If you do a Google search for signs that you need a new website, you’ll find a lot of blogs from web design companies listing off countless reasons that you need a completely new website. Well, of course that’s what they’re going to tell you — they want your business!
But if you really dig into these blog posts, a lot of their “signs” that you need a new website are mere obstacles you could rework on your existing website. For example, many of these posts say you need a new website if your current one doesn’t rank well in search engines, includes autoplay or flash content, or doesn’t include links to your social media accounts.
While these are certainly issues to address, they don’t necessarily call for an all-new website. So let’s cut through the nonsense. When do you really need a new website? Below are three ways to find out if it’s time.
1. Check if your website has been penalized
In SEO, there’s a lot you can do to gradually improve the way your site ranks in search engines. There’s also a lot you can do to gradually decrease its rankings. What’s more: there’s a lot you can do to suddenly make a dramatic drop in rankings. This is likely due to a penalty from Google.
Penalized websites usually see a drastic drop in their search engine rankings, and that drop often happens extremely quickly. You can rank on the first page for a handful of your target keyword phrases one night and then wake up to find that you’re nowhere to be found on the first three pages. This is a sign that your website may have been penalized.
How can you tell if you’ve been penalized? Along with this big drop, one of the most accurate ways to see if you’ve been penalized is to Google your company name. If you can’t find your own website by name, there’s a good chance you’ve been hit. This happens because Google will make big changes to its algorithm to target poor-quality sites and, for whatever reason, it views your site as one of them.
A few common causes of penalization include:
- A domain with a bad reputation
- No links to other websites (or too many!)
- Too many pages with 302 error codes
- Earning a ton of new links to your website way too quickly
- Taking too long to load or timing out
- Hidden or disguised content and links
- Content that’s riddled with keyword stuffing
- Too many H1 tags (a good rule is one per page)
- Purchased links to alter search engine rankings
- A sudden jump in search engine rankings with no natural published content
And sometimes you can be penalized for what someone else did (with malicious links or spam).
If your website has been hit with a penalty, all hope is not lost. If you can figure out the cause of the penalty, clean up and disavow links that caused the penalty, and request reconsideration from Google, sometimes they will accept your request, re-crawl your site, and remove the penalty.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work. Finding the cause of the penalty and then doing the work to remove the red flags can be extremely difficult. And if your penalty isn’t link-related, your site may never recover from it.
This is a time when you really may need a new website. You may need an entirely new domain with a new developer and a new SEO strategy. You may also want to do some digging to see what caused the penalty to begin with so that it doesn’t happen to your new site.
It’s always difficult to start completely fresh after you’ve been maintaining a successful website for years, but this is one of the cases where it’s better to just start with a clean slate than fight an uphill (and potentially impossible) battle.
2. See if your website is responsive
Here’s a fun experiment for you. On this page, manually resize the window size. (You can usually do this by clicking on the right or bottom-right of the window and dragging your cursor to the left.) Do you notice how the content and images automatically adjust based on your window size? This is what responsive web design looks like.
Try this out with your website. Is the layout fluid? Try it out on a few different pages. How do the images resize? Is the content readable at all sizes? Do you notice a difference in your navigation menu? All of this matters.
If your site is responsive, it means that any user on any device with any screen size can access your website with no problems. If your site isn’t responsive, it may still be mobile-friendly — but this is not the same. A mobile-friendly site likely has two versions: a desktop version and a mobile version. If the user is on a screen that works with one of these designs, no problems. If they aren’t, they may have issues with functionality and usability, leading your site to have high bounce rates and low conversion rates.
You’ve probably heard over and over again how important it is to cater to your mobile users. They’re more motivated to buy and they’re more likely to be looking for a local business. But why is mobile-friendly not good enough? Check out some of these statistics that make the case for responsive web design:
- 60% of all internet access is mostly mobile
- 45% of all US adults owned a tablet in 2015
- Consumers use an average of 5 different devices per person
- On average, consumers use 2.23 devices simultaneously (impressive!)
- 91% of small businesses don’t have a responsive website
- Nearly 8 out of 10 consumers would stop engaging with a piece of content if it didn’t display well on the device they were using
Responsive web design is about more than looking good across devices. It can be a powerful tool that drives new business — and the lack of it can send your customers running.
If your current website isn’t responsive, it isn’t a matter of making a few tweaks to fix that. This is another case where you may seriously want to consider creating a new website. Successful responsive design starts early on in the design stage and must be considered all the way through development.
3. Evaluate your relationship with your current web developer
Another sign that you might need a new website? It’s a nightmare working with your web development team. While the emotional argument is that you shouldn’t go through the stress of dealing with this, there are also compelling financial reasons to give this point some serious consideration.
For example, think about a time when you’ve asked your web provider to make an important change to your website. How many days did it take them to turn that change around? Each day can mean lost business. And how many hours have you spent going back and forth with them about an issue on your site? Every hour that you spend arguing with your web developer is an hour that you didn’t spend on your business. As a business owner, you know just how much you need to make with the little time you have.
If you’re having trouble dealing with your web design team, you aren’t alone. In one study, 78% of unhappy clients complained about the planning and service side of their web design: the communication issues, misaligned expectations, and missed deadlines. 25% of the unhappy clients complained about technical and programming issues: capabilities, technical limitations, and hosting issues.
So, maybe it’s that you can’t make any updates to your website and your developer is way too slow turning those around. Maybe your web design team pushes back on every request you make, or maybe you’re working with a DIY website platform that offers you no technical support. Perhaps you still don’t even have the website you want because the project has been drawn out way longer than promised!
No matter what the circumstance, web design is way too competitive of an industry for you to settle on a team or a platform that drives you crazy. It might be time for a new team and a new website.
In looking for the right web design team, the standard rules apply: check their reviews, look at examples of their work, and have a good conversation (or two) before you sign anything. Beyond that, there’s nothing wrong with bringing up your specific concerns and horror stories from past web design teams. See how the new team would handle your past pain points and get their take on your situation. This can be very telling of what you can expect when you switch to their services.
Which do you need: an update or a new site?
If you’re unhappy with the current state of your website or if it isn’t performing well, there are many steps you can take to improve it without redesigning it. The tips above are good ways to determine if you truly need a redesign, but don’t let them restrict you. If you simply want a new website or think a complete overhaul is better than a few tweaks, there’s no reason you shouldn’t create a new one.
If you’re simly looking to improve your existing website’s functionality, look and feel, and effectiveness — but you aren’t ready for a full redesign —