The Old Web Development Model Is Broken
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
It’s time to change the way we think about maintaining websites. As most often is the case, a client will call on us every few years and say “We need a new website”. This often becomes an expensive and massive undertaking even on a small website because almost every aspect of the site is now outdated. Instead of making minor changes to the site we end up having to throw everything out and start over.
By encouraging this behavior of ‘the four year silence’ as I call it, I don’t feel we are giving our clients the service they deserve or should expect from us. I feel that to truly maintain a website we, as a company, should meet with clients every two or three months and here are some reasons why.
The Internet is a rapidly changing environment. The ways in which I built websites in 1997 are completely different than they are now. Common tools used today, like jQuery and AJAX, hadn’t been created yet. Flash was in its infancy and the CSS 1 specification had just been published by the W3C a year before. Can you believe that some of the first web pages were nothing more than black text on a white background? Look at any website, even this one, and you can see how far we’ve come since then. In another thirteen years the Web will be a completely different place than it is today.
The point is that the tools used to make websites today, may well be outdated in another four years, especially if we can get rid of Internet Explorer 6 and get all browser manufacturers to fully embrace HTML 5 and CSS 3.
By making gradual improvements to not only the visual aspects of the site, but the code running those pages you retain your relevance to prospective customers and for that matter, search engines.
STAY AHEAD OF YOUR COMPETITION
As a business owner, you know who your direct competition is. I’m sure they know about you as well. By letting your site stay stagnant without updating the content from time to time you give them a competitive advantage over you.
One way in which to do that is by a process called A/B Testing. A/B testing is a means in which you test two different pages of similar content to determine which one reaches your goals more often. After a period of time, generally about 30 conversions, a winner is selected and one experiment is used in place of the other. This can be applied to buttons, headlines, page copy, media or whole pages.
By comparing your pages to those of your competitors, making adjustments to market changes and product or service announcements, you can consistently stay one step ahead of them, rather than play catch up with every new site version.
FIND WEAKNESSES IN YOUR SITE
Even with all manner of planning, wire-framing, and optimization your website may have some weaknesses. You may find the content that you thought would be heavily viewed is being ignored, forms aren’t being completed or a specific page has a very high bounce rate.
I’ll give you an example of a lesson we learned from our own site. Originally we had our Facebook, Twitter, and newsletter signup forms located in the footer of our pages. We went for months without any subscribers. By moving them to the top of the page, we are now getting increased interest to all three sources.
These weaknesses can be corrected along with A/B testing to find which is the best solution to a particular problem.
When you make a commitment to maintain your goals over the lifespan of a website, you remain relevant, stay ahead of your competition and adjust your marketing to reflect changes as needed while keeping costs down.