A website that’s tired, stale and worst of all – out of date – is not a good advertisement for your company. That doesn’t mean you need to change it weekly or even monthly, but you do need to keep track of your content and ensure it’s interesting and current. You can give your website a facelift without investing huge amounts of time or money – here are a few tips.
· Take half measures. Focus first on redesigning only your top core pages. Just make sure the new look integrates with the existing one, so visitors aren’t confused when they click onto older pages. Depending on your business, you can also simply archive some older pages into Adobe PDF or Microsoft Office Word documents suitable for download. If you need a web designer a local business networking association is a good place to start searching, or word of mouth referrals of course.
· Reduce loading time. In the beginning, most of us fall for bells and whistles on a website. But these tend to add more noise than use, and can be a barrier for someone wanting a quick answer. This is your chance to streamline. (Read ‘Top 10 mistakes to avoid when setting up a website’.)
· Analyse what really does works, what’s mere decoration, and what will best satisfy consumer demand for the information they need now. The goal is to create an uncluttered path to your information or products. If, for example, you force users to return to the homepage to find all of your products or services, here’s your chance to add a search function or internal navigation that will correct that.
· Map the site to your current mission. Since you launched your site, have you reinvented your marketing or refined your business model? Does everything on the site reflect the way you do business now? What about secondary channels or pages? Most small-business sites grow an inch at a time, piecemeal. As you add new sections over time, there might eventually be a lack of unified messaging and positioning throughout your site.
· Make sure your content and messaging is consistent from page to page. For instance, if your high-level product descriptions on the homepage differ from more detailed accounts on deeper pages, you’re likely to create confusion about what you sell or your company identity as users click through the site.
· Make your site work harder. If you identify the sites and search engines your visitors are clicking from and which of your pages draw the heaviest traffic, you can market more effectively, especially if you’re using search engine marketing.
· First, figure out what you want visitors to do when they land. Using those answers, you can define tracking metrics and develop content, navigation, and structure that will satisfy your targeted visitors. You can capture such key data with software such as adManager, a feature of Office Live Small Business.
· Give visitors more control. Rework the site to expand self-directed options, whether that’s making reservations for your Bed & Breakfast or searching for a different size shoe. The more you let the customer drive, the faster your operation will go.
· Change the colour scheme. Simply revising your site's palette can go a long way to freshening your look. Before deciding on the colour, check out your competitors' sites. You want to look ahead of the curve, while still remaining within your field's conventions. For instance, if you provide financial services, you might want to swap your current dark green for reassuring blue. But hot pink is a definite no-no.
· Post success stories. If you’ve been in business for a while you can probably find some customer testimonials to impress new prospects. Ask your long-time customers for quotes or permission to post their histories and satisfaction with your services.
· Stay in touch. To build customer relationships, set up an email program on your site. This can include anything from easy-to-produce news blasts about new deals and products to fully loaded e-newsletters and industry trend reports. To persuade visitors to register their personal information, you’ll need to offer an incentive. Find something that your target audience perceives as value, whether a two-for-one promotion, discount on the next order, or an inside look at an industry survey. Once you have addresses, make sure your e-mail programs have a reliable schedule and continue to offer the value you promised.
· Reward top customers. Let your best customers know they’re special by giving them distinctive perks or discounts. During the site redesign, you can set up a membership or password-protected area for these top customers and stock the section with exclusive deals. You can also send them exclusive e-mail offers.
While any of these ideas can help refresh your online brand, the main point is to avoid becoming complacent. Whenever you change direction or grow the business, make sure you don’t leave your website behind.