by Nancy Seeger | Featured Contributor
Has your website been redesigned or refreshed in the last five years? If not, it’s time. Dude, you don’t want to watch “I Love Lucy” in HD, right?
It’s easy to set up your website and ignore it. But potential clients check you out online before contacting you! An outdated website impacts professionalism and makes a bad impression. It’s critical your initial introduction to prospects is current and looks its fabulous.
First, determine if you need a redesign. Not everyone does (probably not what you expected a web designer to say right?). If your design is in alignment with your target audience, a refresh to keep up with technology (especially mobile devices) will suffice. But businesses evolve, so let’s check. Here are the criteria I use for my clients.
Where to Start – Who is Your Audience?
You can have the loveliest website, but if it doesn’t “speak” to your audience in both design and content, it won’t convert visitors to clients. Ask yourself two questions:
- Has your audience changed?
- Is your branding consistent with your desired market?
Define Your Audience
Do a target market analysis to determine your ideal clients. Not sure how to do one? This questionnaire will get you started.
Speaking of Branding – Is Your Logo a Good Fit?
Before you redesign your website, your logo needs a hard look. Here’s a checklist to help you:
- Was your logo designed by a professional? Even if you have a great eye, don’t assume you know best. Check your ego at the door and consult an expert to be safe.
- Do-It-Yourself logos frequently have problems (including crowdsourcing sites). Are your font and image legally available for commercial usage?
- Has your target market changed? Your logo might need tweaking so it’s still appealing.
A professional designer with logo experience can easily upgrade your design.
Updating the Website Copy
Before going to a web designer, you’ll need to review and update your website copy. Consider using a copywriter because writing for the web is a niche.
If you’re doing the writing, proof, spell check, and allow yourself plenty of time to work on it. Be prepared to revise once you see the copy in a website; usually it needs to be changed a bit.
Ramping Up Your Website Design – Working With Your Web Designer
When your logo and website copy are ready, it’s time to hire a web designer. These professionals design and build the front end of websites. They help your business achieve a customized, branded look based on your logo and target audience.
Here are tips to remember when working with a web designer:
- Pick a web designer whose style you like. Look at his/her portfolio. You are essentially buying his/her sense of style, so you want this to be a match.
- Prioritize your marketing elements. Everything does not need to be “above the fold” and will only confuse site visitors. Decide how important each element needs to be (newsletter sign-up, latest blog posts mention, social icons, etc.). Your designer will create solutions based on these priorities, drawing attention where it needs to be.
- Share examples of websites you like. Choose industry appropriate sites that are fairly recent. If some of your examples are outdated trends or tech that is okay. Your web designer will advise you on elements appropriate for today.
- Your theme layout should serve the audience. Everyone loves portfolios and one page parallax designs (FYI, parallax movements make some people nauseous!). But those might be best for photographers, landscapers, or interior designers, etc. Don’t be lured by glitz; ask your designer what works best for your market.
- Design feedback: be specific. To save time and money, be clear. “I’ll know it when I see it” may cost you an arm and a leg. Also, if you are showing potential designs to relatives or co-workers, remember they are not experts in design. Try showing it to a couple of clients.
- Change is good! We all have different levels of experience on the web. But asking for outdated elements such as subject links in menus that go nowhere looks dated. The website is not selling to you, it is selling to your market.
- Test, test, and test! Take the advice of my user experience designer friend and test your website with people in your defined market. Ask them to find three things on your site (based on your marketing goals). Recording their actions will determine if adjustments are needed.
If you’re not sure it’s time to update or redesign your website, this checklist will help you.
With these tips you’ll be taking your design to the next level and your audience will love it!
Nancy Seeger – Web Designer for the Performing Arts and Regular Folks
Nancy Seeger is based just outside of Washington DC in Virginia but still thinks of Michigan, her birth state, as home.
For Nancy, it has always been about the audience. First as a professional musician, then as an orchestra manager learning how to engage the public with marketing campaigns, even when websites were still considered optional.
After leaving orchestras, Nancy realized her passion for web design. She spent two years taking classes to hone her skills while working with her first client, a GRAMMY artist. Currently Nancy’s web design firm, Arts Assistance, creates sites for a variety of industries. Nancy believes it’s about connecting with the audience and blogs weekly, sharing website tips for businesses. She is a strong advocate of design as part of the marketing toolkit.
When not buried in Photoshop or code, Ms. Seeger thinks being green is buying a fancy espresso machine to cut out daily trips to Starbucks. Because she can’t live on espresso alone, she also loves drinking green smoothies (with her latté of course). Is there any better way to start the day?