Part one – What seems to be the problem?
Eleven years after the dotcom bubble you’d hardly remember the lonely pixellated mess that was web 1.0. Since then design has moved on and connection speeds have rocketed, replacing angular layouts and grainy photos with life-like video and high definition images. More importantly, we’ve made it our home. Now that the computer virus scares and trolling are more and more marginalised, it’s a place we inhabit along with our friends, colleagues, and the global online community.
A while back I set up a Geocities page, mainly to show off how much I liked skateboarding and heavy metal (cringe). Geocities shut down in 2009, but it made it’s mark by making the web a place people could inhabit and personalise. From a design and usability perspective it was a pile of crap, but somehow it captured the web aesthetic of the time.
You rarely see this style any more and when you do, it’s usually intentional (you can even send your own site back in time using the “Geocities-izer“). Most of the time anyway. Design conventions, as well as the programming language, tell you in what era a site was born and from what I’ve seen, there are still a lot of companies with archaic websites which are no longer fit for purpose.
There are a couple of reasons to look into revamping your site. First of all, you need to imagine your website as a car. There are two reasons why people get new vehicles: 1) to boost/ maintain their image and 2) because it doesn’t work.
Image is hugely important to some people, and the same’s true for companies. For global consumer brands like Nike, ad agencies or startup technology companies, it’s as important to maintain their cutting edge image, as it is to make the most of new technology to sell your wares. Online technologies move fast, and within 9-18 months a cutting edge site has usually lost the buzz it generated and its edgy status.
However, not everyone needs or even wants to own a Ferrari. Likewise not everyone needs a “concept site” with an innovative navigation. Some choose a more practical vehicle or even something a bit vintage. As long as it works and does what it’s meant to (gets you from a to b, or simply makes you happy) then it works. However, there always comes a point when you need to consider replacing your car, and it’s always easier to make the choice than to be pushed into it. A car that keeps breaking down or can’t fit your new family is no good to you.
Websites that have been well used will become rickety with age. Older platforms were rarely designed to become content farms, and handle masses of text and multimedia content. Nowadays this is a requirement for most websites looking to promote their expertise and boost their performance in Google by continually posting new content. The older generation of sites either won’t allow you to do this or makes it near impossible to browse and find older articles. If your vehicle can’t fit everything you need to carry, you need something bigger.
Scattered across the web
Thankfully, a lot of people won’t let an older site stop them from creating new content. Blogging platforms mean anyone can set up and style their own content farm, and there’s a host of ways to connect/ redirect this to a main website. The same’s true with social media- it’s a real DIY thing so there’s nothing to stop you or your company getting involved. The main risk is that you end up with tens of different profiles all doing different things and no way of tying them all together. How do your customers know you host Meetup events and have a Twitter feed if they’re not part of your main website? Worse still, is to have a succession of microsites that have been launched at different times with completely different designs. If they’re not part of something bigger, there’s not a consistent brand experience across all of them it’s hugely confusing for internet users and browsers. Visual queues (such as colour scheme) and being part of the larger “super-site” navigation, helps drive people back to your website and, more importantly, understand what you’re about.
All of these can and should be bolted back into the main site, so you’ve got one central hub for all your information. As your company grows, your website should too- it’s not a one off activity but something you should continually add to. Don’t be afraid of making adjustments. This is how companies and websites should develop: incrementally over time. However, you can only keep customising and replacing parts for so long (a three of years at the most). Eventually you’re going to need a new engine to power your website, and that means a new website. Think of it as a fresh platform, bigger and better than the last one, that allow you to add even more to it over time. Going back to the car analogy, the last thing you want is a patched together car that’s slow and keeps breaking down.
Finally, it’s OK to change your mind. I’m grateful to Yahoo for dismantling Geocities, because otherwise I’d have hundreds of skateboard and heavy metal pictures to my name. My tastes have moved on and I’d prefer my online presence to show who I am today. If your business has changed, your team’s grown or you’re just not totally happy with your current image then it’s time to dismantle your old self and create the new “you” online.
How to persuade your boss to revamp the website:
- Part 1 – What seems to be the problem?
- Part 2 – To get what you want, you need to know what you want.
- Part 3 – Make them feel it