It is a reality of the digital age that customers, leads, prospective employees, vendors and other stakeholders will assess your brand based on your brand’s website. Not having a website at all leaves the impression that you are a fresh start-up or potentially fly-by-night risk; for an established brands, the impression is akin to discovering that a business address is actually a vacant lot. As a result, we recommend that all organizations have at a minimum a clean, typographically driven, one page website, with the means for visitors to contact them. However, we find that the no-website problem is much less prevalent than the bad-website problem.
There are a number of potential website issues to consider in deciding whether it is time to redo your brand’s website. The issue(s) you identify will also help diagnose what work is needed to make your website better reflect on your brand. Depending on the extent to your website issues, your website improvement could be achieved by migrating your brand’s website to a new platform, a website redesign or refresh, updating your content or a completely new website.
Key Website Issues
The five key issues that we see regularly are, as follows.
1. Outdated Strategy
The website is rooted in outdated strategy (business strategy or brand strategy). While the look of your website does matter, the biggest question is really how your website embodies your brand. Does your brand’s website embody your brand promise, brand position and brand personality? If your business strategy and your brand strategy have changed significantly but your website has not, then you may need to consider creating a new website to replace the outdated one.
Answering yes to one or more of the following questions indicates that a completely new website (and potentially rebranding) may actually be needed.
- Has your audience (target customer) changed since the website was created?
- Has what you are selling changed since the website was created?
- Has your competition changed since the website was created?
An affirmative answer to any of these questions indicates, in essence, that your current website doesn’t reflect your current business and brand.
This may be the case, even if your organization has not yet created a new brand strategy, and your bad website may be a symptom that a more fulsome rebranding is needed to get your brand strategy (brand promise, position and personality) in gear and your brand systems (wordmark, colours, tagline, font, imagery) in shape to better represent your business.
2. Outdated Brand Look
The website looks dated and doesn’t reflect well on the brand. The look of your brand is a reflection of your brand. It is a first impression (like your business suit) and, ultimately, Would you wear a bad suit to meet your best customer? However, we don’t recommend leaping into redoing the look of your brand without considering whether it really is Time to Rebrand?
3. Outdated Website Content
The website content and copy is neither magnetic nor useful for your target audience.
It may be obvious that there is a problem with your website content because, with so much copy being added over the years, it now reads like government regulations. However, it may not be so obvious to you and your team. It may be that your business could get a real benefit by investing in content marketing or inbound marketing. To do this, you will need to position yourself to create customer-centric content by (i) being clear on your audience and (ii) creating a content strategy.
4. Bad Website Navigation
The website has clunky navigation, so it is hard for website visitors to find their way around. We see this happen for businesses that have outgrown their website navigation plan, never really had a navigation plan or where the original site was so elegantly simple that navigation was intuitive.
However, difficult website navigation may stem from a lack of clarity on your brand architecture. If you have more than one brand and multiple offerings, then you need to decide whether these brands or offerings should share a website or have separate websites. Website navigation may get very difficult for your customer if you have not thought through your brand architecture and defined website architecture that suits your brand architecture. For most brands (but not necessarily all brands), your brand architecture type will guide this choice. Our post Online Location and Social Media Channels summarizes what website architecture generally matches with each of the major brand architecture types. In summary, website architecture used for overbrand, masterbrand, freestanding brand and endorser brand are:
- Overbrand – One website in the name of the Overbrand which houses sections for each sub-brand. An example is Apple which includes sections for sub-brands (like iPhone).
- Masterbrand – One website which houses content related to all your offerings. An example is Rogers which includes sections for its descriptively named offerings (like TV).
- Freestanding Brand – Separate websites for each freestanding brand. Unless there is an issue with linking brands, there may be links between different brand’s websites and the ultimate parent site will likely include links to each brand’s website. An example is P&G and individual P&G brand websites.
- Endorser Brand – The endorsing brand website is the main online location and the product brands content is housed on that main endorsing brand website. An example is Nabisco, Nabisco product brand pages and the Nabisco Recipe content which includes multiple product brands.
5. Prickly User Interface
The website can only be updated by an expert; it may be heavily coded, the interface is clunky or it is in a proprietary interface. There have been major advances in the user interfaces for websites. While you need to ensure that you have proper internal controls and security to protect your website, you may may not really need bespoke website coding and functionality.
If you have an old site, you may be tied to the vendor who built your site, and stuck in the position that no one internally can add new content or even fix a typo. If your vendor is responsive and affordable, your content magnetic, your site look and navigation is good, then there is no need to invest in a new website. However, if you are embarking on a website refresh or redesign, then we recommend you consider building it in, or migrating your content to, a user friendly interface.