Author: Russell Anderson, RuAnderson@jackhenry.com
Websites are, by nature, unfinished business. No matter how recently you’ve redesigned a website, it’s easy to feel as though it’s growing stale and needs a change. But keeping up can be tough. The pace of technology aside, design trends constantly fluctuate and shift greatly depending on the actions of a few key players (Apple, Microsoft, Google, etc.). Chasing this moving target can be expensive, time consuming, and frustrating.
Perhaps, then, we can find some ways to update a website beyond the ever-changing graphical elements (colors, shadows, typefaces) and flashy functionality (popups, animations, etc.). Ultimately, these are just window dressing, anyway. The foundation of your website is the content: what it says and how it says it. Content has a major impact on a website’s effectiveness and perception.
If you’re looking to spruce up your website, start by redesigning the content.
A little spring cleaning
I’ve heard it said that web redesign is like moving from one house to another. Usually when people move, they use the opportunity to take stock of all the stuff they’ve gathered over the years. They’ll find things they haven’t touched in decades, and seeing them again begs the question of whether or not they’re even necessary. More often than not, they’ll end up throwing a lot of stuff away.
The same thing needs to happen to your content. Your organization has likely had a website since the late 90’s. Over all that time, pages and paragraphs add up, resulting in a great deal of information that may no longer be relevant or effective.
Be careful not to use your website as an online filing cabinet.
Outdated content can have a negative impact on the perception of your institution. Put yourself in a visitor’s shoes for a minute. Imagine you visit a website, and land on text that is clearly obsolete, or worse, the wording contradicts what you’ve recently been told by someone at the company. What will be your impression of that organization’s attention to detail? What about its trustworthiness? According to a recent survey, 65% of responders felt content on the web was unreliable.1 Don’t give visitors reason to be skeptical of your institution, too.
Sweep up the cobwebs. Sift through and find out-of-date material; then either update it or trash it. Repeat this process as often as you can – it’s one of the many reasons we offer a content management system, or CMS. Take a look at your website’s statistics. If a page has seldom been visited, get rid of it! If it really is crucial information for your users, you need to rethink how to get it in front of them.
“Make it pop”
We hear this phrase from clients a lot when it comes to creating our graphic designs. People want their website to stand-out from the crowd and catch peoples’ eyes. The same is true for your content. You’ve got to “make it pop”!
People don’t actually read websites, they scan them. Think of the last article or blog post you’ve read (including this one). Did you really read every last word? Or did your eyes jump from paragraph to paragraph searching for the information that was relevant to you? Here I am suffering over every last word of this post, when only my boss (and maybe my wife) will actually read the whole thing.
When visiting your website, your users are hunting for key pieces of information. They’re seeking to make quick comparisons about the products and services you offer. Maybe they’re in crisis-mode because they’ve just lost their debit card, or they need to find the nearest branch quickly.
If your website is cluttered, your content too lengthy, and your pages too many, it becomes difficult for users to do what they need to do.
Furthermore, bloated content can make it difficult for your website to turn prospects into customers and increase business from existing customers. Transparency is important in the financial industry, but this does not mean that every last detail of every last product needs to be on your website. Techniques like progressive disclosure can help users who want more information find it. Give them the details they need to make an informed decision, succinctly and without jargon.
Also, be sure to give your users a clear call-to-action on every page – to an application, contact form or phone number. Make sure every bit of content moves your user forward in their relationship with you.
What you can control
Ultimately, you may not be able to exert much control over Web trends and technology, but you do have control over the words on your website.
Redefine the redesign: focus on content.