A quick scan of the internet reveals thousands of well designed, attractive websites. What it doesn’t reveal is what these sites have in common; that they have all had a makeover. Any website will require updating and refreshing from time to time and web design should be looked at as an ongoing process rather than a one-off investment. The sites that continually look uplifted, fresh and appealing will attract the most customers.
Website makeovers don’t always have to be absolute. More often than not only a ‘freshen-up’ is required. A simple layout change or new colour scheme can inject vitality. Similarly, removing unnecessary content can make it more usable. However small the change seems, it will have a positive impact.
However, occasionally there is a need for a complete revamp or to add extra features. For example major car dealership www.perrys.co.uk, which provides a facility to search for new and used cars online, was originally designed approximately seven years ago. Originally a successful site, over time it reached the limits of its original design. Structural changes, improved functionalities anda new design produced a website that is clear, attractive and easy to navigate.
The problem for most companies is assessing when the time is right for a makeover. Unnecessary upgrades cost money. However, ignoring required upgrades costs customers. Take a step back and look at a site from a user’s point of view. Does it upload quickly? Is it clear who it belongs to? Is it bright and fresh? Is it easy to use? Are contact details easy to locate? Is it built to optimise search engine optimisation? All of these aspects are important to customers and if the site is not any of the above it will not retain visitors. On the other hand, websites that can be found on search engines, look vivid and interesting and are easy to navigate will not require a makeover for some time yet.
Once a decision has been made to re-vamp a website the first important point is to prioritise. For example, if a website has a slow upload time, give precedence to this rather than adapting the colour scheme for example. Similarly, if a website cannot be found on a search engine, don’t spend hours on a new layout. Always deal with major issues primarily, resolving lesser issues subsequently.
Fortunately, attempting to achieve SEO, for the majority of websites, will not require a full make over. Copy will simply need to be revived and fresh content such as images or case studies included. However, the way the core design of the site has been put together will influence how much additional work is needed. The most cost-effective method for doing this is to build the site according to “web standards” using valid HTML and cascading style sheets (CSS), which enables the web developer to separate the appearance or style of the web page from its structure and content. This also allows easy updating and in turn better SEO.
Top wine merchants Berry Brothers & Rudd’s website www.bbr.com is a great example of a site which has achieved good SEO. Having won international wine site of the year three years running, it has been described as ‘the Rolls-Royce of websites’. One of the highlights is the inclusion of a selection of the latest releases on the home page. The regular updating of these products is simple but necessary to keep the website coming up on search engines and looking fresh and attractive.
For companies who first invested in a website five-seven years ago SEO will be an issue. However, the other main problem will be that the original site, which may have become an increasingly important form of communication over the years, may no-longer be relevant for its target audience which has changed as the company has grown.
A website should always be designed and made over with the relevant demographic in mind. For example, designing a website for the over 50s using bright, clashing colours and small font will not be the most effective-user-friendly layout.
When redesigning a website assess what your audience likes and what they look for; what will they respond best to? With this in the forefront of the mind, the finished product should be one which attracts and retains potential and existing customers.
The main objective of a website is to attract customers and generate sales and enquiries. Anything not meeting this objective requires a makeover. When considering websites for makeovers, web designers will often use the terms ‘dipping a toe in the water’, a ‘facelift’ or ‘plastic surgery’. What designers mean is that a makeover does not always have to be a complete overhaul. It can simply include the introduction of a new colour, fresh images or improved content.
Organisations will often write a makeover off as ‘too much hassle’ or a ‘waste of money’. However, a good website will provide a healthy return on investment and the majority of the time, altering only a few aspects will make a very valuable difference.