So you need to refresh your website, again…
When it comes to updating your company website, there are a million things to consider. If you are reading this article, there is a good chance you are thinking about a website that either needs to be built-from-scratch or redesigned. You want to build an optimized website this time, for real.
And while choosing the right WordPress theme is important, somehow it seems like the most pressing questions facing you have more to do with process and budget. Right now, you are probably trying to:
- Nail down what the whole process is going to be and what kind of a site you need to build.
- Guesstimate approximately how much it’s likely to cost, how long the project will take – and in the end, what business benefit will you see from all your hard work.
- Figure out if you want to make the new site in-house, or get professional help.
Lifecycle of a typical website:
Business websites can tend to go through repetitive cycles of…
- The redesign
- The new launch
- The extended period of stagnation where not much of anything changes.
Then the process repeats. Generally every two to five years. Unlike caterpillars, unfortunately, not all new websites turn into beautiful butterflies. All of this happens without anyone at the business ever understanding the remarkable thing that can happen when your website and content strategy live at the heart center of your business itself.
Very rarely will a redesign be based on real analytics, sound content strategy, a clear understanding of primary buyer personas and journeys, or a new and more efficient digital marketing plan. In an ideal world, these factors would be the basis for an intelligent redesign. And website refreshes would have a direct correlation to driving more business.
Website Building Options
Most serious businesses are clear that they are going to need something more professional than the drag-and-drop website builders designed for personal and recreational use. That knocks a good chunk of the options off the list. Whew! Small victories.
That leaves you with two main options: (1) You can use a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla. (2) Or if you want to outlay a considerable amount of time, energy, and money for a custom website, you can always hire a well-respected and proven agency and work with them to develop a customized site.
For financial reasons, as well as the broad footprint it has made in the market, a lot of organizations will start this journey on auto-pilot towards a WordPress website – which is not a terrible thing.
- WordPress offers a cost-effective solution that a large number of qualified professionals know how to use.
- It should be incredibly easy for your non-technical people to update content as needed.
- Maintenance of a site’s WordPress core, plugins and the theme is easy to outsource to a reliable professional contractor, keeping security and functionality running with a minimum of fuss.
The one drawback is that WordPress themes offer a dizzying array of layouts, options, and functionality. So many themes!
So how on earth are you supposed to pick the theme that will have the best overall results for your project? How do you know what combination of style and functionality will work best for you?
What does choosing the best WordPress theme even really mean, dude?
Question 1: Where to begin? Getting started.
Well first, you google “How to choose the right WordPress theme” and then you start reading the myriad articles that show up on the topic, all with slightly different twists.
Wait, you did that already? This is one of those articles you found? Good work!
This article was written to share some very effective, behind the scenes kinds of questions that we at Full Funnel Marketing use to help us determine the best theme for our clients.
Question 2: Who are you addressing? What is your message?
When you know exactly the kind of person or business you are addressing with your site, you can begin to determine the major challenges THEY are facing.
Combining your professional expertise and philosophy with a specific problem your desired customers are staring down will give you good ideas on what an effective message might be. This is also a good place to engage with a great agency
Question 3: What types of content should you use? What language do your clients speak?
Knowing what kind of content will speak most clearly to your audience will give you the feel for the main types of content to use on your website.
If your target clients are very academic, you may want to use a combination of written articles, videos and curated content that points to extended information outside of your organization.
If you are selling services directly to consumers, you might do better with image heavy pages and thrilled customer testimonials about how they got awesome results from your services. High-quality infographics are good for the design crowd. And a photographer’s website might just function very efficiently if it cyber-mimics an art gallery and art store.
When you’re browsing WordPress themes, you’ll want to pick a theme that is strong and flexible at communicating to your users using the content types you’ve chosen.
Question 4: How do you want to organize your site?
How does your sitemap look? You know, that rough draft of page navigation that is either living on a whiteboard somewhere in your office or maybe just loosely outlined in your head.
You will want to choose a theme that can handle the organization and pages you are envisioning.
Question 5: Need any advanced functionality?
Do you want to track leads and their actions in a CRM? How do you want that to work? Are you planning on selling anything directly to your customers through your website – something that requires an e-commerce solution? Do you know exactly how you want to display calendar events on your site?
Determining the functionality you want on your site BEFORE you commit to a theme is a good plan. You can go over your list of needs and wants with someone who has a good understanding of both WordPress and modern digital marketing strategy. This investigation is part of a solid process for choosing a theme that will look sharp, work well and last for a good long time.
Question 6: Style, Colors and Voice?
If you’ve got a signature color for your organization, go ahead and shop in the section of the themes store that only shows you the right color palettes. If your corporate voice is calm, earthy and trustworthy, you want to pick a theme that resonates with the tone of voice that was chosen.
Make things easy on yourself and choose a theme that will naturally support these factors.
WordPress Best Practices
As you determine which theme makes the most sense for your business, you’ll also want to make sure your website follows WordPress best practices. Here are three WordPress tips and tricks to keep in mind to get the most out of the platform.
First, avoid the use of image sliders or carousels. Simply put, you can’t depend on your visitors to click through all the slides or have the patience to wait for the carousel to run in its entirety. In addition to negatively impacting your page load time, these elements experience high bounce rates and lower the average time on page. All of these metrics result in your pages ranking lower for key search terms. If you have your heart set on using sliders, try to limit the number of images you use to three, since research shows that engagement declines markedly after this point.
Since your site’s ability to rank for key industry-relevant search terms is vital to the success of many companies, you’ll want to make sure to install the Yoast SEO plugin. Even if you don’t choose the paid version, the free version offers you a lot of benefits. Within individual pages or blog posts, you can click on the button which says “Edit snippet”, which allows you to add in keywords, title tags and meta descriptions to help your content rank better in search engine results.
Another best practice is to back up your site regularly. If you don’t have a team of web professionals managing your site, a modest investment of under $100 to purchase BackupBuddy will save you hours of time and potentially a lot of money should your site crash. This plugin makes backing up your website simple and easy. It is a good practice to always make a backup of your site before updating the WP core and plugins, as unforeseen conflicts can arise with updating. Also, take a cue from development teams and create a development (otherwise known as a “sandbox”) environment by duplicating your website. Here you will be able to test updates, new plugins, and that new theme you’ve been eyeing.
So how will it turn out for you this time?
Corporate websites can go one of two ways. They can be a ‘check-the-box, we made a website. yay.’ kind of item. Or they can be the pulsating, vibrant beating heart of your business.
Just like a waveform, websites will either amplify or deaden the message you are projecting into the world through the medium of internet. It all depends on how well aligned your website is to your business and more importantly – to your real customers!
Websites can exist in a vacuum, surviving as a kind of sad, lonely public diary tasked with the job of telling the world about your business. Or they can be a thrumming hive of lead generation, information sharing, trust building and social network activity.
My guess is you will probably like the business results of the pulsating, vibrant, beating and thrumming version of your website better than the isolated and ineffective one. The kind of performance you can drive from a well designed and high-functioning website will easily help you justify a mid-level spend on a great website.
By being able to reliably drive new business, and build good relationships with your existing clients and your community – that new website really is worth all the hassle, if you do it right.
Good luck with the re-design! I bet it’s going to come out really well!