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How Old is Too Old? Knowing When to Redesign a Profitable Website

We’ve all heard at one time or another that there’s no use “fixing something that isn’t broken,” and generally speaking, that’s good advice. When it comes to doing business online, however, it sometimes makes sense to do exactly that. That’s because it isn’t always about what’s working, but whether it’s working as well as it should.

In other words, there are times you should consider redesigning or relaunching any website… even one that’s still making money for you.

Obviously, knowing when that time should be isn’t easy, and we’ve had clients come into our offices and struggle with those choices. With any big change there are also risks: what if customers don’t like the new site? What if it they don’t respond to it like you hope they will? What if it turns out being a waste of time and money, or ends up losing you money?

Those are all good questions, and ones that shouldn’t be ignored. But there’s another one that’s just as important, and that sometimes gets lost when owners and marketers are fearful of making changes: is my site as profitable as it could be?

If it’s not, then you’re losing money anyway. And besides, being complacent tends to be a very bad way to compete online. No matter what you do, you can be sure your competitors are thinking of ways to improve. They’re not going to stand still, even if you decide to.

With that mind, here are a few signs it’s time to make some changes to a profitable website:

Your business has changed, or the industry has. The most obvious time to redesign or relaunch a website is when what you offer now is different than it was before, or when what your customers are looking for has shifted. In these instances, it doesn’t really matter how profitable you’ve been, since the change is likely to catch up with you very quickly. Being behind the times is going to cost you money, online or elsewhere, so be sure you aren’t caught watching from the outside in.

Sales are slipping. It’s not always easy to separate seasonal dips from real changes, but most owners and marketers have a gut instinct when business is starting to get away. Often, these aren’t big or dramatic moves, just a couple of percentage points here and there. Still, if sales are decreasing and you can’t pinpoint exactly why, that’s probably a good sign that it’s time to look at a new layout. It might be that what you have isn’t appealing to new customers, or that you are losing existing business because of changes in the competition. Speaking of which…

Your closest competitor made a move. Not every relaunch by a competitor should prompt you to go running to your web design firm. Still, if another vendor has come up with a look, layout, or set of functionalities that is clearly superior to yours, then it’s only a matter of time before the market responds. In that situation, you have two choices: either keep up, or figure out what you are going to do in your next career.

It looks old. The difference between old and familiar is a fine line, and there is actually a little bit of a risk with taking away what your current customers are already happy and comfortable with. But, at a certain point, a website starts to look past its prime – not because it changes of course, but because most other sites in the world have. When that’s the case, it tells prospective customers something important: that you have stopped growing and developing. When it comes to selling online, keeping up is important, if only to show people that you are.

If you find your company site meets one or more of these criteria, then the answer isn’t to move to a new design and layout as quickly as possible. Instead, make the move carefully, paying special attention to the parts of your current site that make it profitable the first place. In other words, don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater – you won’t change your site for the better by just moving things around for the sake of making them different.

Once you’ve done that, follow the Golden Rule of online marketing: test everything. You’ll soon discover what customers like and don’t like about your new design, and areas where you can improve even more. The great challenge, and opportunity, of marketing your business on the Internet is that it’s a constant evolution. Just as your last website didn’t last forever, neither will your next one, so keep track of what’s going on and be ready to make another move when the time comes.

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