responsive using your desktop browser: narrow the window and see what happens. (Squarespace sites and many WordPress themes have this built in as standard.) This isn’t just about looks: if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, Google will penalise you when it comes to mobile search.
Even if you did a thorough test on mobiles and tablets when you first built your site, it’s worth checking now and then to make sure things are still working. Apple and Google update their software all the time, and you want to be confident your site still looks great.
Where to get help
You can fix most of these issues yourself, or with help from your usual web developer. You might also want to talk to some of these specialists:
- A visual designer can help freshen up the look of your brand and your website.
- A user experience designer can simplify and organise the information on your site. Look for one that specialises in content strategy.
- A photographer can help with new images, unique to your business. This can be a surprisingly affordable alternative to upmarket stock images from somewhere like Getty.
- A specialist mobile web developer can help with issues on phones or tablets.
To find an expert, turn to your network. Their recommendations can help you locate just the right person to help with your website makeover.