What Will Your Company Website Look Like in 2015?

Overjoyed at the prospect of spending thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours, or both to update your website?  Probably not.  But there are good reasons for critically assessing your site’s appearance and capabilities now, and determining what the site will need in 2015 and beyond.

One issue is rapidly changing technology around smartphones.  Let’s say a firm paid $50,000 for a new website in 2009.  Executives have periodically updated the site’s copy since then.  But a site created five years ago for desktop viewing isn’t designed to work well on smartphones because of differences in screen resolution, among other nuances. When a site isn’t mobile-friendly, users have an incentive to look elsewhere.  At a minimum, a dated design conveys that a company lacks technological sophistication.

Then there’s the matter of content.  A website that’s little more than a brochure does not perform well in online searches.  Search engines reward sites that have fresh, engaging, relevant, and changing content.

We talked with David Moore, CEO of Phantom Consulting, an IT outsourcing company in Charlotte, for ideas on how to create a better website for 2015.  Here are eight steps he recommends to keep your site up to date:

* Look for sites that you like – even competitors’ sites.  What about a site appeals to you?  Are there elements that would work for your company?  Review web designers’ online portfolios for inspiration and consider implementing similar strategies for your own site

* Think carefully about your competitive advantage and how to communicate it.  Moore gives the example of a hair salon.  All salons cut hair.  But one salon “lets you upload your photo to their website and see how you look with different hair styles.  That site has communicated the company’s core values of creativity, education, and making a salon visit a pleasurable experience,” Moore says.

* Avoid clutter, especially on the home page.  Home pages are becoming more visual.  Moore recommends photos, headlines, and teaser copy with links, rather than telling the company’s entire story in big blocks of text on the home page.

* Don’t forget the phone number.  List your contact information on every page – a phone number, email address, live chat option, contact form, or a mix.  Potential customers hate hunting for a way to reach you.     

* Know that colors and photos can become dated.  Five years ago, Moore saw a surprising amount of orange and white on websites.  Monochrome is popular now.  “You’ll see color palettes fade in and fade out,” he says.  “If you plan well, you can make slight adjustments in color without having to redo the whole site.”

As for photography, use the best you can afford.  “There’s very good stock photography available now,” Moore says.

* Consider adding a blog.  A blog helps establish company executives as experts in their fields.  Small-business blogs and sites created with WordPress, a free software program, are typically quite easy to navigate, read, and update.

* Determine who will update the copy and how that will get done.  If someone from your company will be in charge of updates, make sure the site design is simple to use.  If the web designer will be making changes, discuss fees and expected turnaround time before hiring the firm.  Your company news isn’t timely if it’s posted weeks after it occurs. 

* Weigh whether to work with a solo practitioner or a bigger design firm.  One disadvantage of working with a one-man shop, Moore says, is what happens if the relationship ends.  Will the designer simply shut the site down, leaving your company to start over?  The contract should stipulate that the company will get access to passwords and source code on demand.  Working with a larger design firm might make your company less dependent on a single person with your source code.

A well-designed website can be an invaluable tool for generating new business and reinforcing a positive image among current clients.  However, even well-designed websites need to be updated periodically.  What will your site look like in 2015?