If you’ve been around the internet for a while, you probably remember the days when flashing text, hit counters, and under construction signs were de rigueur. Your business’s website might not be on Geocities (TimesSquare represent!) or have tinkly auto-playing midi music, but that doesn’t mean it’s not desperately in need of an update. Here are five signs your website needs a refresh.

1. It’s Not Responsive

By responsive, we don’t just mean mobile-friendly. We mean mobile first.

Because more people are searching for websites on their smartphones, Google now looks at the mobile version of your website when determining rankings. If Google puts a greater emphasis on your mobile presence, so should you. Unfortunately, most small businesses take the opposite approach.

When you’re at work, you’re probably on a computer; when you’re writing a blog post or viewing your site, you’re likely on a computer too. Your experience with your website is mostly on the computer, so it’s easy to have the mindset that it’s the web-based version that counts, and the mobile version is just an extra that’s nice to have.

If your site is unresponsive—in other words, the same design shows up on desktop, laptop, and mobile devices—you need to update your website yesterday. (And since yesterday isn’t possible unless you have a time machine, right now will have to do.) Setting aside SEO, you owe it to your customers to have a usable website. No one wants to pinch and zoom on text, scroll left and right to read sentences that don’t fit the screen, or try to figure out how to navigate a site where clicking one menu option always leads to a different page than they intended.

Even if you do have a responsive website, it might not be as usable on mobile as it should be, particularly if it was designed several years ago. Best practices have changed, as have user expectations. Use Google’s mobile-friendly test tool to see if your site is really responsive according to today’s standards. Still not sure? Ask people you know to look at your business’s website on their phones and give you their honest opinion.

But almost none of my website’s traffic is from mobile devices! Why should I optimize for mobile?

Well, it could be that you’re not getting traffic from mobile devices because your website isn’t optimized for them. There’s no excuse or reason not to have a responsive website. Nope! None!

2. It’s Hard to Navigate

Some web designers are all about appearances, not so much about usability. The result is often websites that are difficult, if not impossible, to navigate. (But hey, at least they look good, right?) Here are some common mistakes we see on the navigability front:

  • A blog that has no way to view or navigate to older posts.
  • Navigation is not optimized for mobile, making menu options hard to read and tap on.
  • Repetitive menu options.
  • Too many menu options.
  • Not enough menu options.
  • Drop down menus that don’t function properly.

Although it doesn’t necessarily require a redesign to remedy, another issue we see are businesses using cutesy labels for menu options instead of letting people know exactly what they can expect when clicking. The example we always give is an ice cream company that had menu options for Cowtastic Flavors and Moolicious Flavors. What makes a flavor Cowtastic as opposed to Moolicious? How does a potential customer know which one to click on? It’s still a mystery to us. 

3. It Looks Outdated

Do you cringe at the thought of someone you know visiting your business’s website? If you know it looks bad, it’s time to update it. Your website is the first interaction many—if not most!—customers will have with your business and if it makes the wrong impression, you’ve lost them right out the gate.

In other cases, you might not know your website looks outdated. You could be so used to the way it looks, it’s hard to take a step back and look at it from an outside perspective. This is another situation in which we recommend having people you trust give you their honest feedback.

The rule of thumb is that a website should be updated about every 5 years, although this is also for security and functionality, not just aesthetics. Other clues that your website is visually behind-the-times include:

  • Color schemes that were on-trend years ago, but not so much today.
  • Small images—modern website design embraces larger images because devices can handle increased bandwidth.
  • A cluttered, busy design as opposed to sleek, streamlined, and minimalist.
  • Your competitors all have better looking websites than you do.

You may think an outdated website isn’t a big deal, but it’s the same as if your restaurant had stains all over the carpet or if your dental practice had holes in the upholstery in the waiting room. It sends a message that you just don’t care very much about the impression you make.

4. It Doesn’t Do Its Job

Some businesses seem to have websites because, well, that’s what you do, right? When you have a business, you need a website! It’s not enough just to have a presence on the web, though. Your website has a job and that job is marketing your business.

One sign that your website isn’t doing its job is that it has a high bounce rate. The bounce rate is a metric from Google Analytics that measures the number of visitors who come to your website and leave without navigating to another page. While some pages naturally have a higher bounce rate than others, if this is something you’re seeing across the board, it’s a sign that something is wrong with your website. 

Another sign that your website isn’t helping grow your business is if your conversion rate is low. It’s great to have visitors to your website, but you want to turn those visits into money. You may need to add clearer calls to action, improved navigation, content that is better aligned with your digital advertising messages, or a combination of all of these.

Finally, if your website isn’t getting search traffic from Google at all—or, at least, very little of it—it’s also not working for you. Low search engine traffic can be due to a number of factors, including website structure. For example, if your website is lacking separate, optimized pages for each of your products and services, that’s something you can address in a website redesign. 

5. It Doesn’t Work Well

Research from Google has shown that most people will leave a website if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds. If your website is slow, you’re likely to lose potential customers to the competition. In addition, Google uses site speed as a ranking factor, so a slow website can hurt your business in multiple ways.

Maybe your site loads, but it’s full of bugs — links that don’t work, images that are broken, text that doesn’t line up properly. Not only are these frustrating for users, but they’re also another sign that you don’t care or don’t pay attention to details. You don’t want people walking away with either of these ideas about your business.

Some business owners attempt piecemeal solutions for these problems and while they can work, if your website is of a certain age, it usually just makes sense to do a complete redesign. A website can only be patched up and bandaged so much before it breaks—kind of like in the old cartoons where they stick gum in the holes of a dam to stop the water from going through. 

The Bottom Line

If you’ve read through these reasons and you suspect it’s time for a website redesign, you’re probably right!

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