It’s 2014 now. If your business can’t be found online, it might be hard for your clients to take you seriously. Even worse, if your online presence looks like a fossil out of the past, your website is probably actually doing more harm than good.
But don’t panic just yet. We’ve put together a little checklist to help determine if your website passed its expiration date, or if it’s still good to go.
Is your website made in Flash, contains a soundtrack, or has an animated intro?
If you answered “yes” to Flash, then the questions are over and the results are in. Yes, your website is outdated. To make matters worse, by having a Flash website, you are completely inaccessible on iOS devices, and forget about good user experience on Android and other tablets. Chances are also that your SEO is either non-existent or very weak.
If you’re unfortunate enough you be sporting a Flash website, then our only advice is to contact your local creative agency ASAP.
Now, for those of you with soundtracks. While we’re all sure that your musical intentions are sound, the days of ambient soundscapes and thumping drum n’ bass background audio have come and gone. We’ll admit, there was a point many years ago where audio in a website was almost novelty, but that’s so far in the past that it may as well be stored in a museum. Many other fads have since come and gone, and it’s time to scrap the audio.
Animated introductions and welcome screens are also a relic of the past. The only thing they’re good for is motivating your users to press back a little bit quicker.
Now, we realize that there are obviously exceptions to the norm. If your business is a recording studio, then having an audio player is a good idea as long as it doesn’t auto play. If your business happens to specialize in the sale of antiquated welcome screens and animated intros, then maybe a 45 second long unskippable blaringly loud fullscreen video is perfect for you.
Is your website visually appealing?
The beauty of design in general, and especially web design, is determined by the eye of the beholder, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a couple cardinal rules that can help us easily determine if what you’re showing online is visually appealing or not.
Is your website constrained within a little 800×640 box in the center of the page? If so, chances are that there are all kinds of other visual issues with the site. Keeping your website at a fixed size in this era is a huge mistake. It wasn’t long ago that doing so was standard practice, but now that everyone has a smartphone in their pocket and a full HD screen at home, it’s impossible to satisfy all dimensions with a fixed-size layout. Your website needs to be fluid, and it needs to respond to the size of the screen that it’s being viewed on. This is called responsive design, and it’s crucial.
Is your website more than 5 years old?
Much like an automotive vehicle, websites require a little bit of general maintenance. It’s nothing too severe though, just a couple checkups to make sure that you haven’t become outdated too quickly.
We aren’t saying that every 5 year old website automatically becomes outdated and replaceable, what we’re saying is that after about 5 years, generally web technology has evolved enough to make significant changes in how users interact with the internet, thereby possibly leaving you behind in the dust. Let us explain…
… five years ago, fixed-width websites were all the rage. We could now expand our wrappers up to 1024px and it was great. Nothing could stop us. Now, a fixed-width website is going to hurt you, as we’ve mentioned. Ten years ago, Flash was so in. Flash was all about crazy hover effects and beep boop noises with every click. Today, when someone stumbles upon a Flash website like that, all you hear are moans and groans. Fifteen years ago, CSS was still in its infancy. Y2K was still instilling fear in all of us. Now, CSS has evolved so much that it’s the tool used in responsive design.
Change happens quickly, so while your 5 year old site might still feel young and pretty, it might be old and rotten on the inside.
Can you manage your own content?
There’s really no reason anymore that businesses with simple websites should have to contact their creative agency to change the content on their website. No longer should you need to contact the “webmaster”. Content Management Systems (CMS’s) have paved the way for easy to update content in websites.
Text, images, and possibly some layout, are generally what’s editable in a CMS. Having such ease of access to your website allows you to update it frequently, thereby improving SEO!
Does your website allow you to regularly publish new content?
If you aren’t using a CMS, then chances are pretty strong that the answer is “no”. Being able to publish new content on a regular basis is extremely important to the long term health of your website.
Google, and other search engines, view websites that don’t get updated as stagnant. They become less relevant in searches. They eventually become harder to find online. Websites that are continually being updated are seen as being informed and active. The level of effect this has on you is a closely guarded Google secret, but what we know is that it’s very important. Being stagnant will have harsher consequences on a news & publishing website than a construction company’s website, but the general idea remains the same for everyone. The best way to know how often to publish new content is to judge your competition. If they’re publishing frequently and you want to compete, then you’ll need to do the same.
Are you taking advantage of social networking?
Perhaps the biggest evolution in the past five years has been the integration of social networking in our daily lives. Now a days, mostly everyone who regularly uses a computer also has an online profile on one of the big three: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. There are so many ways to take advantage of social networking that we could write a novel on it (and authors have done just that!). What’s key to remember is that social networking is designed to be taken advantage of, whether it’s simply publishing your business on Facebook or allowing users to sign into your website using their Facebook profile. It ties into online communication and SEO so well that it’s worth the investment to revamp your online presence just to connect with social networks.
Overall, determining if it’s worth reinvesting in your website can difficult, even if all the signs point to “yes, it’s time”. You need to ask yourself the important questions – does my website properly represent my business as it is today? Does my website further my business’s goals and interests? Is my website optimized for the devices that my target market will use? A website is an extension of your business, and it’s a marketing tool. It’s best to work with a professional creative agency who knows how to get the most out of your website, whether its for eCommerce purposes or for simpler straight-to-the-point purposes. If your website isn’t aiding your business, then it’s time to reinvest, and creative agencies like kantaloup are here to work with you to maximize the potential of your online presence.