At left is the redesign we’ve just completed for a very valued client of longstanding: Dawn Perry of CapeCodTreasureChest.com. We’ve been working with Dawn for years now, with a redesign of her original website being our very first work with her. Cape Cod Treasure Chest saw more than a 125% increase in sales after that first redesign and over the past few years, we’ve engaged in two subsequent redesigns to keep things organized and fresh. We are really pleased with this latest look for this great small business and when we presented the new look to Dawn, she didn’t hide her feelings from us:
OMG!!!! Love, Love, Love it!!!!
I can’t believe you’ve taken my simple request and turned it into something so great, even better than I had ever dreamed of….. You are the most fantastic designer.
I love the simple ease and flow of the page….. It was just so cluttered before…. It just makes so much more sense now….. I think this 3 columne format really is the way to go… So glad you suggested it!!!
I love how you used the dolphin tile and made it look like a wave with our name in the top picture….. So cool!!!
I can’t wait to see how this new design turns into more sales! I know my customers are going to love it…..
How’s that for music to any hardworking web designer’s ears? A sonata, indeed!
I thought it might be helpful to other small business owners if I gave a couple of pointers that will help you determine whether it’s time to consider a re-design of your website. Some people live by the mantra, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I can see the sense in that, but if a client like Dawn Perry had decided she was content with the ‘unbroken-ness’ of her first website design, she would never have seen that huge sales increase, nor the annual increases her company has continued to enjoy with each passing year, due to her commitment to running her business as well as she can, coupled with our ongoing diligence. Sometimes not being ‘broke’ just isn’t a good reason to stand still when a little activity can bring new, tangible rewards. If you’d like to reach for something beyond ‘good enough’, let’s take a look at my 3 Clues It’s Time To Redesign Your Website:
Clutter And Confusion
If you have any interest in architecture, you will doubtless have seen old American houses, built in a specific style such as Victorian, Arts & Crafts or Art Deco, onto which subsequent owners have added new additions and elements over the years; odd paint choices, that unbalanced second floor, that disharmonious new roof line, strange new trims, rooms that jut out at unpleasing angles, none of which were part of the original master plan when the house was first built. Websites can be very much like this. When a good website designer sits down to create her master plan, she’s got all of the elements of the website laid out before her: page count, top product focus, important content, photography, color preferences, etc. Out of this array, she creates a well-balanced system of navigation, layout and look for the website that encompasses all elements in a pleasing, functional manner. On the day of launch, everything is picture perfect.
Then time passes. New content gets created. Different products trend towards greater popularity, demanding greater focus. New product pages come into being. The client begins engaging in new marketing techniques such as blogging, video marketing or some other form of Social Media and attention needs to be drawn to this. Piecemeal, the webmaster/designer works to bring all new things into the existent design and for awhile, this works fine, but at some point, so much that is new has been fit in here and there that the overall cohesion of the original master plan is getting lost. That 10 product business that did well with only a top navigation menu now has 30 products and would really do better with a vertical side nav bar. That virtual business has just opened a physical office and needs to start putting robust energies into Local Search Optimization. That bare minimum original site now has 20 new pages of awesome content, deserved of a menu of its own.
If you look at your website and see that clutter and confusion have grown as a result of too many new elements having been squeezed in here and there over the years, it’s time to start from scratch with how all of this new ‘stuff’ is organized so that it is being presented in a balanced, usable way with prominence being given to the new things that have become important.
When we started our own company, a vast percentage of our clients’ customers were still using 800 width monitors. Except for a few hairy experiences with fluid width designs, we typically designed the main contents of websites to be about 760 wide. In 2010, something like only 2% of most of our clients’ customers still have these old monitors and on the ever-wider screens, those old sites look as funny as skinny neck ties from the 1950’s. At best, a vast deal of screen space is being lost. At worst, odd repeats of background images result, making a very pasted-together, unpleasant presentation of the business.
Take a look at your website on the newest computer monitor your can access and see how it’s displaying. If you don’t like what you see, a re-design that makes the most of the space and renders correctly on major modern browsers such as Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Safari is in order. While you’re at it, if your business has any type of mobile component, it may be time to consider having a separate stylesheet created for mobile devices. Times are a-changin’ fast.
Staler Than Moldy Bread
It is important to virtually every type of business to demonstrate alacrity – that quality of being on the ball, current, brisk, positive and ready to help. Brick-and-mortar concerns repaint their signs, wash their windows and refresh their stock and displays as a sign of business being alive and thriving. Cobwebs and dust-covered merchandise don’t inspire a feeling of lively commerce taking place. By the same token, tired color schemes, badly pixelated imagery, crusty old fonts and way-outdated design techniques including repeating wallpaper backgrounds, black-as-midnight drop shadows and that heavy canvas Photoshop texturizer effect can send a signal to your Internet users that your business has stagnated since you decided to take it on the web. I’ve run into some truly amazing examples of set-and-forget website design that could act as a showcase of website design principles circa 1995, and while it can be funny to see these kinds of things, having people laugh when they come to investigate your business is probably not what you’re shooting for.
Very often, though, a well-maintained website isn’t suffering from this type of extreme design antiquity – rather, it has just grown a little stale. I’m by no means tied to the idea that every site must have the latest web 2.0, 3.0, 40.0 look, for the sake of embracing fads. I like unique designs that show thought and care for user comfort, regardless of trends. But, certain developments have taken place over the past 15 years which truly do improve both the aesthetic quality and basic human usability of website design and being progressive in these areas is smart.
For example, the shift from the once-common light text on a dark background to dark text on a light background is a definite improvement; so much easier on the eyes. A leaning towards larger fonts has also created improved readability, in my opinion. Siloed menus are another example of a good technique for dealing with unwieldy amounts of content, creating shorter, more focused menus for specific areas of interest within a site. Better use of shorter paragraphs and appropriate header tags to break up copy into meaningful portions is yet another positive improvement I’ve seen. Some changes seem so small, they may go largely unnoticed, but the new ease they provide in the user experience is what counts, even if the changes are far from bold or flashy.
Compare your site to other websites you admire that have a really current look and function well. What is creating that good experience? How is the content being organized and presented? How memorable is the design, the logo, the masthead, the imagery? Would you immediately recognize and remember it if you saw it again, or does it look like everything else? Are your users being engaged? Do you ever receive positive comments about your design? Our clients do all the time and they write to us to tell us this, proudly. Could a bad design be adversely affecting your sales and other conversions? Could a new design refresh older customers’ interest in your business? Also of great importance, could a new design refresh your interest in your business?
On occasion, we have recommended a new design for existing clients, but for the most part, this work originates in the client coming to us saying that he (or his customers) is feeling a little bored with his site. There’s a growing feeling that things need to be changed up a little, given some polish and care. Our efforts can then make the difference between the ho-hum of business as usually and the ‘OMG!!!!’ of delight in turning on the computer every day to get cracking with everything you do to pursue success in the web business world. Maybe you just need some cool new fonts to modernize your look. Maybe it’s time to totally rework your navigation menus to bring order out of chaos. Maybe you’ve got to bid a fond farewell to that clip art logo you got during the Clinton Administration and go for gold with something gorgeously, professionally designed. Your re-design needs may be large or small, but your goal will be the same: to ensure that you are making the most of the opportunities the web is offering as a vehicle for doing business. Success and profits are waiting to be made – this I know – but your drive and determination are all up to you.