Does Your Website Need an Update? Six Factors to Help You Decide

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COVID-19 has changed everything, including the way we operate and market our businesses. In this new reality, your website is now one of the most important channels to connect with current and potential customers, and it’s oftentimes your primary marketing tool. Keeping your website updated with relevant and accessible content is crucial to ensuring the prosperity of your business and maintaining your brand identity. However, “updating the website” could mean anything from making minor copy edits on the home page to migrating the entire site to a new content management platform, which could require a budget ranging from just five minutes of your time to several thousand dollars and months of work to complete.

So how do you know when your website needs to be updated and how significant an undertaking that project might be? Based on our experience in more than a decade of helping clients improve their websites to support business goals combined with our team’s deep knowledge of digital marketing and best practices for design and development, we’ve developed a list of six signs that indicate it’s time to devote some attention to improving your business’s website.

1. The quality needs improvement.

At any given time, there are billions of websites competing for our attention — and business — on the internet. What separates the good from the bad may be a matter of taste for most users, but search engines take a much more objective and methodical approach. Although you might not consider things like design and brand reputation to be factors in search engine optimization (SEO), search engine algorithms would disagree.

Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines documentation gives us a basic understanding of what factors matter to the algorithm in determining the quality of a website. Included are recommendations for developing quality content, enhancing functional usability, maintaining a good reputation as an expert or trustworthy source, addressing the site users’ needs and more. If you don’t remember the last time you considered these aspects (or if the answer is “never”), then it’s time to update your website.

2. It’s not mobile-friendly.

Mobile-friendly sites are designed for the smaller handheld display and touch-screen interface of mobile devices. Today, internet traffic from mobile devices accounts for about half of all web traffic worldwide. Considering that nearly everyone has a smartphone with them most of the time, if your site is not optimized for mobile, you could be missing a significant source of traffic to competitors with more responsive sites.

If you aren’t sure if your website is mobile-friendly, just enter your site URL into Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to find out. This free tool will not only show you an instant pass-or-fail grade, the results also include an actionable list of recommendations to improve your site if it doesn’t meet mobile-friendliness standards, as well as related recommendations to improve overall site performance for users on any device.

Screenshot of the mobile-friendly website test results for a responsive page
The Denver Startup Week website is mobile-friendly, but could be improved with some additional load time optimization.
Screenshot of the mobile-friendly website test results for a non-responsive page
This is an example of a failing mobile-friendly test grade with recommendations on what to fix.

3. Your current site requires specific tech configurations to use.

If your site requires users to have specific software or technology to use it (like Flash), it could probably use updating.

The screenshots below detail how to find details in Google Analytics about the technology visitors are using to access your site including browser, operating system and device.

 

Google Analytics Browser & OS Report

Go to Audience > Technology > Browser & OS to see which combinations visitors use most commonly to access your site. The default view will show browser only, so we added a secondary dimension here to show OS details.

 

Google Analytics Mobile Device Report

Info about the mobile devices your audience is using to visit your site can be found under Audience > Mobile > Devices. Here we’ve also added a secondary dimension to show which browser each device is using.

These details will help you prioritize which browser, device and OS combinations to test your site with to ensure compatibility and a uniform experience for all of your site’s users. We recommend a tool like CrossBrowserTesting to quickly test and identify compatibility issues on your website.

4. It takes longer than 3 seconds to load the page.

More than half of website users abandon a site that takes longer than three seconds to load. When it comes to load time, every second counts. Not only do bounce rates increase significantly as seconds pass waiting for a page to load, but load time affects a website’s conversion rate, with nearly 70% of users reporting that load time affects their decision to purchase.

With Google and other search engines penalizing websites that are perceivably slow to users, page speed is important to the user experience. From enabling compression and minifying CSS, JavaScript and HTML to reducing redirects, optimizing images and improving server response time, there are many ways to increase your page speed. To conduct your own page speed tests, we recommend Google’s PageSpeed Insights and/or GTmetrix — both of which are free to use.

 

GTmetrix Performance Report
This is an example of a GTmetrix Performance Report showing page load times and recommendations for what page elements to adjust for faster load times.

5. The design feels stale or outdated.

Keeping your website design elements up to date is a great way to signal to customers that your business is still operational during the coronavirus crisis and provides a fresh reminder to customers that your business continues to provide services.

Conversely, if your site includes design elements that made sense when the site was first built but now seem out of date or no longer fit your company’s branding or style guidelines? Updating your site’s design to keep up with ever-changing design trends, accessibility standards and UI/UX best-practices not only helps your site remain aligned with your branding, but it also shows users that you’re actively invested in their experience with your brand — a gesture that goes a long way in demonstrating your credibility and trustworthiness for potential customers, clients, investors and reporters who may be researching your company and competitors.

Some of the easiest-to-spot design red flags that a site has been neglected include:

  • The copyright date in the footer is not current. We see this all the time, yet it’s one of the easiest things to fix!
  • You’ve updated your company branding, but the website hasn’t changed with it. This can lead to a serious disconnect for users who may know you by your new branding (from a print ad or trade show banner, for example) but when they look up your website might assume they’re in the wrong place because it looks different than the business they were thinking of.
  • You’ve still got pop-ups or banner content promoting an event that has already happened. This is the web design equivalent of leaving your Christmas decorations up until March! Make sure that your event planning checklist includes some post-event tasks like taking down any promo content on your website and/or replacing that content with links to the post-event write-up, a page showing your upcoming events or similar related content.
Bonus tip! Google+ shut down in April of 2019. If you still have this icon among your social media links, you’re sending valuable traffic to a broken link!

6. It’s not generating leads or bringing in sales.

Bottom line, if your website isn’t supporting your business goals in some way, like helping you sell your products or services, it’s time for a change. Just as you would track ROI for any other sales or marketing effort, your website should be meeting specific goals for your business. Whether your conversion metric is simply more content views or you have many different conversion actions organized by vertical, acquisition source, customer demographic or some other meaningful business priority, it’s important that you’re able to quantify what success looks like for your website so that you have an idea of what to focus on if performance changes.

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