Rerunning workshops shows up change

We run our “Designing a business website” workshop for the Small Business Clinic quite regularly. It is a popular one that is useful for any small business who is thinking of creating, updating or reviewing their website. It covers:

  • what information the website must contain,
  • how it should work,
  • what the website should look like,
  • and, probably more importantly, all the mistakes you must avoid for each aspect.

What a website must contain

Obviously, you can put pretty much anything you like on a website but there are certain things that it must have somewhere:

  • What you do – otherwise why would you have the website
  • Who you are – so people can start to form a bond with you or your company
  • Some contact information – the reason for having the website is to get people to contact you, so this HAS to be there!
  • Cookie and data protection statements – to comply with legislation and give visitors reassurance.

That doesn’t change much with time

How a website should work

This part of the workshop is all about how people interact with your website; what will make them want to continue using it and what will make them leave it immediately.  It covers how to lay out your page, using a “call to action” to draw people further in and how to avoid putting people off.

Most of this is common sense which doesn’t change much with time. However, making sure your website works on all devices has become increasingly important, especially since Google has made mobile-friendliness a priority.

How the website looks

This is the part of the workshop that needs updating every time we run it.

We have lots of example websites (you’ll have to come along to find out which ones!) to illustrate the good and bad points of web design. Our examples need to be up to date, so every time we run the workshop I go through and check that I have the latest versions of websites and best examples of what we want to talk about. I have blogged previously about how web design is governed by fashion, but updating this workshop really brings the point home. Nearly all the websites for larger businesses we use have had major revamps within the last six months or so. Some are for obvious reasons, such as making the website mobile-friendly when it wasn’t before, but others must be pure fashion updates – making sure the company is seen as modern and up to date.

Are fashion updates always advantageous?

Old design for Nepeta Consulting website
This is what our website looked like in 2013. It’s quite different to the current version.

Obviously, there aren’t many businesses that want to be seen as old-fashioned but are all the changes good?  We would argue that perhaps they are not.

One example is the trend towards a much more graphical interface with lots of high quality images on every page. This is fine for those using websites in the cities where there is access to very high speed broadband and 4G phone connections, but if your audience and potential clients are mainly situated in the rural areas of Herefordshire and Worcestershire, such changes may not be worthwhile. I can think of many instances where I have abandoned a website in frustration at the time the page takes to load and filling the page with pictures doesn’t help this. So, think where your audience is before going for a highly graphical interface.

Another example, concerns usability. Having more graphics on the site and making it look good seems to cause some web designers to forget about making a site easy to use. I have come across instances where the number of clicks to reach a particular part of a website has increased considerably (which gets even more annoying at slow speed!) and therefore increases the risk of your user disappearing before they reach their destination.

I’m not arguing that people should not update their sites.  Why would I, as it’s part of our business? No, I am simply asking that people think about what they are trying to do before they make changes just to keep up with fashion. You need to make your website work for your customers not put them off!

To find out more, you could always come on our workshop! Check to see if we are running it soon.