Is Your Website Outdated?February 22, 2017
Most people agree that websites need to be updated over time. But how often and to what extent? Some say every 2-3 years you need a full-scale rebuild. Others might suggest a constant stream of minor updates over time, continuously iterating and improving what you already have.
Can you afford to do either of these? Why should invest the time and money, when your website is still running fine?
There are many reasons to invest in a redesign, but I think one of the best reasons for change, and the one I'm going to focus on today is user expectations–the other UX.
What was once acceptable to users is changing. This applies to so many areas–design choices, devices used, screen size, site speed, the user interface, the ease or difficulty of adding content, and many more examples. Your site could be seen as old and dated (at best) or completely unusable (at worst).
How failing to meet expectations hurts you
When your audience’s expectations for user experience outpaces what your website delivers, your brand and organization suffers.
Think of all the hard-work you have done to build up user trust. If you’re managing a website for your organization, you want your audience to know you care about their experience–that they can find what they need in an efficient and pleasing way. You want the right tone and thoughtfulness.
But if you’re like most humans, you don’t know exactly how to meet those goals perfectly on the first try. You need to observe how the site is used, gather feedback, and adjust what you offer. Maybe a large, slow loading series of images doesn’t work for an increasingly mobile audience. Or perhaps users no longer feel comfortable submitting a contact form if it’s not secure and encrypted. your site. Maybe a competitor has a fresher, more interesting design now that makes your site look dated and old.
What kind of reactions could you expect?
- Users abandon your site or service
- Audience develops a bad opinion of your company or service
- Your organization faces a lawsuit over accessibility
There are dozens of reasons why a website can fail to meet expectations, and it’s impossible to anticipate them all on site launch. Some reasons may not even exist at the time of launch!
The only solution is to stay plugged in to what your audience wants and needs. You should be gathering data and reacting–not only during the initial build, but continuously over time. The web keeps evolving so your site must as well.
How to keep up (without venture capital)
We know technology is moving fast. User expectations are constantly evolving. Our websites and content management systems are in danger of frustrating, disappointing or angering our users. And some new or improved website may be coming along to crush everything we have to offer. So what do we do?
- Plug your ears and go la,la,la
- Plan your work and work the plan
Let’s focus on D. Start by accepting the fluid nature of things. Change is here. Every website is built on shifting sands. It’s a hard lesson, but the sooner you accept it, the better you can plan for the future.
Accepting it is just the beginning, however. You still need to act. And the way you do that is plan for change. Budget for site improvements. Spend time on code updates. Read and follow trends. You need a plan to keep your site alive.
Of course it’s not about adding features and improving UX just to compare favorably to a giant corporation (after all, those same giant corporations are often the last to embrace new features or design). It’s about adding the features and UX that is useful to both site editors AND to their audience.
Make Your Plan
We encourage all our clients to budget for both site improvement plans and future redesigns. Keeping a CMS up-to-date while doing continuous site improvement can be a significant investment of time and money, and we recognize that. Redesigns are a particularly resource-intensive when they happen every 2-4 years. But the truth is that websites are never truly finished.
The landscape for websites is changing fast–in technology, in design, and in user expectations. Staying relevant requires a long-term plan of action. If you can start making this part of your process today, you can avoid a lot of pain in the future. And keep your audience coming back for more.