As a consumer and tech PR agency, we sometimes field journalist questions on matters that should be on a client website, or we actually get media complaints about the site. So we have to ask, is your website helping your PR efforts? Are you getting the results you need? Have inbound inquiries steadily risen? Is content generating engagement?
Like fashion, websites become dated, and when that happens, it discourages interest. And just like home redesign, your site may just need a “fresh coat of paint” or a total “tear-down.”
Here’s what to consider when pondering a site refresh, reface or redesign. An industry rule of thumb is to redesign roughly every two years, but it’s wiser to look at what the site is delivering to determine what, and if, you need to change.
When to refresh. If the site is performing well, consider cost-effective ways for incremental improvement. Remove dated posts or promotional offers and ensure you constantly add fresh content. These could be new products or services, timely and provocative blog posts, or media coverage. If search engine optimization is your main concern, then a change or upgrade in technology on the back end will provide the update you need.
A good first step is to put yourself in the mind of a journalist or customer and go through the entire site to see how appealing it is aesthetically, how easy it is to navigate and whether there is any incorrect or outdated information. Often a refresh is as simple as adding fresh case studies, personnel bios and head shots, or upgrading your site photography – all information that will interest customers and help PR efforts.
When to reface. Start with an audit to see what works and what can be improved. A reface is recommended when the template for the site is considered sound but certain strategic and creative changes are necessary to make the site work harder for your marketing and PR. It’s smart to begin by partnering with your PR team to re-examine core messaging to develop the clearest and most accurate version.
Next a website designer will go page by page through the site to help edit or replace existing content, particularly with new images (original or royalty-free stock) and sometimes with navigation. Often the mission of your site has evolved and it may now be important to explore a shopping cart plug-in or other interactive sales or data-gathering tool.
Part of the design partner’s creative outline will be a vision for the restructured sitemap that will be more appealing to all audiences – customers, potential business partners and press. Once the creative and strategic recommendations are accepted, the programmer will make the necessary changes.
When to redesign. A complete website overhaul is necessary when your company’s mission has drastically evolved, you find your site is “out of touch” or is simply not performing by expected metrics. For example, how busy is your site? Have reporters contacted you in frustration looking for basic info? Are your SEO/SEM efforts just not working?
Start by mapping out the goals of your website – to generate more visitors, leads, customers, media attention, etc. Put all pertinent info into a business plan for the site. Once committed to the overhaul, look at websites you admire and seek out the design talent behind them. Talk to trusted advisors and other business partners. Discuss both budgets and timing frankly, since both can throw major curve balls at your day-to-day operations.
But go for quality! Resist the urge to hire “my nephew who’s home from college and very good with computers” or say “maybe we’ll just design it ourselves, how hard can it be?”
Remember, if your business is being judged by your website (as so many businesses are) and the site is giving the wrong impression about your company, this is a prime reason to talk redesign.