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Thursday, 20 October 2016

Website Changes to Prioritize


There are generally two ways websites change, big and small. There is the revolutionary change requiring a periodic 4 to 5 year redesign and there are the little evolutionary changes that happen in between the revolutionary change that are the enhancements, and support handling. Some changes to websites are simple content changes, while others are serious maintenance normally requiring new features and integration.

There are millions of things you can do with a website and each of them has a cost and benefit:


  1. The time/effort/costs needed to make changes varies in time. It can be finished quickly or can take months of planning, programming and testing.
  2. The results of the websites changes also vary wildly while some have a huge impact on marketing outcomes while others have none at all.


Adding a new title tag or modifying it, adding a new section or dropping a video has a return (benefit) on investment (time and cost). Together they can be plotted on a chart showing the relationship between benefits with time and costs.

Time and Money: The costs of website updates


Websites are magic, it allows anyone to interact with your business globally. However, it still does need time, and money or both. If you have an in-house marketing team, with a solid content management system (CMS), then changes to texts and images don't incur additional expenses. These are basically free website enhancements to the company.

Big design and programming changes normally mean calling your web developer.

Here is a quick overview of possible website enhancements and whether marketing time or there is a required investment into design or development incurred:


Relationship between traffic, conversions and website changes: the benefits

Before making any changes to your current website you should ask this question. What is the outcome you expect to achieve out of this change? Is it to enhance your brand, gain better conversions or you are responding to feedback you have received from your users?

Each and every investment into your website should align with a goal. These business goals lead to website needs, where commerce sites are usually higher sales transactions or information sites are for lead generation through better traffic and a higher conversion rate. That is how essentially websites make money.

Here are some main goals of websites that people use as a benchmark:


  1. Increase conversion rates: Maximize the percentage of visitors who visit the site to take action through the website that align with the visitors' perspective and psychology.
  2. Increase traffic: Grow brand awareness and top line traffic levels through better alignment between website, search, social, email and paid marketing activities.
  3. Easier management: make the website more efficient marketing tool with more flexible templates and tools so no update takes longer than expected and the ability to integrate actively with other systems when practical.
  4. Website uptime: Ensure that the website is up during critical times when customers meet most often. Find out more about great hosting here.
  5. Internal politics: Keep people happy, especially highly-opinionated people, and people with power. Some website changes don't have any practical marketing purpose.


Beware of opinions! When an opinion is stated look for evidence to support or refute that opinion. You could probably find it in Analytics which is a great tool for making better decisions about website updates.

Below are some examples of website changes that align with goals mentioned above and we see how the benefits matchup according to our experience:


There are a few updates to your website that could potentially hurt the marketing results (yes this is true and can happen to you too!) and here are some common examples:


  1. Adding a design element that pulls the visitors attention from the call-to-action.
  2. Building an expensive feature that isn't rarely used.
  3. Updating the title tag of a page that already ranks high for a valuable phrase.


Set priorities


Things by now should be clear. Look at every possible change to your website in context of costs and benefits and you should be well on your way to determine objectively what business goals need to be solved and what changes potentially have a negative impact on the site or could potentially hurt marketing results. Create a worksheet with some of the points above that is simple. The most important aspect of this exercise is to have a clear statement of purpose. The risks of action without outcomes without a clear direction can be bad.

Not sure? Test.


There is no certain answer to every method. You can still be clear about the goals and look carefully at the costs that might be incurred.

If costs are marginal then try quickly and measure the impact of the change over a fixed time to compare with other changes that occur on the site. If costs are high, weigh the risk and proceed with the test or you can choose to prioritize the lower cost updates, only making the bigger changes after you've exhausted the smaller, simpler updates.

When Updates Reach Limits


Eventually you will hit the point where updates have reached their limit and it is possibly a time for a redesign. An updated website has a lifespan of around 3 to 5 years depending on the business and the industry, and updates might not be keeping in line with market trends. This should be a clear indication to stop making updates and proceed with plans for a new redesign.

I'm sure some of you have your own thoughts on this. We'd love to hear them in the comments below.

 
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