5 steps to future proof your website

Future proof your website

It is not unusual for companies to redevelop a website every 2-3 years. The extent of this can vary – sometimes a design refresh will be enough, but to make major structural and functional changes, a complete overhaul is the only option.

Sometimes technology compels you to create a new website but it is difficult to know what technology will be permanent, and what is flash in the pan.

Many companies have adopted technology or content management systems that have turned out to be inadequate or obsolete within a few years. When selecting a new system, picking the right one is imperative. How can you do this?

There is, unfortunately, no magic formula to guarantee a completely future-proof website. The nature of technology is to evolve, and this will inevitably affect your website. However, there are steps you can take to select the right systems and supplier.

1.    Research and consult

Take time to educate yourself on the available options. If this prospect is daunting, consider undertaking consultancy to understand what is possible and save you legwork.

Pay particular attention to the external environment, especially social and cultural behaviours. Coupled with technology, these are the factors that will have the biggest impact on your website.

A key issue is what platform and code to use. There are many options – off-the-shelf website solutions such as WordPress or Sitecore, or open-source PHP, .net or Java. I would recommend that you always ask for a demonstration of any system to make sure it is easy-to-use and can resolve any frustrations with your existing website.

Ten years ago Flash was a popular choice for web builds as it allowed designers greater creativity. Now, no one would build in this program as technology has caught up. However, at the time, it was the right choice for some websites. This is okay – you may need to accept that a trend satisfies your requirements and you can mitigate this by acknowledging it and planning when it needs to be superseded.

2.    Mobile

This is a trend that is here to stay. Desktop PC sales have gone down as smartphone and tablet sales have gone up. Having a responsively designed website or mobile-specific version is more likely to satisfy users and increase leads.

Check analytics for mobile traffic – if it is steadily increasing, then this will continue and you should plan ahead for when the traffic will reach significant numbers, e.g. 20%.

Also look at mobile adoption rates for the demographic and/or countries you are targeting. If they are going mobile, then you need to meet this demand.

3.    Less is more

It’s tempting to put everything on your website so users can access everything. However, this can lead to bloated and confusing websites that quickly become hard to maintain and unattractive.

When planning the website, ask:

  • Is it really necessary?
  • How will it benefit my users?
  • Will they actually use it?

4.    Focus on users

Don’t lose sight of what your users need and want to do. Remember the purpose of your website and what actions users will be taking. It is easy to fall into the trap of what preferences and desires (or those of others) overtaking the needs of the audience.

Today’s web users are time-poor and expect simplicity. Keep it clean, simple and intuitive.

5.    Continually invest

Budget is usually set aside for a one-off web project with little consideration to what will happen after the website launches. Your website should never be viewed as a static product operating in isolation – it will be affected by technological and marketing changes. Therefore, always allocate budget to future development of the website to keep it fresh.

As a small aside, don’t pick a website supplier on price – “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”. Choose a supplier that meets your requirements and that you want to work with. This is more likely to end in the creating a website that will deliver the best long-term results.

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