Refresh in progressGoogle made me do it.

My website refresh has been in the back of my mind for months. I had a few changes I wanted to make, but nothing seemed urgent and the project fell off my radar.

I finally set things in motion after a few reminders about Google’s view of sites that don’t have “secure HTTP.” Basically, HTTPS in the web address signals secure communication and web browsing, and Google has started to rank sites higher if they have it (and, we suspect, lower if they don’t).

Now that my site is refreshed, I interviewed my web manager, Joan Donogh (the Divi Diva), to find out more about when to redesign a website and what features are in or out:

What are some signs that it’s time for people/companies to update their websites?

In the case of websites built on WordPress, a big sign is the release of WordPress 5.0. This was a major update, so some older themes are not compatible and some things stop working. Other warning signs are if your website is not mobile friendly, slow to load, or you have noticed a reduction in traffic or leads from your website (if competitors have more current sites, for instance). Having a Flash intro would definitely be a sign that you need to update your website!

How often should people consider a full website redesign?

I would say at least five years. Trends and technology change rapidly in the web design world. What we can do now is worlds different than what was possible five years ago.

Once they decide to go ahead with a refresh, how can clients make the update easier for you?

Be clear about anything you like and don’t like about your current website, things that are working or not working, content that you want to keep or revise. I like to get a list of other websites the client likes, and what they like about them. The process is pretty easy, as you have seen with your site – we can copy the complete site to a staging area and work on it there, and then copy the staging site back to the main site with all the content intact.

How important is it to update a site from “http” to “https”?

If you depend on getting traffic to your website from search engines, it is very important. Google has decided this is important, and will now prioritize websites that use https over those that don’t.

What other aspects are critical these days?

  • Optimizing your site for mobile. Your site should be responsive; that means it looks good on all devices: mobile, tablets, notebooks, desktop monitors.
  • Loading time. The site needs to load fast.
  • Be clear about what you do and who you do it for (this has always been critical).
  • Make it easy for people to find your contact information.

Web design fads come and go (I’m thinking about Flash intros, for instance). What are some newer web design features you think are here to stay?

  • Typography is one. Even relatively recently, we were mostly limited to three fonts (Times, Arial and Verdana) because we had to depend on fonts that were loaded on the viewer’s computer. Now Google Fonts has opened up the world of typography in web design, with over 800 fonts available to be used on websites.
  • Video content is much more common. I think it will only increase.
  • Longer pages and scrolling. In the old desktop days, we favoured more shorter pages, trying to keep the content in the visible area of the screen so the viewer did not have to scroll.
    Now, people are used to scrolling on mobile devices, and longer content pages are the norm. It’s easier on mobile to scroll rather than try to navigate to different pages. Some simple brochure-type sites that would have been five or six pages are now done as a single-page website.
    With this in mind, it is even more important to “chunk” content. As we have long known, people “skim” websites. Adding headings, subheadings, bulleted lists, different design treatments and so on gives their eyes something to fix on.

What are some design features you think (or hope) are on their way out?

  • Sliders (multiple panels of text and images that slide across the screen); at least I hope so! I think sliders are the “new” Flash intro. Studies have shown that they are not effective. Viewers don’t look at them or take in the information, but clients still want them.
  • Autoplaying video and audio. While people haven’t necessarily become more responsible here, browsers like Chrome and Safari have taken matters into their own hands and have stopped any sound-related files from playing the instant you hit a website. Now visitors can decide whether they want to hear your advertising message or not.
  • Popups. Okay, this is something I WISH was on the way out, but actually shows no signs of it. I especially hate popups within seconds of arriving at a site, wanting you to sign up for a newsletter or join a mailing list. Why would I want to sign up for anything when I haven’t even had time to see the site yet?

Joan, thanks so much for answering my questions, and of course for all your hard work on my website!

What do YOU think are signs that it’s time for a web refresh?