Recently I had the opportunity to work with a client who contacted me for a re-do of her business website. This situation was different than any other re-do I’ve ever done in my web design career and was an eye opener for me. The conversations I had with this very sweet lady made me realize that some people do not know what a website re-do really is or how it’s done most effectively. After realizing this, I felt it was important for me to do something to try to help people better understand. I hope this will help you whether you are a client or a designer who may run into the same type of situation.
When people come to me for a site re-do
I quite often find that their existing site is:
- At least several years old.
- Not coded in current standards.
- Was developed using (shudder!) Microsoft’s Front Page software, which any good designer can spot a mile off without even looking at the code. Yes, it can be that obvious. I’ve had conversations with designers who do create sites using Front Page, and they’ve told me that they’ll only do it if the client demands it. Why? Because they know it’s not the best tool to use.
- Is missing some very necessary elements which make a site work to its best advantage and/or makes it good food for the search engines. In some cases these elements are in place, but they’re not being utilized properly or effectively.
- Contains visual elements that annoy site visitors more than they attract them. These elements include but are not limited to; flashing images and/or animations, images and/or lettering that are so large (or small) that it’s out of proportion to the rest of the site, color combinations that visitors would need sunglasses in order to not hurt their eyes when viewing it, photos or other images that haven’t been properly optimized which promotes long page load time and for those on a dial-up connection may not load at all.
- Has poorly written content, particularly for the search engines.
- Any combination of the above and/or other things that just don’t make a web site the best it can be.
Don’t get me wrong, good visuals or “eye candy” are a necessary element for a web site because you do want to present visitors with an interesting and appropriate visual design. It is important that your site is pleasant to look at because this helps people come back!
More importantly it’s the content that is the absolute most important thing. Your content is (or should be) the major element that the search engines feed on and we all know that everyone wants their web site to be #1 in the search engine results. When people surf the web, they are looking for information. If your design is annoying to the eye, they’re not going to stick around to read the content.
Search engines cannot read images or photos. This means that just painting a pretty picture for people to look at but disregarding the other more important needs, will get you nowhere in the search engine rankings.
Faced with a site re-do, a web designer must look at not only what the site looks like but the whole picture if they want to do a good job for the client. Old depreciated code must be replaced with code that’s up to today’s standards. If the look of the site dates it and the site topic is not appropriate for a dated look, the visuals must be changed. You can pretty much bet if a site is even a few years old, it is more than likely using tables and inline code to hold things together. Today’s standards call for a table-less design and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) for best results.
A web designer could try to work with the code and other elements that are in place on the existing site. They could add to it, edit it, delete what isn’t needed and so on. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “looking for a needle in a haystack?” Well, this most often what this process amounts to. If you’re looking to add any fancy features, this requires time to research, install and test individual scripts and other elements to add-on or change your site, that in the end they may find won’t work anyway because of the existing code or other features that you may want to keep.
I feel strongly that a good designer works for the best interest of their client, including being as cost-effective as possible. If a site is coded the “old fashioned way” this means that the above process must be performed manually on each and every page. All of this is quite time consuming and tedious work and it’s time that you are paying for!
Newer sites use methods which allow the use of what are called “includes” and templates, sometimes one, sometimes more than one depending on the needs of the site. Both of these time-saving features make building and maintaining your site much easier and cost you less money! Today, web designers can create a template or two and any number of includes they need. If we update that one template or include it affects the entire site vs. a “manual labor” page-by-page update making it a much more cost effective way to handle things for the client and in turn cuts your design and maintenance costs.
What this all means is that a good website re-do is not much different than developing a brand new site. If it’s cost effective to utilize an existing feature or two, we definitely will but starting from scratch with a brand new design and clean, up to date code provides the most time and cost effective method to re-do an existing website.
What does this mean for your budget? You wind up paying your web designer less money than if they re-do your site on its existing design and code.