Ahh, the joys of launching a brand-new website for your small business! You crunched the numbers. You listened to the experts. You spent the time and money getting everything exactly how you like it. Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and let the profits roll in.
Not so fast.
No matter how much you spent on your new website, eventually that brand-new site with all the bells and whistles is going to become a relic of the past. Website maintenance is like home ownership: you’re never officially “done.” (Think of all those houses that haven’t been updated since the 1980’s. Ouch.)
Which leads you to wonder: “How often should I redesign my website? Am I done for the next decade or am I gonna have to keep doing this every year?”
As it turns out, there’s plenty of good reasons to regularly redesign your small business website. (And we’re not just saying that to keep ourselves in business.) But how do you make sure those tweaks and updates fall into the healthy medium between “piddly fiddling” and “excessive overhaul”? Here are some good guidelines to follow.
1. Whenever Your Website Stops Working For You
Your website has a clear purpose: to support your business on the internet. If any part of that arrangement starts to fall apart, that’s a clear sign that your website isn’t pulling its own weight and needs to be redone.
So what does a freeloader website look like?
You want more customers and/or web traffic.
Maintaining adequate web traffic (or, more importantly, paying customers) to your site is the rent that your website pays for existing.
If your brick and mortar location started seeing a drop in foot traffic, you’d change something, right? Maybe make the entrance look a little more inviting, or launch an event to capitalize on the crowd exiting the yoga studio across the street.
Redesigning your website to improve the SEO, aesthetics, and content of your site can increase traffic, paying customers, and (most importantly) your income.
Unlike your social media page, your website design is your digital storefront. You have control! If it’s not enticing your users, you can change it up.
Your website goals aren’t being met.
If you have a good web designer, your site was created with a specific set of goals in mind. An extra $2,000 of income per month. Thirty percent increase in form submissions. Knowing where you want to go is a crucial part of getting there. But it’s important to have long-term goals for your small business website, too.
If any of your goals aren’t being met—you’re falling short, plateauing, or even losing ground—a website redesign can help you catch up.
You need different bells and/or whistles.
No technological evolution happens overnight. First, an idea has to be spread, then it has to be implemented, and only years after it’s introduced does it start to feel ubiquitous.
Cars didn’t used to have seatbelts; now they’re required. Smart phones used to be only for Silicon Valley CEOs; now they’re standard.
Website tech is no different. One specific example is responsive website design. Ten years ago, people only viewed websites on their desktops or laptops. But mobile users outnumbered desktop users four years ago. That’s an eternity in the internet world.
If your website has outdated features (like visit counters) or needs new ones (like a blog), it’s time to consider redoing your website.
Your current website is simply not working.
For your website to work for you, it has to…well, “work.”
If your site consistently experiences “404” error codes, crashing, slow load times, viruses, and other digital headaches, it might be time to redo your website.
Good web developers have tons of tricks up their sleeves to fix website issues and make sure they don’t happen again. Anti-virus plugins and SSL certificates can stop hackers from using your site to infect other computers (including yours). Moving your site to an updated server increases the number of simultaneous visitors your website can handle.
People often think website issues are limited only to their computer or that they’re just part of owning a website. But a failing website is like a house that doesn’t meet code. Even if you don’t care about the aesthetics of your site, you should at least make sure it’s not going to crumble down around you.
Your site is unattractive.
As much as we like to sing the praises of search engine optimization, it’s also important to remember that computers don’t buy from you. People do. And people like things that are attractive.
If your site is messy, disorganized, unappealing, cluttered, or just plain looks old, that’s like trying to sell a house that hasn’t been updated since the ’70’s. Ew.
Redesigning your website to make it look more attractive can improve how your customers see you. Do you want to be seen as the Dollar General of your industry? Or the Williams Sonoma?
2. When Your Industry Demands It
If you’ve been in your chosen industry a while, you know that things change.
This is true of every business, from antique dealing to IT consulting. Even if the product doesn’t change (and sometimes it shouldn’t; remember “New Coke”?), the methods you use to develop, market, and communicate about your product change all the time.
And when you’re talking about technology (i.e. websites), things change even faster.
If we’re going to continue our house renovation analogy (spoiler alert: we are), this is the part where you make sure your renovations are on par with comparable homes in the area. (Notice how we said “on par with,” not “the same as.”)
You wouldn’t want to be selling the only home in the neighborhood that has Formica counters instead of granite. So you don’t want your site to be the only one that doesn’t have a certain feature or doesn’t show up on Google.
But this is also the perfect opportunity to roll out an innovation for your industry. The world is full of products that were originally invented for one purpose, but become popular for something else. If you have an idea for using a new technology for your specific business or industry, get a web developer working on it!
It’s okay to be the only one doing something, as long as you’re the first.
3. When a Certain Amount of Time Goes By
Even after all that, some of you are probably still looking for a clear-cut answer. So we’ll give you one: redesigning your website every 2-3 years is a good benchmark. This ensures that you stay current without overdoing it.
In the rare case that you don’t need to change a thing on your website after 3 years (so rare that it’s never happened), you should at least change the copyright year on the bottom of your page. That’s a surefire indicator to your visitors of how much effort you put into your site and therefore, how fresh your content is.
By the way, this isn’t limited to websites. This post was updated in 2017 nearly two years after its initial publication.
In the end, you should redesign your website as much as you need to as often as you need to. But the only way to know whether you need to is to know your business inside and out.
Having a website can be both a good visual reminder of how much time has gone by since you last examined your business and a way to track how successful your efforts have been.
If you’re concerned about the website redesign cost putting your company out of business, then just focus on the updates you need most and do the full makeover when you and your budget are ready.
(Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2015 and has been updated to expand on our initial ideas and to remain current.)
Clarity Creative Group is a web design & internet marketing company located in beautiful Orlando, Florida. When you think about it, New Coke was a horrible idea for soda, but a fantastic marketing idea.