Yesterday, we walked you through some of the various ways to figure out if your website is (no nice way to say it) worthless. We talked about critiquing both the aesthetics and the technological capabilities of your site, as well as asking yourself a fairly straightforward question: How many years has it been since I’ve upgraded?
Today, we are going to discuss how to proceed if you’ve discovered that your site is a sad freak show in the carnival that is the internet. These strategies can be implemented by you solo or with the help of a graphic designer, should you choose to go down that road.
To help us sort through these questions, we turned again to Natalie Andres, Los Angeles-based graphic designer and owner of Hole Punch Design. Andres also runs Blogzilla, an offshoot of Hole Punch Design, which offers up clean, simple, and modern website templates for anyone looking to get a fresh start or a contemporary overhaul.
“Blogzilla started because [my colleague] Molly and I couldn’t find any website themes that we wanted to use,” she says. “We were like, ‘Let’s just design some.’ If we needed it, we figured there were probably a lot of other bloggers who might need it as well.”
Here are your basic website-upgrading solutions:
Decide How Much of an Overhaul You Need
The good news is, your website might not be so terrible that you have to tear it down and start from scratch. If all you need to do is update some of the tech, says Andres, you can do that fairly easily.
“If you’re trying to fix something that is out of date, [or] you have a nice desktop site but not a mobile site, you could have someone come in and tweak it and update it pretty easily,” she says.
You might also want to bring in someone to help if you’ve had a come-to-Jesus moment in which you realized that your website that was built in 2002 (it seems like only yesterday!) really isn’t serving you anymore and you need a complete redesign. The good news is, once you’ve gone that route, it will likely be a one-and-done job that will get you through the next three to five years. A worthy investment, indeed.
On the other hand, if your site still looks pretty darn good and all you want to do is, say, update or add images, you can probably sort that out on your own. Which brings us to…
The Importance of Images
“You are seeing a huge emphasis on images right now,” says Andres. “If you don’t have good images, you are going to have a hard time creating a website that feels and looks new and modern and fresh, and you are going to fall behind.”
With that said, there are a few ways to upgrade your image situation. If you’re dealing with images that are coming up overly pixelated, swap them out for high-resolution replacements.
Another option is to spring for a photographer to take a couple of good, updated shots, whether it’s of you or your product. If you’re confident that you can accomplish that on your own or with the help of a friend, godspeed. But please don’t fool yourself if you really aren’t a photog at heart; remember, the goal is to make your website better.
Consider the One-Page Scroll
The one-page scroll design — in which you start navigation at the top of the site, and the various sub-sections are beneath it rather than on separate pages — is having a moment, and has been for a while. That design in and of itself signals that you and your business are up to speed and modern, which is valuable on its own.
It also, we might add, lends itself beautifully to those gorgeous new photos you so recently procured. One-page scrolling sites often have a big splash photo at the top, says Andres, which allows you to grab the reader’s eye quickly.
Plus, the design seems to have staying power. “The one-page scroll website has been around for a couple years, so it’s not too gimmicky,” she says.
Make Sure It’s Easy to Navigate
Gone are the days when people excused things like slow-loading pages, confusing multi-clicks to get where you want to go, and discombobulating design. For that reason, it’s critical that your site be simple, straightforward, and instinctive to follow.
This is particularly true if you’re doing more than showcasing a portfolio of work, as you might be if you’re a writer, designer, photographer, or the like. If you’re selling product or asking people to sign up for something, it has to be easy or people won’t do it.
“If you are looking to drive business, you need to focus on SEO, [integrating] social media, and promoting everything,” says Andres. “Your site has to do these things and be easy to navigate, and look good.”
A Final Word
If all of this sounds daunting, or you really just want to throw your website out the window and start anew, consider using a premade template. There are so many beautiful and simple examples of them out there that it’s become impossible to tell whether a person or company has used a premade template, and it doesn’t really matter anyway — no one’s holding it against you (or noticing) if your website hasn’t re-invented the wheel.
Premade templates are a great option, adds Andres, “if you just want to get your site updated without a lot of time and money. It’s just a question of what state the website is in.”