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September 26, 2011 / Steve Hennigs

Your New Website is like a New Car


For as long as I have been selling website tools and hearing about the many different reasons that organizations have redesigned or completely overhauled their websites I have believed that the analogy could be made that a new website is very much like a new car.

Hear me out on this.  There are both internal and external aspects of both objects that if they deteriorate could require a person or organization to consider an upgrade.  What I sincerely believe is that if both objects are properly maintained then a vast amount of time and money can be saved over the life cycle.

Design
This is the most common area of a website that comes under scrutiny and therefore is subject to costing an organization money.  The design of the site can be compared to the exterior of the car (paint job, bumpers, windshield, etc.).  If I get a chip in my windshield or a door ding on my paint job I am not going to get the whole car repainted or the entire windshield replaced.  What I am going to do is deal with the problem immediately and not let it get any worse.

If there are aspects of the website design that you feel need work (navigation, color scheme, etc.) there is no need to immediately jump to completely redesigning the website.  Deal with the small problems as they come.

If you have a web analytics tool, like Siteimprove Analytics, take the time to review the navigation and presentation on your key pages in the context of the issue you believe you have and make the small adjustments necessary to improve your website.  For example if you have a “Support” button that you think should be used more often there is an opportunity for a simple A/B split test in order to determine the best location for the button.

Before completely overhauling your color scheme perhaps it would be good to ask your website visitors what they think before using up valuable time and money to make any changes.  There is a great survey solution from iPerceptions that is free (for fee packages are available as well) in which you can put together professional looking surveys for your website visitors.  Afterall it is your website visitors’ opinions that ultimately matter.

The point is not to make any rash decisions regarding the overall design if in fact you can improve smaller aspects and get similar results.

The Back-end
Right behind the design is the back-end in terms of scrutiny.  People think if they could just get a better Content Management System or Search Engine Optimization consultant that all of their website problems would be solved.  The same thought process applies to a car.  If I only had built-in navigation, heated leather seats, and a premium sound system I would enjoy my ride so much better.

While these things can help they are not necessarily the aspects of a website that will ultimately serve the organization best.  Be very careful when determining if a new system or consultant is what is best for your organization.  A lot of money is wasted on these two items.

I do not have the experience to make recommendations on this topic but I have talked with enough people to confidently say that these decisions should not be made lightly.  What I can recommend is that before you look at either the design or the back-end you should start with your content.

Content
Content is often the last item to be reviewed on a website.  “If we just update our design and the features on the website it will naturally perform better!” (quote from a random website administrator).  I disagree with this statement.

Content on a website is like the engine in a car.  It is what makes a website go!  You can put a great engine (engaging and relevant content) in a dumpy looking car (outdated or poorly designed website) and still outperform the flashy looking (great design and fully up to date) website with poor content (think a worn out 4 cylinder in a brand new Jaguar, which would never happen but just go with me).

If you do not have relevant and engaging content on your website please do not waste a dime on a new backend or new design.  It will not make a difference.  Sure, you may see a spike in web traffic at first but your traffic will not convert the way you need it to and at some point you will be talking about another redesign (which again will not solve the problem).

If you can maintain your content from both a relevancy standpoint (think content strategy) and a quality standpoint (think web content governance) then you will reap the benefits of servicing your website much like you service a car.  If you keep up on oil changes, spark plugs, transmission maintenance, and all the other aspects of keeping your engine in good shape you will get more out of your car (website) than the next guy.  Not only will the car (website) last longer, but it will perform better as well.

This is the most important sentence of this post.  If you maintain good content consistently you will convert more with your website and save money over the long haul thus making your website a more valuable asset to your organization.

I believe that if you keep up on the maintenance of your car’s engine and fix the little things when it comes to the aesthetic aspect and features that you can have a well performing car for many years and save yourself some money.  The same thing can be said for a website.  If you properly maintain the content on your website while upgrading design and features only where necessary than you will have a website that serves your organization well for years to come.

Am I right, wrong, crazy?  Let me know your thoughts!

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3 Comments

  1. Amy Bowser-Rollins / Sep 27 2011 2:57 PM

    I have to confess, I am obsessed with analytics for websites and for mailings. I am currently enjoying Get Clicky for analytics which includes iPhone and iPad apps for days “on the go”. Ha! I learn so much from the data though.

    • Steve Hennigs / Sep 27 2011 3:03 PM

      Amy I would agree that you have to analyze your website as you would any other marketing venture. Organizations put so much money and effort into their sites that they would be crazy not to track the return on that investment.

      Thanks for the comment and for helping to drive traffic to the blog (which I will now analyze)!

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