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Posted: February 21, 2014

Is your website obsolete?

How to know -- and what to do

Keith Roberts

What’s the lifespan of a website? Just like with trends in clothing or architecture, a new site’s design style will be out of date in two to three years — and relatively obsolete in five.

Technology and the tools we use to communicate, which change rapidly and make it difficult to predict and plan for what the future holds, determine a website’s lifespan. Hopefully, the content on a website remains current with updated news/events, content, and blog posts. But it’s important to keep in mind that with new browser capabilities and constantly changing web trends, the look and feel of a site and the way the site was developed are critical to business success.

A great example of a paramount shift over the last 24 months is Responsive Web Design (RWD).  RWD was first introduced in May 2010; by 2012, it was number two in top web trends. Any mobile version of a website that was launched in those 24 months was almost instantly out of date. In 2013, mobile web browsing surpassed desktop access. Google recommended handling mobile/tablet sites with RWD. Google has gone beyond rewarding sites that are responsive with positive organic search placement; now, Google search negatively impacts a site that is not responsive.

Think about it: if Google search result placement matters to your business, a non-responsive website is 100 percent obsolete based on a technology that is barely three years old.

Once you have overcome the monumental task of driving a potential customer to your site, it’s critical to engage them. A website that feels dated doesn’t convey confidence, and some people will disengage immediately. The User Experience must be intuitive and appealing in today’s exceedingly competitive online marketplace. Our attention span as users is measured in nanoseconds, and if a site takes too long to load or it is complicated to find the desired content, another large percentage of potential customers will go elsewhere.

The web is constantly changing and improving. With the boundaries of new browser functionality on desktops continuing to evolve, and with science fiction-like technology becoming commonplace on our cell phones and tablets, designers and developers must stay on top of and utilize present-day methods. Web standards continue to evolve and create order on the Web, but it will always be an ongoing process.

It was Socrates (and Ted Theodore Logan) who said, “The only true knowledge is knowing you know nothing.” As smart as we think we are, it’s critical to look at a customer’s behaviors and abandonment points and then look for opportunities to improve engagement. By testing conversion, we can learn what’s effective and evolve based on the way people interact with a site.

When we started really digging into the analytics of our own website, I was shocked to find that Zenman’s “team” page was the most visited. If I had continued to assume I knew what my potential customers where looking at, we would have lost a huge opportunity for engagement. Instead, we learned from our visitors and modified our content to include calls to action that engage with potential customers. This has helped us to capture contact details for ongoing nurturing campaigns, while allowing potential clients to look at pictures of the team they might be working with.

No matter what industry you’re in, the website is an absolutely critical element to your success. A company’s website is its online sales person with 100 percent of its content correct and available to clients 24/7, 365 days a year. Planning to replace this asset every two to four years in the budget will keep businesses current with what’s trending online.

This doesn’t mean you need to scrap everything and start from scratch. It is an opportunity to look at your analytics and build something new based on what that information tells you. (At Zenman, we do a competitive analysis of our website quarterly to make sure we don’t fall behind.) By being proactive rather than reactive, you’re able to budget and plan accordingly for a website redesign.

It isn’t an overnight process. The time that goes into developing an effective website that performs well against the measurable goals set in place is significant. But for any kind of business, the payoff of having a beautiful, easily-navigated website is significant, too.

President and Founder Keith Roberts founded Denver-based Zenman in 1998 after working with several top artists and agencies. Zenman, which offers web development, design, SEO and more, produces inventive concepts that are visually pleasing, informative and provocative. Contact him at keith@zenman.com

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