I get asked this question often — accompanied by a tinge of fear or panic.
What if my website is underperforming? How would I know? Am I missing out on potential business? Why haven’t I thought about my website for a year?
It’s a good question, but it’s typically motivated by the wrong reason.
The Wrong Reason
Often, thinking about your website doesn’t resurface until you are forced to look at it. Many times practice owners are approached by a marketing company that voices concern about serious problems on their website.
It’s a scary thought. But that’s why they do it.
It’s the equivalent of taking your car to a mechanic for an oil change and leaving with a new engine and transmission because they told you that you needed it.
Many of these marketing companies depend on small-business owners lacking technical knowledge. They send thousands of these boilerplate emails and hope to scare you into buying a brand-new website.
Contrary to what these companies preach, you don’t always have to completely redesign your website.
Steady improvements to an existing website will typically provide a better return than building a new website every year. Improvements can take the form of updating your photography and images, writing new content for your website, or making minor layout or text changes to drive higher conversions.
Now, take a deep breath, set aside any panic or fear, and let’s talk about the right reasons for building a new website.
The Right Reasons
Remember that choosing to build a new website is an important business decision. You must weigh the costs and benefits of a redesign versus updating your existing website.
Begin by evaluating your business objectives. Understanding your objectives will guide what type of website is needed. This way you and your webmaster both have the same goals in mind for the end product.
Now evaluate the following five areas of website performance to determine if it’s the right time for you to redesign.
Google reports that in the U.S., “94% of people with smartphones search for local information on their phones.” If you don’t have a website that adapts to smartphones, prospective patients will leave the site because of a bad user experience.
Even within our older demographic, tablets and smartphones have been adopted rapidly. Pew Research Center has reported the following about our primary demographic and technology:
- In 2014, 27% of adults ages 65+ and 54% of adults ages 50-64 owned smartphones
- In 2015, 32% of adults ages 65+ and 37% of adults ages 50-64 owned tablets
Because smartphones and tablets are produced with screens of all shapes and sizes, the best practice is to have a mobile-responsive website. Mobile-responsive websites adjust to fit any screen. The content reorganizes its layout, ensuring the best user experience regardless of the device.
Google has recommended to webmasters concerned with search engine optimization (SEO) that they not only build mobile-responsive websites but that they create a strong user experience. Mobile websites should contain all the same content and possible actions as their desktop counterparts. The text and images should be legible; the menus, pages, and buttons should be easy to navigate as well.
Additionally, not meeting these requirements can lead to poor performance on Google’s search engine results page.
There is a great resource, produced by Google, that allows you to test your website.
If you find that your website is not mobile responsive, then you need to have your website redesigned.
Digital Analytics Underperforming
There are thousands of factors that you can track through web analytic tools like Google Analytics. It can be daunting to determine what the key performance indicators are for your website and benchmark them.
To determine whether your website needs to be redesigned, I would review — or ask your marketing team to review — the following metrics:
- Are the number of phone calls from your website increasing over time or decreasing?
- Are the number of online form submissions from your website increasing over time or decreasing?
- Are the number of unique sessions coming to your website increasing over time or decreasing?
- If you are tracking conversions such as phone calls or form submissions:
- Are you seeing your conversion rate (number of conversions divided by number of sessions) increase over time?
- Are you seeing your bounce rate increase without an improvement in your conversions?
Please note that a trend is best observed compared year over year and quarter over quarter. Month-to-month comparisons don’t constitute a trend.
An important thing to remember, even if your analytics indicate a steady drop in your results, is that this still does not require building a new website. We work with practices that see declining results, and through our optimization efforts, they are able to turn the tide without redesigning the entire website.
When you buy a house, you expect that the contractor built everything compliant with code and that it all functions properly. Having a decrepit foundation or bad plumbing in your home can be disastrous. Equally, having hidden issues in the code structure of your website can hamper your SEO performance and user experience.
I always recommend to business owners to have their websites built on Content Management Systems (CMS) instead of hard-coded in HTML. Most CMS are built specifically to appease search engine spiders so that they scan quickly and efficiently.
CMS have the benefit of using a consistent interface for web developers and allow for the owner to have access to the website to write content. We use and highly recommend using WordPress, which now powers one in four websites (26.6%). Working on WordPress also allows for an easy transition between webmasters as well.
Ask your current webmaster if your website is built on a CMS or hard-coded in HTML.
There are hundreds of factors to consider with your website structure, including meta descriptions, schema structure, and broken links.
If you’d like an in-depth technical assessment of your website, our team would be happy to perform one for you.
Bad User Experience
Users need to be able to navigate your website easily to find the information they are searching for. Open up your website and ask yourself the following questions:
- Can you navigate the website menu easily?
- Is your content divided up into different types of headings?
- Does your website load quickly?
- Navigating through your site, do you see any broken links or images?
- Do all of the buttons and icons function properly?
You can also ask your webmaster to send you a report or grant you access to Google Webmaster Tools so you can see how Google thinks your website is performing.
If you notice significant problems, errors, or difficulty navigating the website, it may be time to consider building a new website.
Another user-experience issue may be that your content doesn’t accurately represent your brand, services, or what your users are searching for. This requires taking time to think about what the users are searching for and then tailoring your content and website redesign to meet those needs.
This is the most common reason that people want to build a new website. I specifically saved this for last because this shouldn’t be the first thing you consider.
We have many Members who get tired of the way their website looks and feel like they need to spice it up. It’s easy to forget that while you and your webmaster may see the website daily, weekly, or monthly, many of these users are seeing it for the first time.
There are benefits to keeping the same website and not making massive changes to it. Returning users build familiarity with the layout, leading to ease of use and a better user experience. By studying website analytics, you can test changes to your website incrementally to improve conversions. Google also won’t have to re-index your website as a new website frequently, which can cause disruptions to your performance on Google’s search results page.
Often I hear people complain that websites are starting to look more and more alike. While unique website design can have a positive impact if executed properly, some studies have shown that users follow a consistent pattern of eye-tracking when looking at a webpage. Heat maps have shown that an “F-pattern” emerges when analyzing how users engage with website content.
Most website templates and themes use this principle now to make the user experience seamless. Consistency in patterns allows for users to focus less on the navigation and more on the content you are providing.
This is especially important when webmasters show you all the amazing things they can do. It’s easy to add video as a background to a webpage and can be very exciting to the business owner. But features like these should only be added if they are relevant and proven to drive better conversions. Don’t sacrifice leads for gimmicks.
Even small updates can make a huge difference. Replacing stock photography with custom professional photos will not only add credibility but will also help set your website apart from your competitors.
That being said, the internet evolves quickly. If you haven’t updated your website design in more than five years, it’s likely time to redesign it. The themes and templates that are available now are much cleaner and easier to use, and they will be much more aesthetically pleasing.
Make Your Website a Priority
If you found that you do need a new website, make sure you have the right partner in a webmaster or a digital marketing team behind you. At Audigy Group, we love managing Members’ websites so they can get back to their business. We take the time to educate our Members about digital marketing as well, so they are able to make strategic digital marketing decisions in partnership with our team.
As exciting as it is to have a new website, it’s not a silver bullet. Nothing can replace analyzing your web analytics regularly, developing strategic and thoughtful content, and evolving your website over time to meet those needs. And whether you need a website redesign or not, I encourage you to recommit to making your website a priority.