Sunday, December 6, 2009

Five Signs Your Website Needs an Upgrade

I'm planning on relaunching one of my clients' sites in the next day or so.  (Hopefully this afternoon!)

The site needed an overhaul.  It was created in about 2003 and SDOC was asked to take over maintenance in early 2006. 

My client decided to do a top-to-bottom review of their site this year and not a moment too soon.  It had been three years since anyone sat down and really sifted through what was availalbe and what needed to be included or dumped.

I've done a lot of jobs like this - polishing up websites that are diamonds in the rough.  It's easy to let your website slide and let information get dated or obsolete sections stay around.  So below are the clues that I have learned over the years that it's time to upgrade your site.

1)  Your look and feel are three years old or more

The Internet is about life changing at a fast pace.  Fashions in color and design change rapidly.  Most sites need a fresh new look at least every three years.  If your design was done a couple of years ago, talk to your web professional about a new look.

2)  Animations using GIFs or JavaScripts, or MIDI sound effects

If you created your own website back in the '90s you were probably tempted to use these then-new multimedia features.  Today, they're usually just old and dated.  Too many JavaScripts can slow down even the latest computer on a fast connection.  Plus, many firewalls are programmed to detect these scripts as potential viruses.

I'll never say that older design technologies are never useful. Every time I decide some technique is hopelessly obsolete I run across that one project where it's perfect.

When it comes to animation, video, sound or any multimedia, less is more.  If you're going to use this technique, stick to ONE per site.  Try to use Adobe (R) Flash if possible rather than the old-fashioned animated GIFs.  Lose the MIDIs:  if your web professional is absolutely sure that your site calls for sound, use MP3s embedded in a Flash element and make sure the visitor has an easy way to turn it off. 

3)  Site Counters

Site counters sprouted up as soon as JavaScript hit the web in the late 1990s.  They were cutesy gadgets that took some skill to include at the time, and it was just about the only way most small companies and not-for-profits could track their page visits.

Dump 'em.  No one needs a site counter on their business website any more.  All reputable web hosting companies have comprehensive site statistics available or included in their hosting package.  What used to be a snazzy technique is yesterday's news.  Ask your hosting provider about comprehensive site statistics, they provide much more valuable information.

4)  Popup or Sidebar Ads Placed By Your Hosting Provider

"Free" web hosts are going the way of the dodo.  They were great for families or groups with no budget.  In this day of Facebook and MySpace, even those folks don't need a host that puts popup ads all over their page.

If you are serious about your business, be serious about how your website looks and its first impression.  Third-party ads that have nothing to do with you and your company tell your visitors that you're not really in control of your business.  Professional hosting is inexpensive enough that any business of any size can take advantage of it. 

5) Outdated HTML

 You don't have to be a website expert to notice when the source code needs updating.  Are the fonts slightly different on each page?  Or even within a page?  If your pages are updated by a staff member, do they have trouble making sure the text color is constant?  And that the size is correct?  Is it hard to add new pictures or any graphic elements without throwing off whatever was already on the page?   Does your site look different on a newer computer screen than on an older one?  If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then your HTML itself needs to be reviewed and updated.  Current website coding techniques make it easier to keep your site's appearance consistent and precisely place all of your content.  Ask your web professional to review the source code to see if it can be modernized. 

Maintaining the architecture of a website can be time-consuming with all of the details that need attention.  Make sure your web professional is on top of it so you can stay on top of your business!

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