Article · 8 July 2019
Time for a new website? Key questions to ask
It’s hard to decide when your company needs a new website. In this guide, Entle explains how to evaluate your current website.
It’s hard to decide whether your company needs a new website, because you know that:
- It will cost valuable time and money to develop the website;
- You will have to convince your internal stakeholders (colleagues, management, or Board) that it’s a good idea;
- There’s a risk that you end up with an underwhelming, late, or unexpectedly expensive product; and
- You have had, or have seen, bad experiences of investing a lot of time and money, only to end up with a “white elephant” of a website that quickly gets outdated and is difficult to maintain.
Clients often consult us to help them think through this decision. Here are the questions we ask.
1. Are your website and online channels actually helping you sell?
1.1 If your sales process mainly happens online…
Is your website and online channels consistently bringing you new customers? If so, how many, and what does this cost you? You may find it valuable to calculate your customer acquisition cost (CAC). Divide the total amount that you spend on your website and other online channels per month or year by the number of new customers it brings you over that period. That is what it effectively costs you per customer. If you feel this is too high, it may be time to reevaluate your website.
1.2 If your sales process mainly happens “offline” in boardrooms or via the telephone…
Your website should directly be supporting your sales activities. As an experiment, ask your next five customers whether they visited your website when they decided to use your services. Did they find it helpful and convincing? This may well give you a clear answer to the above question. An even simpler heuristic is to ask whether you yourself think your customers will be more or less likely to buy your services if they examine your website. If you are not convinced that they will, then that’s an even clearer sign that something is wrong.
2. Does your website have the basics in place?
2.1 Is your website always online?
Are you or your web partner monitoring your website’s availability 24/7, using a tool like Pingdom? If not, chances are that your website has been offline for short or long periods, and you did not know about it. Keeping a website online requires reliable infrastructure and security measures to counter attacks. Keep in mind that it is no longer only banks and well-known companies who get attacked: even small, newly-launched websites are targeted by large, automated attack networks. It is almost certain that your website has suffered such attacks. Without the right protection, it will suffer downtime, and your prospective customers will not be able to access it.
2.2 Is it fast?
Most visitors will leave your site if it takes longer than 2-3 seconds to load. That is especially true for visitors on mobile devices, who are quick to close a tab and likely to jump around. Use the free GTMetrix tool to generate a report for your website. Is your website scoring less than an “A” on PageSpeed or YSlow? And is it taking longer than 3 seconds to load? If so, your website may not have been fully optimised for speed. If visitors have to wait 10 seconds just to see your content, they’ll start off with a bad impression.
2.3 Is it secure?
Does your website’s address start with “https://” and do you see a small green padlock in your browser when you visit it? If not, your website is not using SSL security technology. Whereas a few years back, only websites handling customer information or processing payments required SSL, it is now an absolute necessity for all websites. Some modern browsers have started showing “Not secure” next to your website address if you do not have it in place. This damages your reputation with prospective customers.
2.4 Is it mobile friendly?
Nowadays, more than half of web visitors access websites through mobile devices. Your exact ratio will depend on your target market and industry, but it is safe to say that you cannot ignore mobile visitors. If your website’s design does not adapt to their smaller screens, it will leave them with a bad experience. Having to fiddle, zoom in and out, and scroll, just to be able to navigate a poorly-optimised site, is a surefire way to leave prospective customers with a bad impression of your company.
3. Is your website aligned with your company strategy?
Did you and your web partner explicitly design your website with your company strategy top of mind?
Has your company strategy changed since you launched your current website?
- Have you started focusing on a new kind of customer?
- Have you started selling new products or services?
- Have your organisational goals, values, or brand changed?
If your company’s strategy has not changed since you launched your website, and you have kept its content up to date, and you know that your website is bringing you the right kinds of customers, you probably do not need a new website.
Your website may no longer be aligned with your strategy. At best, this means that you may be attracting the wrong kinds of customers via your website. At worst, it means that you are confusing and scaring off prospective customers with mixed messages about your company, products, or services.
It may be tempting to think that an outdated website is a harmless ornament. Unfortunately, that is not the case: most customers will look for your company’s website while deciding whether to use your services. Their view of your company will, for better or for worse, be influenced by your website.
4. Do you have a good process for maintaining your website? Is it easy to keep it up to date?
As explained above, a good website is very rarely “build and forget”. It is only as good as its last update. That’s why it is essential that your company has a reliable process to keep your website’s content fresh. This can take the form of your web partner keeping your website updated on your behalf, or training your marketing team to do so.
- If your web partner maintains your website, are they responsive to your requests?
- If your marketing team manages your website, did your web partner properly train them? Is it clear whose responsibility it is in your company to request changes, and to make those changes? And are your marketing team enabled to do so by your processes and website software?
If it takes days or even weeks to make small changes, or if you frequently find your website’s content lagging, that is a clear sign that your current process is not serving your company’s best interests.
5. Is your website giving you insight into your customers?
Imagine being a manager in a small shop, while wearing a blindfold and ear muffles: you faintly hear customers coming in through your door every few moments, but you have very little idea (i) exactly how many, (ii) who they are, (iii) what exactly they look at, and (iv) how many actually end up buying your products.
If you do not have detailed analytics about the people visiting your website, you are in a similar situation. It is not enough to just have tons of data, though. It should be presented to you in an actionable way. A good website, with proper analytics, can help you answer questions like:
- What are people looking for when they come to you?
- Which products or services are attracting the most attention?
- Are there any hidden characteristics about your customers, that you need to take into account when marketing to them?
- What percentages of people who visit your website actually end up buying your products?
Used correctly, your website’s analytics can be a treasure trove for making data-driven decisions about company strategy.
- Is your website helping you sell?
- Does your website have the basics in place? Is it always online, fast, secure, and mobile friendly?
- Is your website aligned with your company strategy?
- Do you have a good process for maintaining your website? Is it easy to keep it up to date?
- Is your website giving you insight into your customers?
If you answered “No” to any of these questions, it may be time to consider a new website.
PS. You’ll notice there was no mention about the age of your website. A five year-old website that is properly maintained, part of a solid web strategy, and regularly reviewed, can be in a much better state than a poorly-designed or shortsighted one year-old website. It all depends on whether your website was designed with a clear view of your company strategy, and whether it has been kept aligned with that.