People love new stuff. New clothes. New restaurants. A new website. We buy when we’re sad. We buy when we’re happy. We buy when we’re broke. We buy when we’re bored.
That urge to get something new doesn’t stop with physical things. We love anything new. It isn’t a surprise to me that when things aren’t going as well as we’d like with our digital inventory, we opt for a new website.
One of the reasons we like new stuff is because it’s in good condition. It’s shiny. It has that new stuff smell. It will probably last longer than the stuff we currently have. Some of us even convince ourselves that we’ve made an investment. When it comes to getting a new website, you are making a really huge investment. It might be a surprise to you that even though a brand new website is, well, brand new, you could still ruin that brand new website—before you’ve even built it.
Check the scenario:
Rosie’s Flower shop (Rosie…that was unintended) is doing pretty good business. Rosie’s site was getting a more attention when she first launched it, but in the last few months it hasn’t been performing well. The design was really trendy—last year. Rosie believes that a new design would really help to improve her online sales and her number of customer inquiries.
Fair enough. Rosie could be 100% correct in thinking that a new website could increase her sales. However, there are a few things that Rosie—and you— should look out for first. Otherwise, you really could ruin your new website before you’ve even built it.
Here are a few things you could be preparing to do that really could ruin your brand new website.
You’re not planning to take a Content First approach
This is the single most important part of starting a new digital project. You need to know what your site is going to be used for so that you can appropriately accommodate the content.
We like to look at pretty pictures and really fun web animations when we’re thinking about a new website—and that’s OK. Get the inspiration for a new website wherever you need to get it, but remember that your site needs to do a job for your product/service/brand/hobby and it is going to be the content that sets your site apart from the other sites on the web.
You’re thinking more about the pretty pictures than the job that the website is actually supposed to do
We love us some great imagery. Ask Instagram and Pinterest. However, in the early stages of your website, this isn’t a priority. This is not the time to pick out a bunch of pretty themes/other sites and say “Make me one that looks like this.” You will need pretty pictures, but you don’t need them yet.
Websites offer users the chance to experience your brand and develop trust in your brand (if they haven’t already started to trust you). In the beginning, you need to be thinking about how you want users to navigate your site.
In Rosie’s case, it might look something like this:
- On my new website I want people to land on my homepage and see some of my products
- I want them to look through the floral arrangements section in “Seasonal Specials”
- If they aren’t interested in any of those things, then I want them to look at the arrangements in “Classic Collections”
- I want them to place an order immediately if they see something they want
- If they’re not sure, I want them to call for more information or come into the shop
So, Rosie wants a homepage that displays some of her products. She wants people to easily find their way to the “specials” and “classics”. At any point that they see something they want, they should be able to place an order. Also, she wants people to easily be able to find her contact information and address.
Her web solution would require an eCommerce tool that allows a quick and easy ordering process. This might also be an opportunity to add an upsell feature that suggests other items that the user might like to purchase based on the option that they’ve already selected. We need to account for both of these in the design.
Also, Rosie’s site would probably benefit from her contact information being visible on every page. It may even benefit from a “call me later” type of functionality that allows the customer to leave a phone number and a time when a member of Rosie’s team can call the customer back to help them with the purchase.
Rosie could just get someone to build her a site that looks like one that already exists, but she’d be better off finding sites that do what she wants her site to do rather than looking like something that already exists.
You’re not using your analytics from your old site
That would be a huge mistake. How are you planning to guide the direction of your new website if you’re not using the greatest tool you have—actual data letting you know what your users are doing—and what they’re not doing? Maybe, like Rosie, you’re not a technical person. So to you it might be just a bunch of numbers and lines that say people get to your homepage and look at a few pages and then either buy or not. This would be the time to get a technical person on your team that knows how to do that.
Your site analytics tell you exactly where your strong and weak areas are on your site. It gives you insight into the pages on which you are getting users to do what you’re hoping and where you might need to make course corrections. The only thing worse than not using your existing analytics from your old site is…
You’re not planning to use analytic reporting tools on your new website
What? After all that stuff I just said? Stop playin. Look into Google Analytics. Look into Piwik. Look into something! Otherwise, you’ll be looking into a crystal ball when you want to figure out how to get people to engage with your site the way that you want them to.
You think that your new website will solve all of your brand’s problems
I hate to be the bearer of this bad news, but your site cannot do everything for you. Your site is one tool. Your brand might be nothing without a website, but it won’t magically become everything with a website.
You’ll need to do a lot of work to maintain your site. You’ll also need to keep fresh content on it, and—most important—you’ll need to continue to provide a stellar product/service/whatever you’re promoting. A working website is just one of the many things you’ll need.
Also, if you’re struggling with other branding issues like poor reviews or mismatched brand identity materials (like business cards that say one thing, but letterhead that says another) thinking that getting a new website will magically fix your problems will lead you to heartbreak. In fact, adding a new website to the equation before cleaning up your brand image might just make your problems bigger.
You only want a new website because you don’t like the way your old one looks
If you think I’m silly for writing this, you’d be amazed at how many companies—big and small—decide that they’re going to invest a lot of time and money into getting a new website because they’re tired of the way that one shade of purple looks or the way that the logo sits in the center instead of the left hand side of the page.
Some problems don’t require a new website to fix. It can take a few minor updates to see a huge change in how you and your users feel about your website. Also, you might be tired of looking at it because you see it every day, but your new users have never seen it before.
Granted, if you don’t feel good about your site, it might be hard for you to promote it or want to share it with anyone at all. I get that. But, you should very carefully consider the kinds of things that you can change to improve it rather than thinking that a new website if your best answer.
Wait, did she just say “promote it”…?
You think that once the site is done, your work is done
You, like Rosie, might not have gotten into business to be thinking about websites all day. I get that. However, in order for your website to best serve you, it can’t just be what sits at the URL at the bottom of your business card. Your new website, and hopefully your old website, is a place where users can find out enough about your product or service that they feel comfortable buying from your or sharing your content on your behalf. They’re not just going to find it because they Googled “roses” and Rosie’s shop popped up first and they loved her site so much that they bought 3 million roses. It’s not about to be that.
You’ll need to promote your site. An easy way to do that is to use social media to promote your site and your services. You might want to start blogging, if you don’t already. If you decide to start blogging, you’ll actually have to do it regularly. Yes, it’s more work, but it will give people a reason to come to your site, which will expose users to what you have to offer.
You’ll want to consider SEO if you haven’t already. You might want to think about ads. These are things you’ll have to check in on to make sure that your investment is working for you the way that you need it to.
If what I’m saying right now sounds like too much work, don’t worry. I have a little something at the bottom of this post that should help you out while you’re doing amazing things with your business.
Whew! That was a lot!
In a nutshell, a new website might just mean a new load of work. This isn’t to scare you away from putting a new website into motion, it’s to make you think about getting a new website as a way to enhance your brand and to make it as efficient as possible for your users.
In order to do that effectively, you’ve got to think of a new website as a functional gateway into your service rather than some nice thing that you have to update every year or two after looking into your crystal ball has failed you.
If you’re still sure that you need a new website, but have no idea how to get started on gathering the right people to get that built for you, I’ve written you a FREE email course called How to Hire Your Digital Dream Team. It should really help you understand the different roles that are played in creating a digital product so you can make an informed decision on how you spend your time and money.