Nothing lasts forever. Even the freshest website design will eventually get stale, which is why a digital publisher can expect to undertake a website redesign project at least once every three to seven years.
Why such a large range? For starters, publishers who cut corners on the design of their websites will usually need to update their sites sooner than publishers who build from the ground up with the help of established industry professionals. Pure luck also plays a role. A publisher who launches a newly designed website right as a new technology enters the market will need to make adjustments to keep his or her website current. (Working with a developer who specializes in design for digital media organizations can mitigate some of that risk.)
When they’re done right, website redesign projects yield significant results in terms of growth of readership and engagement. After overhauling its website, TIME saw traffic go up 100%. As smaller publishers experience business success and growth, website redesigns are often necessary to build on positive momentum and keep brand messaging consistent.
Here are the most common reasons why your news website may need an overhaul.
Your website isn’t mobile responsive.
Forty-five percent of U.S adults got their news on mobile devices in 2017, up from 36% just a year earlier. A website that wasn’t designed with mobile users in mind will be sluggish, and some pieces of content—like images and videos—may not open at all.
While it’s probably not necessary for smaller publishers to launch their own branded mobile apps, news websites should be optimized for mobile. At the very least, unnecessary coding should be removed and images should be re-uploaded in the proper sizes. For the best mobile experience, and to ensure your website conforms to Google’s mobile indexing changes, a full website redesign is likely in order.
Your SEO is lacking.
Search is the No. 1 way visitors reach independent news websites, so publishers should do everything possible to make sure their sites rank highly in keywords related to the topics or industries they cover. Unfortunately, developers who don’t work with independent digital publishers on a regular basis are often unaware of best practices that are unique to the publishing industry.
Long tail keywords will help with ranking on the first page of search results, as will title tags. (Title tags are used to describe the contents of a page to search engines.) Sitemap tools should also be used to control how Google reads your website. Many of the latest advanced SEO strategies weren’t around five years ago, and websites that are older than that should be redesigned with the latest standards in place.
Your website needs a more modern look.
A cosmetic facelift can freshen up a staid website. Website redesigns have major impacts on digital publications, even when the content remains the same. Sometimes publishers will take on website redesign projects as a way to re-launch their brands, and other times these projects are done as a way to keep up with the Joneses.
Website design trends are always changing, but the latest styles among news outlets seem to favor ample white space with a true mobile-first approach. A number of publishers, including Fortune magazine, have also adopted infinite scroll functionality as a way to let readers scroll directly from one article to the next.
Think about what your brand stands for, and then take a step back and ask yourself whether your current website design is in alignment. An outdated website can undercut a publisher’s messaging and ultimately hinder the publication’s growth. Working with an expert who has experience putting together websites for independent news publishers is often the easiest way to turn your design ideas into reality.
You’re using an archaic publishing platform.
If your website is built on an old content management system, it’s time for something new. Older content management systems can be difficult to update and they usually offer poor usability for writers and editors.
While there is still some debate over whether to go with an open-source or closed-source CMS, an industry-wide trend towards open-source solutions has fewer publishers relying on systems like Rivista and GTxcel. Publishers should consider making the transition to an open-source solution like WordPress at the same time they redesign the front ends of their websites.
If your CMS is difficult to use, or if you’re concerned that an outdated design might be sending the wrong message to readers, we’d be happy to chat. At Web Publisher PRO, we have helped hundreds of independent publishers build thriving businesses keeping in mind the latest trends in website design.