Why websites fail

Computer with analytics on screen on table, woman's hand on keyboard

There is an amazing reason that websites fail — and it’s not what you think.

Let’s start with what it’s not:

  1. Tech
  2. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  3. Products or services
  4. Organization or business behind the website

Any or all of those can indeed be bad and sink a website, but that’s not the main reason why websites fail.

Ready for the real reason? Sitting down?

The real reason is that the website owner, who was all excited when envisioning and building the website, lost interest.

There’s a big push toward “set it and forget it” in our culture. We want to deal with things once and be done. Just have things work on autopilot going forward.

Early websites kind of worked like that. You know, the kind where a developer created every part of it pixel perfect and even the tiniest change, like fixing a typo, involved getting said developer involved again. So websites were built and then left alone, to just be out there on the internet.

It wasn’t a great idea back then. Definitely not a great idea now.

Today’s websites need, require, new content and TLC on a regular basis. Unless you really don’t want to get noticed. Unless you don’t want to be seen as relevant to website visitors.

And that’s where so many website owners drop the ball. It was exciting to get a new, shiny website built. But as time goes by, they don’t stay excited and end up neglecting the website. By not adding new, fresh and relevant content to it.

It’s not that they even necessarily set out to intentionally neglect the website. It’s just not top of mind and there are other things that scream louder for attention. So we’ll get to it tomorrow. Or the day after. Definitely for sure the day after that.

Or maybe it’s the thought that the website was awesomely cool a year ago when launched. Everyone liked it then. I still like what’s on there. So why mess with it? Why would it not still be good enough now?

One business owner explained to me that since his customers really didn’t come in through the website anyway, it didn’t matter what it looked like. In his opinion, it was good enough, even though clearly dated. As in “1994 is calling to get their website back” dated. Ouch.

Now, by this point, you might conclude that I’m just trying to sell you on why you need to trade in your website every year. To always have the latest model. Kind of like a car or truck.

That’s not at all what I’m saying. In fact, I expect any website I design and build to serve its owner well for a number of years before major structural changes are needed.

What I’m talking about that’s killing websites is that the content on them never gets updated. Or only very rarely. That’s what gets forgotten.

Meanwhile, stores send us new promotions every week. Because they want to give us new reasons to visit them.

Websites are not so different. In many ways, a website is like an old-fashioned store window. The kind where products were displayed to entice passers-by to come into the store.

It’s about having good, solid content. That gets updated. Regularly. So it’s fresh and relevant. So it doesn’t look like nothing has changed from when I came here last time, 6 months ago.

It’s putting content where visitors need it and can easily find it. Where it connects with them.

It’s having relevant calls to action on all relevant pages. Calls to action are not just about “Buy” buttons. It’s any action someone can take that will connect them with you.

We want to make it easy for people to do business and engage with us.

It’s about personal connection. All too often, we tread websites like megaphones. I have a message and I’m going to shout it at as many people as possible.

When it’s really like me talking to an old friend. But if every time we meet the conversation goes exactly the same way, that friendship won’t last for very long.

However, if we keep engaging in new ways, learning more about each other and what’s going on in the other person’s life, the friendship will grow and keep growing.

Your website is that conversation between you and your clients/visitors/constituents/tribe. Make it feel comfortable. Safe. Welcoming. A place where they want to come and stick around.

But all that requires input. Not just once when the website is first built, but on an ongoing basis. Review content. Update. Tweak. Improve. Change. Refresh. But don’t let it stay the same. Month after month. Year after year.

5 tips for keeping your website content fresh:

  • Check that there are no broken links or links to outdated information.
  • Actually visit and read every page on the website at least twice a year. Make note of and fix anything that is outdated. Or could be said differently. More clearly. Shorter. Better.
  • Make sure all calls to action are relevant and presented in the best way. Update wording wherever needed. Reword entirely for a fresh appeal. Or change to another call to action.
  • Review all images on the website. Replace any images that are outdated. Replace images that have been on there for a while, unless they show something that can’t be replaced. Images catch people’s attention — a good picture is worth 1,000 words. Unless of course, visitors have seen it umpteen times. In which case it’s just old and boring.
  • Rewrite text to communicate in a fresh way. That may mean saying the same thing with different words and sentences from a new angle. But we do need to change things up.
  • Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings. Really love your about me description? Or the photo on the front page? If they’ve been there for a while, it’s time to change them up. Just because time.

Consistent truth:

Nobody likes to visit a website that never changes and just slowly becomes more outdated. Don’t let your website be one of them.

Next step (because this won’t take care of itself):

Put it on your calendar. Block out time now to check over your website and while at it, set up another appointment 6 months from now for the next review.

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