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1998 called, and they want their website back

Updated: Aug 17



We were doing a competitive analysis for one of our clients the other day, and some of their competitors’ websites were bad. I mean really bad. They looked like something I would have designed back in the late ’90s when I was getting my start as a graphic designer. We had an excuse for building terrible websites back then. The web was a new medium, and none of us knew what we were doing. But there is no excuse for it today.


Your website should be your hardest-working salesperson. It works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. No holiday breaks or weekend getaways. But, if your website looks like it just stepped out of 1989, that’s a red flag that it is not performing in the way it should.


Here are some things you can do to move your website into the 21st century.


Use modern technology

Websites are like cars. When they are brand new, you love them because they look good and have the latest technology. But after they get to be five or six years old, they get a little beaten up, start smelling funny, and you notice that your friends’ newer cars have functionality that your car is lacking. That’s when you get new car fever and realize it’s time to upgrade. It’s the same with websites, minus the bad smell.


The rate of technology adoption is faster with websites than it is with cars, so you can see a loss of performance much faster with aging websites than you can with aging cars. My car is more than 10 years old, and I have no plans of getting a new car any time soon, but my website is 2.5 years old, and it needs a lot of work. In fact, I’m actively working to improve it now. Why? Because having a high-preforming website is critical if you don’t want to get left behind.


Also, like cars, websites need regular maintenance to keep running at their best. Having a modern content management system (CMS) is vital to having a functional website because it enables you to create content quickly and easily without the need for a developer. I almost feel silly saying this these days, because it should be obvious, yet we see it time and time again that clients have hand-coded sites or have a CMS that does not have a fully implemented backend that enables them to create new pages easily. This is imperative if you are going to use content marketing techniques as part of your marketing strategy. There are also a ton of analytic tools and marketing automation tools you should consider in order to understand who is coming to your site and what they are doing there. You can then use that information to drive further engagement with your visitors.


Improve the design

If your site looks like a ’90’s refuge, what does that say about your brand? Users have high expectations for websites these days because they interact with sophisticated sites every day. Aesthetic beauty is important, but that isn’t the most important part of the design.

• What is the user’s experience on your site?

• Can they find what they are looking for?

• Can they engage with you if they like what they see?

• Is the site functional?


Bottom line: You have to structure your content around your customers’ expectations.


Provide useful content

If you are in business, it’s highly likely that you provide services or products to drive revenue. How are you featuring them on your website? The content needs to be appealing to your ideal prospects. You should include important product details, videos, proof points, and case studies to back up any claims. Your content should be focused on helping users make a buying decision that puts you at the top of their list.


More importantly, ensure your message is clear

With all the ’90s bashing we’ve been doing, there are some things we did get right back then.


We were very focused on messaging as compared to today. Since creating a website was much more expensive back then, sites were typically driven by companies that wanted to see a return on their investment. Now, since websites can be built pretty easily using tools like Wix or Squarespace, people tend to focus on the tools over their message.


We’ve had several clients reach out to us and say they need their website redesigned, and we think the sites look OK… not like the sites from the ’90s we discussed earlier. In fact, many of those sites have been live for only a couple of years. We find out why clients think they need redesigned websites upon further inspection: It is always because the messaging is wrong. This causes the site to perform poorly, and the client wants a redesign.


What makes your company and offerings different and better from your competitors? If a user can’t understand that within just a few seconds after landing on your site, I can guarantee that your website is not performing as well as it should. You need to ensure that your users can understand the value your company provides and make them want to engage further with you.


The final chirp

If your website is still stuck in the 20th century, you are doing your company a huge disservice. Your website should be the foundation for all of your marketing efforts in this digital age we live in. If not, you are missing out on engaging with new prospects in a meaningful way, and it is hurting your revenue growth. I’d be willing to bet that at least one of your competitors is stealing market share from you because of it.


If you’re noticing that your website is struggling, it is time to act. We offer an Online Engagement Workshop designed to help you get your digital strategy straight.


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