In a perfect world, every business could afford a redesign every two-three years. Ideal maybe, realistic, not-so-much. Whether it’s tight funds, a lack of investment from your company, or technology and timing, pushing for a redesign isn’t always an option. For those of you needing to pinch some pennies or just wanting more time out of your templates, take a deep breath and read these helpful tips. They might just buy you some time before your next upgrade.
Keep Your Content Fresh and Relevant.
You’ve heard it so many times in the last few years it’s almost cliché: “Content is King”. Making sure your content is fresh, informative and relevant to your field today improves your chances of obtaining new customers and can also increase your relevancy and rankings across search engines. So, remember this:
- Quality content increases credibility among visitors and Google.
- Relevant, frequent content improves your search engine rankings and your ability to be found.
- Visitors don’t just enter your site from the homepage, so your landing pages should be well-maintained too.
- Visitors who have to scroll through pages of content to find the answers they need, will abandon your website, fast.
Updating Your Content. By establishing goals for what you want your website to do (sell products/services, inform or educate visitors, increase inquiries, etc…) you can evaluate whether your message is effectively portraying this. Portions of your site may have different goals based on targeted visitors or may enhance one goal by including another (ie. To sell products or services, you may have an educational section for visitors on industry practices, information or products). Overall, your site goals and content should increase value for visitors and make it simple for them to attain.
Where to Start. Whether you’re rock’n a 200+ page website or a 30 page – use a phased approach and remember, not everything needs to be redone. Review your top landing pages and/or most frequently viewed pages and use those as a starting point. Decide where new content is relevant and where content can be eliminated.
Content Creation. Ask yourself, is this something a staff member can do or is this something that should be commissioned by a marketing creative or industry expert? Uncover the pros and cons for each before making a decision (ie. If written in-house, does my staff have the time and resources to devote to this).
Length. Pages that have less than three sentences should have content added to, be combined with another page or eliminated. Generally, content that needs multiple scrolling is too long. Consider condensing or rewriting from a different angle. A good place to be is between 150 and 400 words per page. When lengthy content is needed, break up the flowing text with text titles and/or imagery.
Regardless of whether you can afford a redesign, good content is always key.
Switch Out Photos and Graphics.
Want to make a drastic change to the look of your site? Update your imagery. New and engaging photos can virtually change the entire look of your site with much less investment. Try this tip for your copy area:
Instead of using square-ish images that float to the right of your copy, increase the visual width of your page by adding in horizontal images like this:
Here’s why: Horizontal imagery can create better visual harmony. Because you’re not pushing your copy to the side you get a natural flow from copy to image. This can simplify the look of your site and increase engagement of visitors because they can now see your image at a photo’s natural size (or close to it). Float-aligned imagery does have its place of course, but if you’re site width is narrower, horizontal photos are a great route to go.
An additional note: When using horizontal images in the copy area, try to minimize the use of busy graphics in the sidebar. If your header includes a busy photo or graphic, try to increase the distance between the image in the copy and the image in the header. This will reduce competition between the two and the overkill of visuals.
So how do you obtain these great images? I’m glad you asked:
- Hire a photographer. This option may take a hit to your budget, but, professional-quality photos that showcase your products, industry or business can be used across web and print. Your investment here will pay off in lighting, artistic direction and professional quality.
- Buy a camera. If you can’t afford a professional photographer, a good camera is the next best thing. Anymore, store shelves are stocked with high-quality cameras to match most budgets. A DSLR camera would be a preferred route to go. Starting at $650 and going up in price and quality, you’ll be able to take professional-grade photos whenever needed. Point-and-shoots are also an option. While not as versatile as a DSLR, you can still get a decent shot. Note, by having a camera in the office you can take photos on the fly at events and in the shop.
- Create a stock photography account. Stock photography sites like www.istockphotos.com offer thousands of photo options available for purchase, many ranging between $3 and $20 depending on industry. Payment is based on image and size (when in doubt, buy larger).
- Use photos you already have. If you have great photos on file that showcase the best of your business, use them. Make sure the quality of the photos match today’s standards and any people in the photos reflect today’s trends.
Increase White Space and Simplify.
Many older sites can be inundated with busy navigation, imagery and copy. Reduce this on your site by eliminating duplicate navigation links (that may be found in the header and footer) and replace small, busy graphics with fresher ones (ie, if you have a group of 3-4 pictures in one area, possibly your header or sidebar, reduce this to one image or eliminate them all together and add the photos somewhere where you can display them at a larger scale). By simplifying your pages you increase your visitors’ attention to the information you are providing, hence making your site more effective.
These tips seem pretty accomplishable, right? They’re meant to be. With a little time and talent, your website can have a fresher look on a small budget. And because you put the work into updating your copy now, you’ll be in a better spot to upgrade your site down the road. Best of luck!