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The three things a business website needs to do to succeed beyond 2018

Companies are more reliant on their online presence now than ever before, and this isn't about to change. It's essential to keep up with website best practices – after all, a business site that was fine in 2012 won't hold up today.

how old is your website-1
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Greg
Posted by Greg
29 October 2018
    

Part one: Staying up to date

How old is your website?

When did you last update your company website?

I don't mean when you last added some new content to it – maybe finally took off that account manager that left a few months ago, or posted a new blog, or updated your ISO status on the accreditation page. I mean: How long has it been since you last had a proper redesign or rebuild?

We kept our last website design for far too long, considering that we're a web agency. At about three years old, we were all starting to get sick of it – we just didn't have time to update it properly. Too busy making websites for other people, obviously.

But even for a company that doesn't make a living by designing and building websites, three years is a long time to go without a refresh. Your team changes, your service offering develops. And, of course, design styles change. However, even if you know all this already, it can be hard to convince others that a new website is a priority.

 

The roadblocks to a new website

What's keeping you from pursuing a new company website? The most common scenarios we hear from people who want to go ahead, but can't get the MD to sign off on the cost are usually:

  • Our website's only a few years old and it looks fine how it is – we don't see the point of changing it.
  • We've spent a long time building up our search rankings, and we get a lot of traffic – we don't want to risk it by changing things up now.

The first can be a tricky one to overcome, particularly if you have directors who had a big say in the site back in the day, and still love it today. You need to highlight just how outdated it is, all while showing them something to get excited about.

The second is even more complicated, because it's a pretty big risk to take, particularly if your business really relies on those digital leads. You need to show that the change can happen without losing this – and show how a new site may even improve things.

Want to read more?

Our ebook, The six marketing metrics your MD really cares about, digs down into ways in which you can demonstrate the value of your digital marketing efforts. If you're struggling to get buy-in from company decision makers, it might be useful. Click below to download it for free.

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Moving forward with web design

Old-fashioned and outdated design puts people off. Cars, furniture, phones – trends come and go, and the bad ones fall by the wayside. For websites, it's doubly challenging – there is no old web design feature that's ever been popular enough to become a highly coveted antique. Things move surprisingly quickly, and brutally.

In 2015, big, bold colours were in. Flashy animations and videos were very much in, too – they were new and exciting, and everyone had to have them, as prominent as possible. Your menu could be hidden under a little hamburger-style icon to keep it out of the way.

But now, they're not so new – they're just the standard. And no one likes hamburger menus anymore, because we all realised no one clicks on them.

So now, moving into 2019, the trend is for something a bit subtler, with micro-animations that quietly contribute to how you navigate round a site, rather than taking up all of your attention. Flat designs that remove clutter, focusing on what's important, and on reducing page load times – something we'll come to later.

But it doesn't mean sites have to be boring. Bold colour highlights on minimal backgrounds can look great. Breaking out of standard grid layouts with eye-catching, asymmetric layouts can draw attention to certain points in a creative way.

And if it's been longer than three years since you've had a refresh, then all of this could have passed you by altogether. What was once a perfectly decent site may now be flat and underwhelming, with outdated content, and not a lot to grab users' attention when compared to the competition.

 

Mobile-first

The last few years have seen responsive web design for mobile devices come to the forefront. This means your website changes size to adjust to the size of the device you're viewing it on, making it easier to use on smaller laptops, mobile phones and tablets, without a need for different versions of the same pages. Everyone gets the same experience, no matter what they're using.

It's not just users that need this, either – Google is increasingly considering how well sites work on mobile when ranking them in search results. A site with a good mobile experience will be looked upon more favourably than one with a bad one, so even a great search ranking is likely to diminish over time if nothing is done to go mobile.

But it's not enough to just make sure the mobile experience is good enough – more than ever, sites for certain audiences need to be considered from a mobile-first perspective. This has often been reserved for B2C websites, but B2B companies increasingly need to consider this, as we become more agile, working more on phones and tablets while on the move.

 

Page speed

We've briefly mentioned page speed already – keeping up with the standard for page load times is absolutely essential for continuing to succeed.

Web users are notoriously impatient. We expect things to load instantly – within a couple of seconds, even – and will abandon a site if it takes more than a few seconds to load properly.

As time has gone on, we've found increasingly efficient ways to display images, animations and videos while keeping those page speeds down – so if you're still stuck with a site from a few years ago, it could be noticeably slower than one that's been built to more recent standards.

We also find that, the older a site gets, the more bloated it becomes – old, redundant plugins, databases full of old and outdated images, inefficient features piling up. It slows things down, and it loses customers. It's also not enough to just purge old data every now and then – a more modern design and build will be needed to compete.

 

Keeping up with website security best practice

What is the full URL of your website? In particular, does it start with http:// or https://?

That extra little "s" is essential. HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, the technology that allows us to transfer data over a computer network – such as the internet, for example.

HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, an update to HTTP that adds extra security through encryption, so no one can steal or tamper with data transmitted through the site.

Many older sites still do use HTTP – so look at your site's web address in your browser to check if you're unsure.

But it's not the only security upgrade required in 2018. Software, including the kind used to build websites, is constantly updated to fix vulnerabilities that attackers, whether they're humans or bots, have worked out how to exploit in order to steal data.

Newer versions of this software have less vulnerabilities, and better protections. If it's been a long time since your site has been rebuilt or upgraded, it's hard to say how vulnerable it is.

 

Strong content-driven and technical SEO

Scrapping an old, successful site and starting over can seem like a hugely daunting prospect if you rely directly on it for revenue. However, the right technical SEO approach can greatly reduce this risk, retaining your Google ranking on a new website – and improving prospects for the future.

Whether it's matching and redirecting URLs during the site migration, or reappraising SEO strategy – something that has come a long way in the past few years – there is plenty to be done to ensure a smooth transition and ongoing growth.

 

So, ask yourself (or your MD) these questions…

Again with the questions! Sorry about that. Just a few more, though:

  • How long ago did you update your website?
  • Do you still like the way it looks, or could it use some improvements?
  • Does it load quickly enough?
  • Have you made efforts to keep your site secure?
  • And finally, is it easy for you to use on a day-to-day basis?

That last one's a bit of a bonus question. How complicated it is for you to change your company's website (those simple content changes we discussed back at the start of the post) can be a big sign that your website is out of date.

We go into this in much more detail in part two of this blog, which is all about site usability.

 

    

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