Almost every business has a website nowadays, because having an online presence is essential. For starters, it widens your reach among your target audience, and it helps you stay abreast of your competitors – and that’s just for starters.
But just having a website isn’t enough. You need a high-performing, good-looking website that meets the expectations of the modern user.
We’ve written this blog post to help you evaluate your website objectively, to help you recognise when it’s time for a site redesign or even a total site migration.
There are more factors than the following, but these will provide you with a good starting point.
Non-responsive web design
We’ve spoken before about how crucial responsive web design (RWD) is in modern-day web development. Why? Because RWD means that your website will look and feel good on all types of devices – whether it’s a 27” iMac or a Samsung Galaxy smartphone.
Most new websites, when designed by reputable pros, employ the principles of RWD as standard, whereas many websites that were built before 2015 or so do not. In April 2015, Google announced its infamous ‘Mobilegeddon’ algorithm update, which would start to reward mobile-friendly sites with higher rankings on mobile devices, while punishing mobile-unfriendly sites.
The rationale behind this was that smartphone advancement meant an ever-growing number of internet users conducting searches on their mobiles, so Google quite rightly pondered, “Why should we send mobile users to websites that aren’t built with mobile usability in mind?”
Just like clothing and interior design, web design and graphic design are subject to changing trends and fashions. What looks cutting-edge today might look archaic in as little as three or four years’ time.
As web designers, we at The Northern Web probably have a keener or more clinical eye for this than most – but make no mistake, the average end user picks up on outdated aesthetics just the same.
You have to keep moving with the times and updating the look and feel of your website, otherwise you risk coming across as old-fashioned, especially to new users who haven’t come across your business before. You might provide the most expedient service in your sector, but if your website looks five years out of date, many potential customers will never get to find out.
Older websites tend to run more slowly than new ones, and this can be due to a variety of reasons. Here are some very common ones:
- Unnecessary lines of code (
- File-sizes that are way larger than they need to be (e.g. uncompressed images)
- Subpar hosting
There are certain ongoing tweaks you can make to help your website load more quickly, such as compressing image files and fixing small errors in the code with the help of Google Webmaster Tools, but if your website hasn’t had any development TLC in years, you really should get in touch with a developer about a site redesign or even an entirely new website.
High bounce rates
Google Analytics gives you plenty of insight into user behaviour on your website.
If you’re not already familiar with the bounce rate metric, here’s what it means:
The bounce rate is the percentage of users who arrive on your website and then leave without moving on to any additional pages.
You can view the bounce rate for each individual page, and for your website as a whole if you want to, but it’s the individual pages that you want to be examining.
Let’s take the homepage, for example. No matter what your business deals in, whether ecommerce or service-led, whether b2c or b2b, you probably want your users to be progressing past the homepage – viewing products, reading about your services, browsing the blog section, even reading your about-us page.
If your homepage has a 50% bounce rate, you can deduce that half of the people who land on it are intrigued, whereas the other half are unimpressed. On a homepage, that’s probably a bad sign. There’s no golden percentage to chase after when it comes to homepage bounce rate, but it seems reasonable to expect no more than 30% of users to bounce, doesn’t it?
But then on a deeper-level page, such as a category page or your contact-us page, a 50% bounce rate (or higher) might not actually be that bad. Some of these bouncing users might well be previous visitors who are simply returning to check a detail or a price, or to note down a phone number. It all depends on the context of the page.
But generally speaking, having high bounce rates on key pages indicates poor user experience (UX), which in turn suggests that your website as a whole needs a serious review.
Low levels of organic traffic
This feeds into both the slow load-times and the high bounce rates. Let us explain…
Before we begin, it’s important that you know what we mean by ‘organic’ traffic: it’s the collective term for users who arrive at your site via search engines – specifically organic results (i.e. not PPC ads).
If you receive high levels of organic traffic, it’s proof that your website is visible within search engines – which is of course what you want.
(It’s important to note that you should also see healthy levels of other traffic sources – not just organic. ‘Direct’ traffic is users who manually typed your URLs into their address bars, and ‘referral’ traffic is users who have arrived via links on other websites.)
Google examines each website’s bounce rates as a way (one of many) to gauge how useful users are finding it. So if your bounce rates are consistently high, Google may choose not to rank your website as highly anymore – at least not for the search term in question.
Google also looks at your page-loading speeds when deciding where to rank you in a search, and naturally favours faster sites. The consistently slower your website is, the lower you will rank and the fewer numbers of organic visitors you will get.
As such, low levels of organic traffic – whether persistent or recent – can be symptomatic of other issues. But you should never ignore it.
Negative user feedback
One of the best ways to assess your website objectively is to seek the opinions of your customer/client base. These are the people whose opinions really matter, and too few businesses recognise it.
There are several ways to go about obtaining user feedback about your website:
- Send out a survey to your email database
- Put a banner on your website
- Ask them in person
If you choose to incentivise it, which is always an effective way to maximise responses, you should make it clear that constructive criticism is what you’re after here, and that the winner is randomly selected – because respondents might frame their answers under the assumption that only positive feedback will win them the prize.
Get an expert’s opinion
As well as consulting your target audience, you should seek the advice of a specialist web designer/developer. That’s where we can help. We’re experts in web design (including UX and development) as well as graphic design, and can guide you every step of the way.
Give us a call on 0161 532 5166 for a no-obligation chat about your rebuild requirements, or fill out our contact form and we’ll be in touch.