As I embark on the task of helping advise my company on their current website redesign project (which is WAY overdue!), I thought it would be an excellent article topic to explore/share the question…“How do I know when to redesign my website?” If you are a business owner/manager/marketer and you are curious about whether you need to redesign your website, the real answer should be provided by feedback you receive from others. What does that mean? Here’s a quick exercise… Ask your 3-5 most trusted employees to critique your website. Next, ask your newest employee (or least knowledgeable about your company) to do the same. And finally, ask a few people outside of the company who you believe would be similar to your target audience to critique your website. The results should tell you the answer to this question. Here are the questions/topics you should ask in order to get the right feedback: Do you feel the current website promotes a favorable user experience? Can web visitors easily navigate to the most crucial information within 3 clicks? Is the website engaging and interactive, or is it more like a brochure or billboard? How well does the website aesthetic project the company image & personality? How strong is the company logo and branding, and how well is it incorporated into the website? What business objectives and/or end results does the business want to accomplish with web visitors, and how effective is the website in accomplishing this? (online sales, leads generation, customer service, etc) Would you return to this website often? For what reasons? What shortcomings exist and what would you change? The answers to these questions should give you a pretty clear picture of whether it’s time to redesign or not. The last consideration should be whether or not your site is equipped to participate in the social internet (web 2.0). Billboard/brochure style websites of years past vs. current web 2.0 sites would be comparable in today’s world to a movie rental store vs. Netflix, a paperback book vs. Kindle, a landline telephone vs. a 3G smartphone, or a Walkman vs. an iPad. I’m alluding to an entity with very basic limited capabilities compared to something that is dynamic, expandable, and interactive. If you are OK with sitting back and hoping potential customers find your website and are able to sift through enough of the static information that they decide to take action and go out of their way to contact you without first being persuaded away by a distraction or more enticing alternative, then you don’t need to worry about adapting to new technology and a changing business environment. If, on the other hand, you are interested in exploring the world of a website that is optimized to engage in the social internet, your business will reap these rewards: Keep visitors coming back again and again with consistently new, fresh, and updated content on your website. Educate, entertain, and stay engaged with your web visitors with blog articles, pictures, and newsletters. Increase your search engine rankings (SEO) by building a wealth of relevant content associated with your industry. Encourage purchases or inbound requests by providing clear “next step” calls-to-action from each page of your site. Establish yourself as an industry leader by adopting new technology and providing relevant content to your audience. Enable your sales and marketing team to be more successful with a powerful online resource to back them up. The bottom line is this… your website should be something you are proud of. Think of it as your online “storefront” that will either persuade or dissuade potential and existing customers to or from engaging in a relationship with your business. If your website is like that questionable relative that you’re embarrassed to introduce your friends to, it’s time for a change. Your website can potentially win more curious shoppers than your actual place of business can. It can communicate to more people, more quickly, and in a way that is completely up to you. And this is really the infancy of the internet, e-commerce, and social networking… who knows where it will be in 5 years. What we do know is that the adoption rate of technology among the consuming public is astounding, and it is gaining steam not slowing down. So you go through this process and find that it’s time for a redesign. Where do you start? Find some local professionals in your network who you think have a spectacular website and ask them to refer you to their design firm. Google it. My thought is that the firms that come up at the top of the search results probably have something figured out when it comes to SEO and website design. Check out directories for local organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce or a local technology organization. The companies that take the time to get involved in the local business community probably offer good customer service and can deliver a product they can stand behind. Don’t choose a design firm until you’ve interviewed multiple candidates. Choose based on how well they “get” your business and how well you “click” with them. My advice is to constantly be a part of the change in business and society and not to wait for what you think may be a “safe” time. It’s much, much harder to catch up to a wave when you’re swept under the ocean, than to get on your board and enjoy the ride. What do you think?