Evolution is the new Revolution

Website Redesigns - are they really needed? In my last post I addressed 10 reasons why your business website needs a redesign - todays post is about what happens after your business has it's first website or after a website has been redesigned. This post is about a long-term gain, which should see you hardly ever need a total redesign again. Over the past few years, it has become somewhat of a hobby horse that when someone asks if they should get a new website (scrapping the old site) that I discuss their options with them for the future. By the time they are asking this question, for most websites it is already too late to move forward without a total website redesign.

Why is Revolution not so revolutionary?

A while back I read a book called The Gifts of Sobriety. In the book there is a fairly famous quote that says:

We are locked into a cycle of repeating the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. - Buy the book on amazon

If we think in terms of what most businesses do with websites, this means that a business commissions a web designer to create a website, they get someone to update content, 3 years later it looks dated and there are new technologies around the company wants to use. So it commissions a web designer to start again, scrapping the old website, this is the Revolution. And this is a process I hear about time and time again.

So you see Revolution isn't revolutionary at all, there will always be a desire to be a sheep and redesign simply because it's the "norm" and your competitors do it. But the reality is you really don't need a revolution to be the best in your market. You need an Evolutionary system which keeps you at the top of your market at all times, not just for a few months after you redesign your website.

An Evolutionary Eco-System

The story of a website owner above is all too common, many businesses (big and small) get annoyed with their websites (how it works, what it looks like, how it compares to others etc) and eventually they can't see the good for the bad in a website. The website owner thinks "get rid of it, start again" in essence wanting the new and shiny website again. But if you take a closer look at that website you will see that hitting delete and starting again is a huge huge loss, both in terms of effort put into the website and in terms of development. Instead of hitting delete the website owner should be thinking of evolution and iteration, taking the website to the top and keeping it there constantly.

The title for this section is "an evolutionary eco-system" now this may sound like a load of buzzwords that mean diddly-squat. But in reality, the title tells you how you should be running a website for any kind of business.

In order to create this new eco-system based on evolution, you may need to step outside the box and see the much larger picture.

Why should you use an Evolutionary Eco-System?

There are a fair few reasons as to why you should use this system, some of them are listed below - others such as the implications of being top dog in your market are for you to decipher as a business (think ROI).

    Keeping Customers Happy

      Revolutions can cause customers to be "frightened" - this is to say people don't often like change to websites. Think of the backlash each time a company like Facebook updates it's site.

      Feedback is key to improving a website for your audience, if you make changes incrementally based on what they are saying they will likely become more loyal to you as they know you are listening to them.

      Small changes can make a big bang - think of the facebook auto tagging system a few weeks back, people went mad about it, but because it was a tiny step not revolutionary it was easy for facebook to reverse.

      Each small step can be used to promote your website and bring people back. A good example I saw recently was a site adding social media links, they did a blog post about it and people we're talking on twitter about it ... it creates a buzz around your site and brand as a company moving forward.

    Your Accountant Will Love You

      By making incremental steps and evolving the website you will be building on what was an expensive investment, not just chucking that investment away.

      As I eluded too, this system will keep you top of your market - this will mean a greater profit for the business.

    and of course, it is much easier to test a small improvement than test a new website.

How to build an Evolutionary Eco-System

Now that hopefully you understand why I am an advocate of evolution over revolution, it is time to ask how to build this eco-system based on iteration and not a system built on revolutions of a website.

The first thing we need to think about is the Foundations; think of a new house being built. The first thing to be designed and put in place are the foundations, they are probably the most integral part of any build. Without a solid and secure foundation nothing can be built, and when it is built without a foundation it will slip, slide and eventually collapse - so that's no good. With a foundation though the house will be solid, in years to come extensions and conservatories can be added, maybe a balcony if you're lucky, it may have a loft conversion, 2 rooms knocked into one ... so you see on a solid foundation a great house is built which can continually evolve - without the foundation a site eventually collapses and a new build is required.

In terms of a website there are 2 very important aspects of a foundation, the technical and the personal.

    Technical Aspects of a Foundation This can be seen as the actual website itself, if you don't start with a decent website there is no amount of evolution that can save your site. However, there are 3 things you should check for when laying this part of the foundation.

    The Content Management System is separated from the template files.

    Both the Template and CMS use up to date code and (if possible) semantically correct.

    Ensure that the website designer comments code appropriately in case s/he isn't the person who will be updating the site - code must be accessible.

    The Personal Aspect of the Foundation Relationships are key to any website, the website owner (plus business owner if a different person) should get on with the web designer - and as such make a cohesive team. If they on the other hand do not get on then the website owner won't get full value for money and eventually the relationship will break down - which in turn could break the solid foundations of a website (which is why the third point above is important). A strong relationship is about working together and not separately,  you may work for different companies but you are still a team looking after your website - it is for both parties to make the effort, website don't improve if just one part of the relationship is doing the work.

After you have created solid foundations it's time to evolve the website, don't wait around. For example maybe your website has just launched, do you and the designer part ways? if so you've missed the boat. You should be using your users as guinea pigs (not literally don't poke them with a stick, that is mean!) what I mean is you should get feedback from them and your analytics, this is vital information you can use to change things a little to see if you can make things even better. To try out improvements on your website you can use multivariate testing (sometimes called A/B testing) which shows a proportion of the audience one method and the other proportion the other method - as the analysis of results on the testing grows you can slowly move more people from one method to the other - it's not a fool proof method of improvement but it is better than blind trial and error.

And that is a process you should keep on doing, the relationship should never end between a designer and website owner. The website owner may now be paying a monthly fee, but this will be tiny in comparison to having to bring back a designer 6 months after you've said "go away" and paying him then.

An Evolutionary Eco-System is also good for cash flow as the business doesn't need to find possibly thousands of pounds every few years, "out of the blue".

So what steps can you take today?

<h4><span style="color: #008000;"><strong>Build Your Relationship</strong></span>

If you have a web designer you use on a regular basis, fantastic. Maybe grab a coffee, get to know each other as people and not as business partners. If you don't have a web designer like this then make contact with a local web designer or two. And remember this is about a long-term project with long-term gains not short-term for no-gains.

Have Monthly or bi-monthly Meetings Regular meetings are vital to a relationship, even if you speak over the phone or via email everyday, nothing compares to face-to-face talking. Even if its only to discuss the plan for the next month, review notes or simply have a coffee, it is also important to have meetings as it continues to build the relationship.

Make your next full redesign your last!

 

If you need help with a redesign or are looking for a web designer to help with the evolution of your web presence, you can email me today or visit my design and marketing services website.