Now and Later

What’s the lifespan of a website? The answer is easy: It depends. But you knew that (right?). Great, next question: What’s the life of your website like?

Now that’s something to chew on. Not like there’s little Tron lightbikes revving up in there, but your website is as alive as you are. With useful, up-to-date content, a website establishes your expertise and helps build the trust necessary for future sales opportunities. It’s not just an interactive brochure, it’s your business’ best representative online. At least, it can be if you’ve planned and designed the website with your marketing strategy in mind.

I see too many designs (even new ones) that fail to account for the dynamic nature of online marketing. Beyond serving your business’ immediate needs and immediate strategy, a new website must be prepared to handle your long-term plans and the new ideas that crop up tomorrow, next quarter or next year.

  • What if phone books and business directories stopped printing? Is your online strategy ready to pick up the slack?
  • What if your business plan includes e-commerce? How soon could your website be fitted with a shopping cart?
  • What if your business model or product line changes? Could you rewrite the site without redesigning it?

It’s the what-ifs that cause bad web designs to hobble and wreck your future plans. Bad web design doesn’t consider what-ifs. I won’t name bad examples, but I’ll tell you the basis of a bad web design is thinking you won’t change your homepage that often. Oh, and “we’re not going to blog, so ax that content-management system (CMS)”. Dude, get a grip. A website without a quality CMS is a prison you’ll have to rebuild in a year.

With no CMS, your carefully written content is locked up once and for all after the website is finished. If something needs to change, you’ll have to call your web designer and pay a pricey fee to fix that comma splice. That is, if your web designer offers support or if they’re even still in business. Wouldn’t it suck if your business depended on someone else’s expertise and they went MIA? But if you build with a CMS like WordPress, your website can pivot in seconds to respond. Oh, and it’s easy, widely documented and used by major brands across the globe. But even a WordPress website can fall flat without planning.

To avoid the trap of a poorly planned website, plan a meeting with your web designer focused exclusively on content. Talk about the online marketing you do now and what your long-term marketing goals are. Do a little research (or ask an expert) to help you anticipate future marketing tools and innovations. Consider the what-ifs. Make sure your web designer knows your plans so they can prepare space for the stuff you need now and the stuff you need later. It’s no trouble to leave room or set aside a page. But it’s a shame when you can’t act on a new idea because of roadblocks thrown by your past web design choices.

You can’t future-proof a web design, technology moves too fast and the best laid plans inevitably change. However, you can save yourself a lot of headaches later on. Make a list of what-ifs and plan a good web design.

photo credit: Lunchbox Photography via photopin cc