November 14, 2011

Part II – Website Diagnostic: Is it time for a redesign?

Last week, I reviewed the criteria that determines the marketing effectiveness of your website.  In addition to those timeless standards, there are contemporary criteria that become more critical and relevant by the day.  Other reasons to redesign your website are:

  • You can’t update it yourself.

Gone are the days when updating your site meant assembling a package of copy and images for your designer and then waiting days or weeks for them to implement the changes. Instead, you can manage updates yourself through a Content Management System (CMS). CMS is a Web application that uses a database to create, edit and store content, so that you can change that content without any web coding wizardry and without fear of damaging or breaking the website.  You simply make changes through the CMS interface and these are served to the website. You’ve probably heard of the most popular CMS—Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla.  I’m planning reviews of individual CMS systems for a future post, so stay tuned!

  • The site design prevents it from ranking for search.

Do you have an all-Flash site?  If so, then you’re probably not ranking for search. Search engine spiders crawl text, and Flash files rarely have any text for them to crawl.  All of the text you see on your site (firm statements, project descriptions, etc.) is embedded in the Flash file, which the search engine spider can’t penetrate. So if ranking for certain search terms is part of your marketing strategy, then Flash is an obstacle in your path.  You will either need to investigate Flash workarounds, which involves creating text files that reside outside of Flash that duplicate the text content inside the Flash file, or you will need to recode the site, which brings me to…

  • The site is not visible on many mobile devices.

Currently nearly 5% of web traffic occurs on mobile devices, with 2.38% occurring on devices running Apple’s iOS browser. For now at least, Apple doesn’t support Flash on its smartphones and tablets, and it probably never will, since Flash is a resource hog that drains battery life and since HTML5 (which supports video) is taking off.  Bottom line: If your site utilizes Flash, then it is invisible to users browsing the web on Apple devices.  Android-equipped devices, which are Flash-enabled, have more market share than Apple devices, but with the iPhone and iPad now available on the Verizon network, those numbers are expected to change. Undoubtedly, you want potential clients to be able to navigate to your site, whether they’re browsing at their computer or on the go, and that means minimizing or eliminating Flash content on your site.

  •  It is visible on a mobile device, but the experience of navigating the site is awkward and unpleasant.

If you pass the Flash test, the next issue to consider is how easy and enjoyable it is to browse your site on a mobile device.  Does the content take forever to load? That means the images aren’t optimized for mobile browsing speeds.  Do you have to scroll back and forth because the entire page width isn’t visible at the same time? That’s because your site wasn’t designed for mobile screen ratios.  In the not-too-distant future, a website that doesn’t deliver a fast, easy, uncomplicated and enjoyable user experience will be just as bad as a website that’s invisible on mobile devices. At best, it will test the patience of a client or prospect; at worst it will negatively impact their impression of your brand.

  • It doesn’t incorporate convincing calls to action.

What’s a call to action? It’s an invitation that inspires a user of your website to take action on his/her visit to your site.  While increases in website traffic are nice, they don’t necessarily translate to new business.  In order to create a personal relationship with that visitor, you have to capture their contact information. Since most people are reluctant to casually give away their contact details, you have to offer them high value content that inspires them to want to keep in touch with you, or else miss out on future content that may also be relevant to them. I’m planning a full post on creating compelling calls to action for the blog in the near future.

Studying these five benchmarks and those reviewed in the previous post, how does your website stack up?  Is your website both on-message and accessible to prospects, whether they browse from work, at home, or on the move?  Does it incorporate content that brings them back to your site regularly or inspires them to exchange their contact info for your insights?  If yes, terrific!  Tell me about it; I’m curious to learn what’s working for you.  If not, what’s not working?

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