Spring Cleaning: 7 Steps to Revitalize Your Website

revitalize-article Every year it happens like clockwork: temperatures climb, the days get longer and winter grays give way to spring greens, bringing along with them the irresistible urge to clean house and embrace a fresh start. Why not keep that motivational momentum going and apply it to your business – and, more specifically, to your website – as well? After all, there’s no time like the present to sweep away the old and outdated and bring in fresh new ideas and technologies that will provide a welcoming environment where a thriving online community can take root and grow. Here are seven steps you should take today to ensure that your site is up-to-date, relevant and doing all it can to bring you new customers and grow the community around your brand:

1. Take it from the top.

First impressions can make or break a visitor’s decision to spend their time on your site or to move on to your competitor’s. As screens and attention spans shrink, so too does your window of opportunity to capture and hold visitors’ attention. Your home page must walk the line between offering a clean, uncluttered presentation and providing clear navigational cues. To gauge your site’s first-impression performance, give it the five-second test. Type your web address in your browser, let it load, then start the clock. After five seconds, close the window. What did you take away? What jumped out at you first, and what was most memorable? If the answer to that question is a jarring color or generic stock photo, it’s time for a change. Likewise, if nothing in particular stuck with you, then your home page may be lacking in focus. Even in that brief glance, you should be able to come away with a favorable impression of your company. You should also be able to tell right away what your company does and where you as a visitor should go next to accomplish the goal that brought you to the site. If you identify weaknesses in any of these areas, it might be time to revisit your site’s design and navigation to bring it up to modern standards. Remember, too, that you may be too familiar with your site to be truly objective, so if you can recruit a few friends, family members or colleagues to do the five-second test and give you their notes, all the better.

2. Check your small-screen savvy.

Today we live in a multi-device world populated by multi-device users. More and more, these users are spending less of their Web browsing time on their desktops and laptops and more on their handheld smartphones and tablets. If your website is even just a few years old, it may not be as easy to navigate on these smaller screens as it should be. To be sure, bring it up on your phone’s browser. Then borrow your friends’ phones and do the same. Then rinse and repeat on every modern mobile OS that you can get your hands on. If you can’t load it, browse through it, view the content and complete core functions effortlessly, then neither can your users. In order to ensure that your site is providing the best possible user experience regardless of which device they might be using to access it, you must make sure that your site’s interface is clean and clutter-free so that you make optimal use of the available real estate to allow the most important content to take center stage. Also pay close attention to details such as the amount of time it takes to load your site via mobile networks, the size and readability of typography, the level of contrast between the text and the background, the function of menus and the “pressability” of links, buttons and navigational tabs. If any of these are found lacking, it’s time to take proactive steps, whether it’s by building an app, developing a dedicated mobile site or migrating to a new responsive design platform.

3. Give it the touch test.

Along those same lines, knowing that many customers will come to your site from a smaller screen with a touch-based interface, it is vital to reassess whether or not your site allows visitors to touch and go. Again, log on to your site with a handheld and try it for yourself. Are your buttons and menus big, bold and easily seen? Are they readily accessible, with a buffer around them to allow a greater margin of error for fingers versus mouse-clickers? And most importantly, do they work? In the world of touch, roll-overs and hover states are non-existent, so replace buttons that require users to mouse over them to get a sense of action with style enhancements that draw attention to them as action elements. If a client is frustrated by your features and can't navigate easily, they will quickly move on and spend their dollars elsewhere. For a great example of a brand that has built a beautiful site utilizing readily accessible buttons and smarter small-screen features, check out Starbucks’s website on your favorite touchscreen device.

4. Flash? Fuggetaboutit.

Speaking of frustration, let's talk about Flash. The mobile Web is officially a hostile environment when it comes to Flash. Apple’s iOS does not – and probably never will – support Flash. Android does support Flash, but the performance of Flash content on Android devices is less than ideal. If you have Flash anywhere on your site, do your business – and your customers – a huge favor and get rid of it immediately. HTML5 and JavaScript are two smarter, more modern options that can replicate the same effects that once required Flash while providing a beautifully seamless experience for mobile and touch-based platforms.

5. Track your traffic.

Do you know where your site visitors are coming from? Do you know what keywords they’re using to find you? The answers to these questions and others like them can help you shape and sharpen your website to strengthen its performance. By utilizing a metrics toolset such as Google Analytics, you can not only determine how visitors are finding your site but also what’s keeping them there based on the amount of time they’re spending on your site, page by page. Armed with this data, take a fresh look at your site and see what you can do to give your visitors more of what they’re looking for. Is there one particular keyword set that drives the majority of your site traffic? If so, then make sure everything that pertains to those keywords is front and center. Is there a particular type of content on your site that gets the most views? If so, add more around that subject matter.

6. Keep it fresh.

Does your website reek of staleness? When was the last time you published a blog post? Or added new client testimonials? Or updated your portfolio or case studies? If your website has stagnated, it will be immediately obvious to visitors. Today’s Web surfers don’t want to spend time in a dead space that’s void of activity. They demand access to the latest information and intelligence, so make sure that your website is not a graveyard where ideas and conversation go to die.

7. Focus on the community connection.

Bringing new visitors to your site is only half the battle; your ultimate goal is to keep them coming back again and again. To accomplish this, your site must be more than just a brochure on glass. It must provide a home base where the members of your tribe can come to be informed and to share ideas and information. To this end, it must offer content that’s relevant to the questions, concerns, hassles and fears that your clients face every day. It should also offer a way for them to contribute and to interact with other members of the tribe. This can be as simple as giving visitors the ability to leave comments on your blog or publish reviews of your products or services. However, it can also be as complex as a community ecosystem where people can share the things matter to them in ways that are meaningful to them. For example, NASCAR driver Ryan Newman’s Fan Club site is built around keeping its members engaged and active by giving them many different ways to share and interact. They can post their own videos, build photo albums, join the conversation on community message boards and even chat with other members in real time. Think about ways you can enhance your website in order to serve your community, even if they don’t directly serve your brand and your business. By providing an arena where these types of exchanges can take place, in the long run, you’ll benefit immeasurably from constant exposure and engagement.