Website Upgrades, Facelifts and Makeovers

Not getting the results you need from your website?  It might be time for a complete site upgrade or "website facelift".  One goal must be achieved by your business when a visitor lands on your website:  Visual Credibility.  People often ask why they shouldn't use simple, inexpensive cookie cutter template systems that are available all over the web.  If you were building a house, would you buy your own tools, nails, timber, power equipment and just start banging away?  The answer is obvious. So why do that with your web presence when you can have a custom website that works for you?  The first impression you make is always a lasting one, and certainly you've got competition in whatever it is you are doing or selling.  So why not "wow" your visitors when they arrive, with a quality, credible website that says "we're good at what we do".

Organisations are increasingly realising they need to update the look, feel, and functionality of their websites. The process for website upgrades has changed significantly in the past few years. The days of hiring a web developer to “hard code” a site are increasingly behind us. A better alternative is to go with a platform like Joomla, which enables the creation of a sleek, sophisticated site that is both more user friendly and easier to maintain. This article explains why, and offers additional considerations for organisations that want to take a more modern approach to upgrading their websites.

With the remarkable growth in social media, mobile devices and apps over the past five years, traditional websites may seem passé and maybe even a bit quaint and antiquated. But for most organisations they remain their primary digital presence, serve as the home base of their digital networks, and are at the core of their digital engagement strategies.

Given that, a modern, well designed, easy-to-use and easy-to-manage website is critical to establishing and maintaining a strong brand and generating revenue, for both commercial and non-commercial entities. Unfortunately, however, many websites don’t serve their intended purposes as well as they could or should. Particularly in light of the advances that have been made in web design tools (especially content management systems) in the past five years, it’s hard to justify having a site that looks like it was built in 2004 – or worse yet, 1994. Even a site with a 2009 or more recent vintage is probably due for an upgrade.


Website Upgrades: The Essentials

If you’re thinking about upgrading your own website in the near future, here are five considerations that are essential to a successful outcome:

There’s no need to build everything from scratch. Why (re)build a website using HTML, SQL and PHP directly when you can use a platform like Joomla. Joomla is a great content management system that can be used to create sophisticated websites. And not just for small organisations and DIYers  – many large and well-known organisations have realised the value of leveraging them as well (see some of our Website Portfolio for examples).

Responsive design is a must. Most organisations don’t need a mobile app, and they don’t need to create mobile versions of their websites. If you employ responsive design, the site should work on a range of devices and environments. We’ll work with you to find a theme that has that.

Make sure the basics are covered. In addition to responsive design, you should look for a theme that offers a clean, modern, streamlined look and feel with good colour scheme options, simple fonts, clear layouts, and a balanced use of text and images. Other must-have theme elements include things like:

  • Staying current with different versions of the underlying software (e.g., Joomla)
  • Maximum browser compatibility
  • Clear navigation options, with menu capabilities in both the header and footer
  • Sitewide search capability
  • Social network integration

You also want a powerful, easy-to-use editing interface. In Joomla, for example, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editing is standard.

Look for a development partner and guide, not a hired gun. Unless you have a web developer on staff, you’re likely to outsource the upgrade project. It’s fairly easy to find people who will build and maintain websites for very low cost, but that’s really only a viable option if your website is simple and relatively static. The more complex your site is, and the more you want to do with it, the more important it is to treat the upgrade as an investment rather than an expense. That means your priority should be to DIR (Do It Right) rather than DIC (Do It Cheap). Remember that your digital presence is at least as important – and in many cases, more important – than your physical presence, so treat it with the respect it deserves.

If you choose to (re)build your website using a platform like Joomla, you don’t need or want an “old school” web designer. Coding skills in particular are not a critical differentiator, and they’re increasingly less important than someone who can quickly understand your organisation, your key stakeholders, and your website priorities so that they can be incorporated into the new site design relatively quickly and easily. You will likely have more success with someone who emphasises content over code, particularly since that person can work fairly autonomously to turn vision into reality.

We’ll strive to empower and emancipate you by providing you with the skills and tools you need to do basic site maintenance yourself (e.g., fixing typos, updating text, adding new images). Though they don’t do it intentionally, many traditional web developers end up holding their clients hostage or being a bottleneck to progress because they must make all site changes themselves. Going forward, you want to be able to handle the basics yourself and rely on your developer for advice and counsel and more complex activities and changes.

Website Upgrades: Final Thoughts

You may find it useful to create a specification sheet to use to evaluate different themes (and theme developers) to ensure you pick one that best meets your needs. Doing so also helps you refine your short and longer-term goals and get a better sense of your relative priorities.

As always, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have and welcome additional ideas and recommendations.