Website Design: the 7 signs you need an update

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How do you know if you’re ready for a revamped website? You’re long overdue if any of the following sound familiar.

1. You have what Silverstein calls a “Frankenstein site.” Your site is indeed a monstrosity if too many Web designers have spent too many years writing bad code over bad code. “One developer has done one thing, [and] one has jury rigged another, essentially trying to fix a site that doesn’t meet the current goals,” he says. “If you’ve been making several additions over the course of a few years with different developers, you might want to start from scratch to design the right solution before adding any more.”

2. Your site was built with tables. Once standard, this kind of layout is now completely outmoded. “It makes the code very bloated and hard to read, and harder for search engines to parse,” Silverstein says.

3. Visitors are welcomed with a Flash intro. Chris Blanz refers to such animated intros, which were gimmicky even a decade ago, as “cheese.” “Technology should never get in the way of, or overpower, what you’re trying to say to your audience,” says Blanz, CEO of cabedge, a communications agency in Nashville, Tenn., that emphasizes a Web-centric approach to marketing and PR. So lose the Flash splash screen.

Opinions remain mixed on whether companies should use Flash at all. “Flash has its place,” Blanz says. “[But] if they need animated interactivity, there are some great alternatives out there [like JavaScript], and HTML5 is making video accessible without the need for Flash.” HTML5 will be the next design standard after XHTML, but it hasn’t taken off quite yet. “HTML5 is not overly important for every company now,” he says, “but it will be eventually.”

4. Your social involvement is nil. Your customers and clients like to connect with others via tweets, Facebook posts, Foursquare check-ins, a comments or reviews section, and the like. A lack of integration with popular social tools leaves your website — and business — looking woefully out of touch. So make content on your site easy for others to retweet. Create a fan page. Advertise special geo-targeted offers. Open a dialogue with customers. You’ll not only support your business’s brand, but you’ll also stay relevant in a swiftly changing landscape.

5. Your site doesn’t function on mobile devices. Many websites look great on PCs and laptops but don’t actually work with mobile tech. This problem plagued Mittal, whose Rent a Smile site took forever to load on mobile devices. “We lost out on all those visitors who were browsing our site on their smartphones,” he says. “This should have been a big segment of our target audience given that our virtual assistant service is most needed by busy people.”

So Mittal and his team revamped the site to address a multitude of issues. The new website lost the Flash (a move which has helped them garner top rankings on Google for a number of keywords) and now features 24/7 live chat, auto-detection of smartphone browsers, integrated social media, and a video on the home page explaining the service to visitors — effectively converting more prospects to customers. “The features we implemented are a prerequisite for any website today,” he says.

6. Even basic site updates still require the involvement of your Web designer. This means it’s time to move to a content management system (CMS). It’s easy to use, and anyone on staff can make the updates, tech savvy or not. “The world moves fast nowadays,” Blanz says. “Being able to change your own content without the need of a programmer every time may be helpful in reacting to changing market conditions.”

7. Your site’s call to action is unclear, ineffective, or cumbersome. Want people to sign up for your service or newsletter, donate money to your nonprofit, or purchase your product? Whatever the goal, you’ve got to entice visitors to reach it and make the process as seamless as possible. For example, let customers purchase products as a guest instead of forcing them to create an account.