If you're reading this, your company, department, or organization probably already has a website. That website probably works. But how do you know when it's time to make some changes?
As a design and development agency, we see a lot of different websites. Sites should be built, and maintained, in such a way as to fulfill the needs of your business or organization. The short answer to when it's time for a new website is when your old website is no longer fulfilling those business needs. But how do you know? The best way to know for sure is to do a site-wide audit of all of your content and features... (and if you're looking for someone to provide that service, do reach out to us!) However, short of doing a full audit, there are some key triggers that should make you start thinking about a re-vamp.
- Your business model has changed. We recently had a long-time client approach us for a website re-vamp after only about a year. Naturally, we had a major question: Why? We wanted to know what wasn't working about their current site. They quickly told us that their current site was working great, except that they had completely changed the model of their organization and were moving away from published papers to more collaborative, on-going projects. That means their site wasn't working for them anymore. We quickly embarked on a new information architecture to highlight the new focus of their organization.
- Your audience has changed. Working with a lot of higher ed clients means that we're very familiar with the effect that a turnover in student body can have on audience motivations and needs. While of course college campuses have turn-over in their audience often, this applies to most organizations. Our audiences are all becoming more tech-savvy, and they're increasingly using devices other than traditional desktop computers. While responsive web design has now become de rigueur, we must all prepare for whatever is next. Maybe your audience is using screenless smart home devices to access their information, or maybe they're using a new operating system that you haven't optimized for. Google Analytics can offer you some of this information, and directly interacting with your constituents can let you know that your site is no longer serving your audience. Maybe the vehicle for the information is fine, but your new audience members want different resources and language than you've been using.
- Your content editors are frustrated. We've seen this happen many times. You build a site that's perfectly optimized for content entry and everyone's happy. Flash forward a bit, and your content editors keep complaining about how "clunky" it is to enter content. Usually, this means content needs have changed. For instance, you've built a beautiful event content type optimized for a single-day event with multiple sessions. Now, your organization has grown and you hold multi-day events with different tracks for different attendees. Of course the content entry will feel clunky... You need to re-build the content type! If you have clear documentation and your content editors are increasingly frustrated with making updates, it's probably time to do some internal focus groups and consider a re-vamp.
- Your values have changed. Design and language reflect values. As organizations grow and change, sometimes a website will just stop "feeling right." This is likely a sign of value-clash. Maybe there are bright colors on your site that seem to clash with your mindful approach to education. Maybe long paragraphs of text are clashing with your organization's desire to feel approachable. This sort of re-vamp requires a lot of organizational soul-searching, but ultimately makes a big impact on how you appear to the world.
- It's been 3 years. There's no hard and fast rule about how often you should update your website. How often do you re-organize your living room? Some people do it every spring like clock-work; some people are constantly moving things around and updating old furniture and decor; and some folks can live in a space for several years before even getting so much as a new throw pillow. Likewise, every organization has a different tolerance to design that feels old-fashioned and features that aren't optimized to current practices. We've found that most companies that haven't done any re-thinking of their site for 3 years are in the position of gaining quite a lot by totally re-imagining their entire site at that point. Your mileage may vary, but we've seen a lot of dusty websites :)