March 3, 2015
With the rapid pace of changing technology, websites have a limited optimal shelf-life. After just afew short years, even the most progressive site can begin to look outdated and yield diminished returns. You can blame modern society, of course – as our lives become increasing saturated with technology, so to do our expectations change for the user experience we want to encounter online. You can examine the human factors of modern communication – the emergence of smartphones and social media has changed (and continues to change) the very habits and vernacular of our society.
So, to think that these factors don’t influence how consumers interact with your website is short-sighted. Underestimate the rate and degree to which this change is occurring and one risks failing to effectively engage the modern-day consumer.
When faced with sites that are underperforming, we, as marketers, are often asked to “fix” a site that should actually be replaced. The words “update”, “rework” and “reskin” always concern me. It’s usually what a client says when they need a full website redesign, but won’t or can’t afford it. However, in my experience, half-measures are generally less than half effective. This is because they typically fail to leverage a deeper user-centered design approach and thus, fail to address the underlying user-experience (UX) and functional deficiencies that are at the heart of poor site performance. The superficial cosmetic fixes associated with a simple website update can’t address larger taxonomy, responsive design or social integration issues, nor will they resolve functional issues caused by legacy systems or outdated coding standards.
Still, what’s a client to do when faced with the reality of a faltering site and a seemingly tight budget?
Here’s some advice:
1) Spread the investment
Your digital strategy is likely the most important aspect of your marketing budget, with all channels leadingback to web properties of some sort. Likewise, IT is probably the lion’s share of your operations budget. Consider that a new site can often include functionality which provides operational improvements and spreads the cost across all departments from which the project will benefit.
2) Build a new revenue stream
Often improved conversion is reason enough. But, if new business from the website won’t predictively off-set the cost of development, then perhaps the issue is deeper than digital marketing. Sometimes a new revenue vertical can be discovered and implemented with the same development effort. Looking at the effort as an investment rather than an expense can loosen the purse strings.
3) Start with UX
Visual appeal often bothers us the most, but it isn’t always the greatest barrier to conversion. Rather than sinking money into a “reskin,” start with a usability analysis to lead your site revision efforts. This will give you a more informed approach and will allow you to prioritize your efforts to get the most value out of the revisions you do make.
4) Use a phased approach
Start small and build a site in iterative phases. This can improve speed to market and spread the investment out over a broader period of time.
5) Mobile/Social first
Lead by the millennial generation. We have become a society that increasingly turns to our mobile devices first when accessing the net and social media is often the first place we go . This changes the fundamental design of what a site should be. Build a responsive site on a much smaller scale that is more appealing to the mobile user. Leverage social media to host content that might otherwise be piled on your site in new forms. Paring down a large site to its essential content for this purpose can reduce the cost to produce the site while improving its effectiveness.
The key is to look at any website development project as an opportunity to improve a business holistically and allocate the budget based on its potential to do so. In this digital age, administrative, operational, and fulfillment efficiencies can often be accomplished through one’s site to provide strategic advantages.
Next, understand that websites are fundamentally changing – consider the brand experience created by the site and its interrelation with social media. Know too that often this experience will a mobile one viewed in context of the moment. Budgeting with these factors in mind can help even the most cost-conservative company find ways to embrace a sound investment.
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