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Many small business owners still abide by the “set it and forget” philosophy of website design. As a result, their sites can begin to look stale or outdated compared to ones that are newer or frequently updated.
Information on a website can become outdated for a number of reasons. You might be offering new services, or discontinuing old ones. You might have shifted gears to deal with the effects of the recession. You might be dealing with new advertising rules (federal, state, or local) that have come into play.
Nonetheless, the importance of a fresh-looking website can’t be underestimated. Visitors are less likely to trust a site that appears outdated or amateurish, and yesterday’s professional site design might make your site look out-of-touch today. Making periodic “spot changes” to your site can help you keep up with popular online trends as well as improve its usability and visual appeal.
Here are a few things to consider when you’re upgrading your website:
- Fonts. If the body copy on your site is rendering in Times New Roman, you may want to consider switching to Verdana or Arial, which are sans serif fonts that provide better readability on the Web. And if you want your site to be taken seriously, you may want to avoid using Comic Sans. Make sure you consider your audience when you’re choosing your fonts. If you have customers who are older, for example, they may want an easily readable font as well as a larger font size.
- Background color. Although dark-colored backgrounds can be used effectively, you may want to consider colors that aren’t too “off the wall” for your customer base. When in doubt, a white background is always a good choice.
- Pictures and logos. When it comes to images, it’s important to consider size, quality, and relevance. It’s helpful to compress your images so that they look good while your site is loading (fast, hopefully). Web pictures that are processed with older image software may look grainy or a bit odd on newer monitors. In addition, you’ll want to make sure that the subject of each picture isn’t too “retro.” As far as your logo, check to see that you’re using the latest and greatest version.
- Company information. Are your phone number and copyright information up-to-date? Have you added a new fax line recently? Is your site using any slang or buzzwords that may not be current? Are there any new terms or product descriptions that you need to add to be relevant to your customers? Are you selling additional products or services since you last updated your website?
- Social media icons. If you have a presence in social media—such as on Facebook or Twitter—make sure that you place the related icon on your site and link to your profile. If you’re not yet participating in the social space, you might want to consider tapping into this opportunity to connect with your customers and prospects online.
One of the greatest benefits of a frequently updated website is that it encourages people to keep coming back. Here are a few ways you can accomplish that:
- Offer printable coupons for seasonal specials or monthly promotions. That way, you create value for your customers, and you encourage them to make return visits. Plus, you can do so for far less than you’d pay for a magazine or newspaper ad.
- Create user resources that keep your company top of mind. For example, you can publish a printable calendar of local events that includes your logo and phone number. And if you own a heating and air-conditioning business, you can include a to-do list on the calendar that reminds customers to call you when they need seasonal maintenance services.
- Use interactive features that provide practical information. If you own a house painting company, for example, you can provide a calculator on your site that estimates the cost of interior or exterior painting services. Whenever you help your customers figure something out or make decisions, you’re adding value to the mix . . . and they’ll remember you the next time they’re planning a remodeling project.
- Distribute opt-in email messages that share timely information about your products or services. If you sell computers and software programs, for example, you can alert your customers when you have new components or versions available. That way, you keep your customers in the loop about your expanded offerings, without having to hire extra people to answer the phones or make sales calls.
Whenever you take the time to upgrade your site, or just give it a little spring cleaning, you have a chance to pull ahead of your competitors, who may not understand the importance of looking sharp and up-to-date in the online world.
Web design is a fickle industry. Just like every other form of artistic expression, Web design has undergone a continuous and surprisingly fast evolution. Once a playground for enthusiasts, it has now become a mature rich medium with strong aesthetic and functional appeal. In fact, we are experiencing what could be the golden era of Web design — or at least the best period thus far. We have powerful new tools at our disposal (CSS3, HTML5, font-embedding, etc.), a plethora of freely available resources, a strong design community and also (if you needed any more!) reliable support of Web standards in the major browsers.
We’re seeing better interaction design and more aesthetically pleasing designs. And we’re seeing more personal, engaging and memorable sites, too. But what exactly is making the difference? What new directions is Web design heading in today? What new techniques, concepts and ideas are becoming important? In this article, we present some observations on the current state of Web design. We describe existing and upcoming trends and explain how Web design might evolve in the coming months and years. We’ll also touch on what we as Web designers should be ready for to keep abreast of new challenges and opportunities.