Have you ever had a comfortable position you were in (business wise) shattered?
This happened to me several weeks ago. I got a comment in out of the blue from one of my newsletter subscribers. He had taken the time to write in and tell me my website was looking old fashioned and needed updating (have a look).
I was aghast as 'I' love my website. In fact I'm almost married to the look as I had designed it, worked out all the important keywords, titles, pages, content. I had a marvellous student do the actual coding and template creation. That was five years ago.
So I thought I would thank my reader for his honesty, take it seriously and take action.
The action wasn't to jump right in and go for it. My first thought was I needed another opinion. If you read my article last week about picking people's brains, you'll know that would not be the route I'd take.
I wasn't about to call on any of my website designer contacts and ask for free advice.
So I took my query to about 10 LinkedIn groups, Facebook, and Google Plus.
This is what I asked "Not that you have time on your hands, but Help! someone said my website successis.co.nz looks old fashioned. Can you suggest what I can do'?. By the way you can click that and see the responses.
It must have been good wording, as to my surprise I got heaps of answers, and I'm still getting them. It has been surprising how many people went out of their way to look at the site and give their honest opinion.
Result? It was unanimous. Everyone agreed that it was time to update the look. I got significant comments and guidance, all of which I am going to take into account. And share with you of course.
1: People advised to use the new modern flat design.
This means no rounded corners, no shadows. Think of the new Microsoft Window Tile look.
2: They want it quick, easy, responsive.
This means white space, easy clicks.
3: Pictures, images.
It's the modern way especially with the increase in broadband usage and mobile devices. Perhaps it's the Facebook/Twitter effect. Take note here. Search engines at least not yet, can't read images, the can only read words. Words are an important part of your ranking. So name all your images with keywords and also give them good alternate image ID tags. These are the words that pop up when people hover over the image. I know, you're going to argue that's for the handicapped the alt images. It's up to you to decide which is more important.
4: Mobile/tablet friendly.
As of June last year 2012; 56 per cent of New Zealanders had smartphones. It would be at least 70 per cent now I assume (anyone have any figures please comment). More and more people will read on the small screen. So your site must be designed that way or have two sites. One for Computer, the other mobile. If you can't afford this, a simple way is to at least have your site designed to be a percentage of screen size.
5: Google analytics.
If you really want to know what is going on with your site, you would not believe the veritable wealth of information you can get for free by connecting your website to Google analytics. It can drill down to even what phone model a person is using to visit your site, let alone where they've come from, what number of pages they went through, how long they stayed (stickiness).
6: Social Media
If you'e going to use it, be sure to advertise the 'connect with you' icons. You might want to have them in your template so they appear on every page.
I'm in the process of putting a brief together and doing more international research. I'd love to know what your thoughts and advice is on website usability, look, and functions in today's wired world.