How to future-proof your website
The internet is the most powerful medium of all time, but it's also the most ever-changing. In order to keep up with technological and marketing trends, it's important to occasionally redesign your site as the medium evolves. Here are steps you can take to future proof your website and stay ahead of the curve.
Monitor User Behavior
Not only does technology change rapidly, user behavior does as well. That's why studying analytics is a big part of managing a website. Not only do you have to gather data, you need to visualize how your users perceive your site and what they expect from you to make it accommodate their needs better. You also need to brainstorm with your team to resolve website issues that your own users might not articulate.
Keep Design and Content Fresh
Content needs to be updated much more regularly than design. At the same time, you should always monitor design trends to make sure your layout, buttons and other imagery aren't falling out of date. Redesigning your site every 18 to 24 months is a sensible marketing approach.
Part of your long term marketing plan should take into account that sometimes personnel changes can affect the condition of your site. When a marketing director or web designer moves on to another company, you should already have a backup plan in place. In the case of a limited budget, a more minimalist approach is the most timeless design solution. The site should already be set up so that a writer always has easy access to the site to upload new content.
Hardware and Software Changes
Some companies run their websites in the cloud and don't have to worry about new hardware, although they might still have to deal with new software that drives content to the site. If you run your own in-house servers, keep in mind that the average lifespan of a computer is about five years, although many companies try to push it longer due to budget constraints. The problem with outdated hardware and software is that service may eventually expire, as it then requires specialized IT professionals to manage.
Search Engine Updates
Google and other search engines are constantly updating their algorithms that define search rankings. Be aware that the direction in which they consistently move is toward rewarding quality content while punishing spam and fluff. As long as you keep producing meaningful evergreen content, you won't have to worry too much about these changes.
The main recent changes that you should already be on top of involve making sure your site is mobile-friendly and doesn't have broken or irrelevant links connected with the site. You should also test keywords for specific pages occasionally to see how well the pages rank in Google and other search engines. If they don't rank high, consider modifying the page titles.
Use Forward Thinking Ideas
When you craft content and design, think about what may work for two to five years. In other words, don't write disposable content that you know will only be relevant for a week. One of the qualities you should emphasize is evergreen content, meaning material that doesn't become outdated over time. An example of evergreen content is the history of your industry. You may want to add more history as time goes on, but it will always have relevance in a chronological context.
Essential Design and Content Tips
- keep the design, structure and functionality simple and easy to modify
- prioritize important functions users expect from your site
- avoid cumbersome or extreme technologies that you don't need (like Adobe Flash)
- make your content as useful and fresh as possible
- stick with original content that can't be found on other websites
Treat Your Web Developer as a Partner
Your web services provider should be a long term partner for many reasons. The more the same developer learns your site, the more valuable they will be when it comes to fixing problems, updating content reliably and understanding your business. You will save money and be in a position to build better content than if you are constantly working with new developers.
Make sure that your partner is motivated to stay up to date with technology and your business. Pay attention to their enthusiasm level, how well they listen to your ideas and how much creative energy they devote to your site. If you nurture the right talent who wants to be part of your winning team, then your site will be well positioned for the future.