If your company is currently going through the torturous exercise of developing a new website, this message may be too late. If you haven’t traveled too far down the road of developing a new site yet you should read this article. But don’t just read it, commit it to memory, post a copy of it in the break room, and email it to loved ones. Help stop the suffering.

Why would a guy who leads a company that develops award-winning websites for businesses of all sizes tell you not to develop a new website? Hmm, perhaps I didn’t think this one all the way through.

Or, perhaps I’m channeling my inner Ghost of Christmas Future. I’m bringing you knowledge from a not-so-distant tomorrow. In the future, businesses are going to wise up. They will escape the “website redesign cycle” that curses their marketing and leadership team every three years.

The current model is broken; technology is evolving too quickly. You can spend four agonizing months designing, developing, and launching a new site only for it to appear outdated a year later. It might incorporate a technology platform that’s no longer supported. Look at those sites that were built using flash – which is now outlawed in digital land. A few years back, the smartphone explosion rendered many sites useless. Tiny text and poor navigation forced companies to update their web properties for mobile consumption. Maybe you just decided on a design element that now seems as out of touch as a hit counter. Whatever the case, a lot of work went into a project that’s no longer meeting your company’s needs.

If you’re fortunate, the new website might provide better results than the previous site. Let’s hope your search rankings don’t slip. But why take a chance? You could also spend $15k on scratch-offs and potentially achieve a positive ROI, but in most cases that’s not the strategy I would champion.

If you decide to stop reading this article now, it’s because you understand my message loud and clear: Never update your company’s website. Wait, no! The takeaway from my more experienced and somehow better looking future self is just the opposite.

Stop spending months on a website overhaul. Instead, develop a web strategy that enables your site to work harder for you. The best way to increase your website’s performance is through incremental changes that are tied directly to business objectives.

Digital marketing has exploded over the past two decades. There are many reasons for this, but none are more significant than the ability to collect data and analyze performance. This provides a way to quickly and inexpensively test, learn, and adapt. Finally, marketing meetings that are less about opinions and more about facts. I can’t stand when someone starts a sentence with “Well I think…” You’re a sample size of one, you’re not in our target demo and nobody cares. But I digress.

There are many advantages to using an incremental approach to website development. If you don’t have twenty-thousand dollars burning a hole on your P&L, embarking on a website overhaul might not even be feasible. Strategizing and prioritizing site updates based on your business objectives will enable you to find the funds you need and have an easier time justifying them.

The process should always start with an audit of your current website’s performance. This audit can be relatively simple; you want to answer these questions:

  • Who is coming to our site? Is this our ideal customer?
  • How are people getting to our site? Are there opportunities for more/better traffic?
  • What are people doing on our site? Do these activities tie in to our business objectives?

For example, an attorney firm wants their website to produce leads for a practice area that needs more clients. During the audit they discover that site visitors arrive via search engines and view practice areas that already have steady business. Armed with this information, the firm will develop more content on their site for the service lines that have a marketing need. Additionally, they might develop new pages that focus on lead generation. They can use paid search advertising to drive relevant traffic to these pages.

The task of improving your website, much like growing your business, is an ongoing process. You shouldn’t try to do it all at once. You want to know which changes are effective and which are detrimental to performance. Future Karl was nice enough to share this wisdom. Unfortunately he wouldn’t tell me if my beloved Chicago Cubs are going to win the World Series this year. He can be a jerk sometimes.