Every year, scores of small business owners meet with the company that manages their website to talk about a redesign. It’s a new year, it’s time to freshen up the website, they’ll say. And the web developer will nod their head and agree, happy for the work.
And on one level, if everybody’s happy, why does it matter if the business owner gets a new website? Isn’t that his prerogative?
Well… I’m presuming that being a business owner is more than an exercise in ego management. It’s more about doing what works. There’s no guarantee that a new design will be more effective than the one you have.
In fact, let’s take a look at your current website. I bet we can easily come up with 6 reasons you shouldn’t replace it.
1. You’re Not Insane
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. If you’re getting another new website hoping that this time, it’ll make you more money, then you’ve lost the plot. That’s not an online business strategy, that’s insanity. And you’re not insane. (Although you might be a psychopath.)
2. You Have No Goals
If you’re like literally 100% of the small business owners I’ve ever met, one day you decided a website was a good idea, and you got one. Your web developer gave you what you asked for, but nobody ever sat down and asked you to create goals for your website. As far as your website is concerned, goals are for sports.
I think the reason we all hate setting goals for our website is because we don’t feel qualified to throw out a starting number. It just doesn’t seem tied to reality. If it’s the first month for a new website, how much should you expect in sales? $20? $200? $2,000? $20,000?
The answer is, of course, anything you want it to be. Picking $20 is certainly better than picking nothing. You have to pick goals so you can be accountable for them. It’s the act of reaching for the goals that should drive your website improvement strategy. If you don’t have a goal, you’re website is bound to under-perform.
Learn more about how to get started with goals in this post on learning about the beginning.
3. You Don’t Understand Your Role (and Ignore Your Analytics)
There’s a report that your web design/marketing firm sends you every month that you never read. You don’t read it because it doesn’t have any meaning to you. Even if you understood all of the data flawlessly, it’d still be useless to you because you didn’t set any goals (see above). So you shove it in a drawer, or file it in the trash can.
The larger problem is, even if you had goals, you don’t feel like you have enough of a comprehensive knowledge of how to market a website to make recommendations.
You’re like the guy who hears a complicated explanation by his mechanic about his ailing car and then is asked what to do about it. How should you know? Isn’t he the mechanic?
In the same way, why should you tell the web dev what to do? Isn’t that his job?
But let me ask this question in reverse: how should your web developer know the first thing about your business?
Can you see how there really needs to be some back-and-forth between the web guy and the business guy on how best to do things? The issue, I think, is that the web guy thinks you’re the one with the power. After all, you’re the business owner (and client). What you say, goes. But on the other hand, you don’t feel like you have the most information about what’s going on. Clearly, the Internet is the native domain of the web developer – and as such, he has more knowledge about the website. This power imbalance makes it seem like the web guy is the one in control. And so you relinquish your responsibilities, file the analytics report instead of read it and fail to do what’s necessary to make things better.
You, of course, blame your web developer for selling you a crappy website when it doesn’t work and run out to get a new one. And all of that could have been avoided if you realized that you were the boss, and acted like it.
Curious about how to get a better monthly report? We know all about it.
4. You Don’t Understand Your Audience
Have you ever asked one of your users what it is they like about you or your product? Do you know why people shop with you (or use your service) instead of your competitors? Do you understand the marketing appeals that will really get their attention?
On the one hand, this sounds like the most obvious thing to do in the world. On the other hand, why would you do it? You don’t even have any goals. I mean, I know I’m being kind of brutal here. But let’s face it, you’re just not taking your website all that seriously.
So of course you haven’t done any surveys or tried to understand your audience. But you should. If you’re going to replace your website, you should at least replace your site with something you know your audience wants.
5. You Don’t Have a Good Sales Funnel
A sales funnel is more than what’s on your website. Though it’s that too. It’s from the first touch (say, AdWords or a banner ad) on through to the goal page. How does the message work? How are you effectively getting people onto your website? And once you get them there, where are you dumping them? Are you putting them on the most appropriate page? And what’s on that page? How is the copy? Does it speak to the marketing you’ve done to get the users to your website? Does it also make the user want to know more and to keep them moving further into the funnel?
In my experience, in ecommerce sites, sales funnels are taken for granted and in service sites, they’re not seriously thought about. Getting a new website and treating it the same way isn’t going to solve your problem.
Wanna know more? We did a whole podcast on two ways to improve your sales funnel.
6. You’ll Still Have All of the Above Problems
If you get a new website and don’t set goals, don’t understand your users, don’t create a coherent sales funnel, etcetera, how do you expect the next website to be better? The short answer is that it won’t be. You’ll feel good about the new design for a few weeks and then it will be back to the same old under-performance.
It’s possible to accidentally design something awesome, but I wouldn’t count on it. It’s not smart business. You have to design your way into something smart from the ground up. And when you don’t do that (as is probably the case with your current website) you have to undertake the research to discover if your website can be salvaged or if you do, in fact, have to start over.
So What’s The Answer?
The answer, rather than replacing your website, is to iterate yourself into a website that works better.
There’s an outside chance that you’ll find yourself in a situation where you can’t get there from here. If that’s the case, yes, get a new website. But start with goals and by talking to users. Use analytics and once you launch the new website, put yourself into an iterative process.
Iteration is where it’s at. You don’t need to replace your website. You need to iterate.
That means, you need to look at your analytics and decide if the user behavior is exactly as it should be. If not, discover the weak points and go and fix them. Fixing elements strategically will lead to improved sales much quicker than starting over. Additionally, review your marketing to see how it contributes to (or hurts) your sales funnel. Fix what needs fixing.
Measure what you change. Analyze to see if you can do better. If you can, change again. Rinse and repeat forever.
See? Simple. 🙂