Your Web Design: Planning for Change

We all know that keeping content fresh on your Web site is of critical importance.  It doesn’t look very professional when a user visits your Web site and sees that the content hasn’t been updated in some time.  In fact, it’s regarded as unprofessional when your Web site is characterizing past events as ‘coming soon’ or listing executive biographies of personnel that no longer work at your company.  Fresh content also sends a positive signal to Google.  While it’s certainly not easy, keeping the copy on your Web site fresh is a best practice.

But what about the overall design of your Web site?  How do you keep that fresh?  Many marketing personnel know internally that their site’s design looks old or stale (i.e. our users have become bored with the visual look of the site).  They are reluctant, however, to change the design because they know that might be a large project involving a great deal of time, energy, and involve a significant chunk of the annual marketing budget. With a little bit of planning during your next redesign effort, though, you can configure your Web site so that changing the look and feel over time without going through a total re-design.

For starters, insist on a cascading style sheet (CSS) for your Web site.  Going this route will direct the design team to centralize all font selections and color schemes into a singular file (a CSS file) that feeds the Web site.  Once there, a single color value change to this file (can be done in a few minutes) will, theoretically, change the entire color scheme of the site.  You might change the whole site color scheme to red for World Aids Day or use brighter tones for Spring and Summer.  It’s an easy way to quickly change colors throughout the year.

Going one step further, designate a few contained areas of your Web site or home page that you intend to change as a market cycle or year progresses.  Specifically, carve out some isolated (not blended into other images) images or image panels that you can easily change.  One academic institution that we have worked with isolated a segment of the home page for various icons/messaging throughout the year.  In the late Summer, the space was occupied by a ‘Welcome to Campus’ image for new students and a ‘Hurricane Plan’ image to publish planning materials and warning messages during the Hurricane Season.  During the Spring, the same space featured a graduation cap to give students and parents information on important commencement dates and events.  This space gave users the information they needed and the communications team the real estate needed to highlight important items while creating a refreshed look and preserving the uniformity of the page.

So, as you think about your site’s re-design, it’s a good idea to plan for change–change that will give your site a fresher look without having to re-design the whole site.  It will help you to feel better about your site’s visual look and make design changes part of the norm, not a complicated scramble involving a site re-design.