By Leighton Burley
Modern, beautiful web design is integral to the success of your digital marketing strategy. A well-designed website can showcase your brand and elevate your business above of your competition, while an outdated or poorly-designed site can inhibit the growth of your company. Your website is where prospective clients make first impressions about your business, and it sets the tone for what level of service, expertise, and experience they can expect from you.
While it is true that redesigning your website can be a costly investment, it is often well worth the initial cost over the long term. The additional business generated from a modern, functional website should more than recoup the initial cost of development.
So what constitutes a modern website? Rather than attempting to define it, here’s a short checklist of some of the most obvious indicators that your website is outdated and in need of a refresh.
1. Poor mobile functionality
Only 10 years ago, “mobile friendliness” was an unknown marketing term. Smartphones and the subsequent increase of mobile web search only became popularized in 2007 with the release of the iPhone. Before this time, mobile web search was uncommon—a negligible factor when compared to desktop usage—and was not on the radar of many marketing professionals.
However, since that time, mobile search has become a powerhouse, driving the majority of online search. In fact, 51% of web searches were performed on a mobile device in 2017, meaning that mobile search has become even more important than desktop search. Not only is mobile search on the rise, but optimizing for mobile users should be an essential part of every digital marketing strategy.
If your website isn’t optimized for mobile use, you’re overlooking a major segment of web users and unintentionally setting up your website for failure. Search engines use the mobile functionality of a website as a factor in their ranking algorithm. Ignoring your mobile optimization will result in lower search rankings, costing you sales and leads.
With more and more people relying on their phones to make web searches, you’ll want to make sure that your website performs well for mobile users. Nobody likes to access a mobile website only to find that it is hard to navigate or that it does not display properly on their device. Besides not likely returning to your website after a negative experience, many of these users will not refer your website to their family or friends.
This means that if your website isn’t optimized for mobile use, your customers are likely going to go over to your competitors. You don’t want to lose customers merely because your website didn’t perform well and provided a poor user experience.
2. Slow website speed
As a web user, there’s nothing more annoying than coming across a slow website. It doesn’t matter if your website looks stunning—your web user will quickly become annoyed and leave before they’ve even get a chance to see it.
Let’s face it, web users are somewhat impatient. Modern marketing has primed us to believe that faster is better, and this is reflected in our pursuit of faster devices, internet speed, and communication mediums. As a result, if your website takes longer than three seconds to load (the generally accepted load time for a modern website), you risk losing your user out of impatience. This is referred to, within the marketing world, as “pogo-sticking.” In fact, research by Google has found that 53% of mobile users will leave a website if it doesn’t load within three seconds.
Think about that for a second: More than half of your user base is willing to leave your website and go to a competitor if your website doesn’t load within three seconds. As crazy as this statistic sounds, it only underscores the importance of optimizing your website speed. This is especially important in the case of an e-commerce store where this pogo-sticking will result in a more direct loss of sales.
Slowly-loading websites often fall into one of two classes of site speed issues: User-based issues and website-based issues.
User-based issues are those issues that you have no control over. They are the problems that arise as a result of how the user interacted with the website. These can include slow internet connection, device-related problems, or even the user’s inexperience with technology. There is little you can do to fix user-based issues, as they are out of your control.
Alternatively, website-based issues are due to technical errors within the website that cause it to load and perform more slowly, and are problems we can control. Poor-quality coding, large file sizes, excessive server requests, and unminified or unconcatenated HTML/CSS/JS files are among the most common issues we see when tasked with resolving a slow website. All these issues are the result of poor design and underscore the importance of hiring a quality developer.
Another server-side issue that could be costing you website speed is limited bandwidth due to the limitations of your hosting package. Many websites purchase the bare minimum hosting package to start with, but as time progresses and there’s an increase in web traffic, they never upgrade their hosting package to match the increased user demand. It’s a simple fix, but one that many webmasters and business owners don’t consider when attempting to resolve site speed issues.
If you just want to increase your website speed and don’t want to invest in a website refresh, you could try things like optimizing your images, avoiding excessive redirects, optimizing content, and making your website cacheable, in addition to everything we’ve already covered. However, before you invest in a website redesign, you’ll want to review these tips and make sure that a refresh is warranted. There’s no sense in going through the whole web redesign process to remedy a slow website if the issue can be easily resolved.
3. High bounce rate
A high bounce rate is something that will give any digital marketing an instant headache. Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who visit your website, but click off your website without clicking through any of the other pages on your site.
Let’s say, for example, that your bounce rate is 50%. This would mean that one of every two visitors left your website without clicking on any other pages. This is a huge problem because they didn’t buy anything, or even show enough interest to click around. Their actions suggest that they don’t consider your business to be an option, based on their initial assessment of your landing page. Their first impression of your website and brand told them you weren’t what they were looking for, so they looked elsewhere.
A wide variety of factors can lead to a poor bounce rate. Some of these include your site speed, mobile functionality, UX/UI design, or even content. Part of improving your bounce rate is captivating your audience long enough so they start to look around and genuinely consider you as a solution to their need, whether that is a product, service, or even just information. A good first impression is crucial to increasing your user engagement and improving your bounce rate.
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4. Outdated design
The visual appeal of your website is one of the primary factors that contribute to users’ first impressions of your brand. Within the first seven seconds of landing on your website, your users have already made assumptions about your business, based only on how your site is presented.
We’ve all seen websites that look like they’re from the 1990s and have barely been updated since. What would your first impression be? Would you think the company was modern? I’m guessing not. Most likely, you would assume the company was outdated, had poor customer service, wasn’t a leader in their field, and was, perhaps, even close to shutting down their operations. Yes, something as simple as your website design can cause your customers to make all kinds of assumptions about your business.
User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) are related, but flip sides of the same coin. Both UX and UI combine to engage the user and provide a visually appealing, yet practical experience for the user. Improving your user experience will help engage the user, resulting in improved metrics like “time on page,” bounce rate, and conversion rate. Subsequently, all of these UX/UI improvements help to improve your search ranking, since Google sees that the user found your webpage useful and engaging.
In order to assess whether your website is modern, you have to gain a functional understanding of modern web design. For example, if your website has no photos, outdated content, or has a confusing navigation process, your website probably needs a redesign.
5. You’re still using Flash
In the late ’90s, Flash was the primary media plugin for all websites. Back then, if your website was up-to-date, it would have been using Flash, but nowadays most browsers no longer support it. Because of this, Flash will cause your website to load more slowly, due to diminishing browser support.
Most websites have already said goodbye to Flash, but if you haven’t, then it’s time you had your website redesigned.
Seriously. Modern websites are trending towards a clean, minimalist look, and contain lots of images, infographics, and cleaner blocks of text. Proper user interface design ensures that the user is presented with a clean, functional interface, and that website navigation is logical.
Do I really need a website redesign?
I find that small business owners often have the most trouble identifying that their website is outdated. Even when their website was developed more than 10 years ago, they still feel like “it was just yesterday” and don’t want to commit to another large redesign project—usually due to the initial cost of the investment. Their aversion to another large investment blinds them from seeing the outdated condition of their website, and this can cost them business over time.
If your website suffers from any of these issues, and you are unable to find a simple solution, it may be time for you to invest in a new website. It’s no secret that website development can be a lengthy and costly process. However, as we’ve already stated, while website development might require a substantial investment up front, that cost should be quickly recouped from the benefits the website provides.