Technology is an ever moving target, what’s new today can be old fashioned in a year’s time. Website design is no different to this, in fact if anything it’s a perfect example of this.
So why can’t us website designers build something that stands the test of time, and what is “a long time” in web design terms? How long for example is it reasonable to expect a website design to remain current?
Well its worth remembering how young web design is relative to other industries. Despite how advanced us web designers like to think the tools we have are, in reality when it comes to designing websites we are still living in caves (some developers actually do to be fair), and using stone age tools.
Take one of the current big things in web development which is responsive web design. This means building a site which provides the optimal user experience regardless of whether a user is accessing it via desktop, laptop, mobile, iPad or tablet. Its very unlikely we would build a website these days that didn’t take this into account in some shape or form.
Take our latest ecommerce website for example http://www.butterfliesanddragons.co.uk/. This was built on top of the twitter bootstrap responsive framework and a lot of effort was put in to making the site equally usable across all viewports. Whilst this was a completely new ecommerce website replacing an old one developed by other web designers (not in Brighton), one of our existing clients with an ecommerce website built say 4 years ago might ask “why wasn’t my site future proofed for this?”
Well the answer is because things move so quickly in ways its impossible to predict. For example the iPhone has only been around for about 6 years, and believe it or not the iPad for only 3. This means as little as 3 years ago smartphones and tablets weren’t even in the thought process of web designers when building a website, let alone at the forefront. I remember even 2 years ago looking at web stats of clients current websites, and with mobile/tables usage at 5-10%, coupled with the expense needed to build a site using responsive web design techniques, deciding together with the client that it wasn’t commercially viable at this stage. These same clients are now coming to us with usage stats much higher (we’ve seen as high as 40-45% mobile/table usage on a site), asking for new responsive web designs to be created for their site.
So getting back to the original question then, how do you as a website owner decide when a new design for your website is required?
Here are some fairly simple tips:
- Has technology has changed significantly since the site was built. The growth of smartphone use and making a site responsive to these devices is a good example of this.
- Are there important features missing? For example social media integration with websites has grown dramatically over the past few years and most sites are now designed with this in mind. It’s unlikely a 2-3 year old site would have been built in such a way.
- Do you have enough control of your site, for example does the site have a CMS (Content Management System) that is flexible enough for your needs?
- Is your web analytics software showing low conversation rates, a decrease in website traffic, a high bounce rate, or that visitors are leaving the site too quickly? This doesn’t necessarily point to a design related issue but it certainly warrants a full investigation of your current setup.
- Have you significantly changed what you do, your services, or your product range since the site was built?
- Has your company rebranded since the site was developed?
When doing an appraisal of your current website its often useful to get a range of different opinions on this. Whilst a client may think their site is still current and looks good, their target market may think differently. When doing this you should get as many of the following different viewpoints as possible:
- A professional opinion from a web designer. We do free appraisals of all websites.
- Impressions from friends and family, ideally ones who you know will be honest and up front.
- 3rd party user testing sites such as http://www.usertesting.com/. We use sites like this to test our new websites before launch, to make sure they meet the brief and the business requirements. Doing this on an existing website can help determine if that website needs updating, but also provides useful guidance on what your target markets are looking for in a website. This can all be done for a relatively low cost.
- Previous customers or services users.
Before embarking on such an exercise its worth creating a script or some basic questions to guide the users towards the questions you want answered. So for example you might ask:
- Do you like the design?
- Does the design look contemporary?
- Is the design something you would expect from a website in this sector?
Again we can help you come up with this script.
If you are thinking about re-designing your website why not get in touch with us today for an informal chat. We can very quickly help you determine if this is the case, and if so give you a range of options to consider for next steps. You can either call us on 01273 603995, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.