5 ways you know your website needs to be redesigned

posted by Lauren Rauseo on: 03/21/11 in category: websites | tags: ,

1. It’s designed using tables

1997 called. They want their tables-based website back. Seriously, folks, using tables for web layouts were all the rage in the early internet days, but those days are long gone. Tables are meant for — wait for it — tabular data. Makes sense, right? Tables are NOT meant for presenting the entirety of your website’s content and appearance information.

Embrace the present-day, standards-compliant web practices. Take advantage of the CSS-based model for your website. You’ll enjoy painless design updates, faster load times, better search engine rankings, and accessibility for visitors using mobile browsers or screen readers.

2. It’s designed using frames

I venture to say that if your website was built using frames, you are even worse off than the last guy whose site is constructed with tables. With a framed website, each piece of your website (often the header area at the top, the navigation menu at the side, the content, and the footer) is loaded into its own frame inside the browser.

To the casual website surfer, you may not even notice you are visiting a framed site (which was most likely built around the time when Billy Joel released “River of Dreams”). That is until you find an interesting page that you’d like to share with a friend. You go to the address bar and copy and paste the URL into an email, saying, “Hey! I just found the answer to that problem you were having!” Later your friend responds, “Hey, Knucklehead [or something less G-rated], you just sent me to the site’s homepage. Where is the good information you promised?” Only by that time, you’ve left the website and you have no idea how you came upon that very specific page you tried to send earlier.

If you pay attention as you navigate the site, you’ll see that the URL never changes from the homepage address. This is because a bookmark (or the address you copied and pasted into an email) does not retain the state of each of the frames at the time you bookmarked it. So the content frame just delivers the state of that frame from the homepage.

The problems with frames don’t end there. If you do a Google search and click on a result that takes you to a framed site, chances are you’ll experience the opposite of the scenario described above. You’ll see the content you were looking for, but the other frames from the site — you know, small things like the navigation— will be missing. So now you’ve reached the information you were seeking in your search, but you have no way to click around the website because all you can see is the content area without the header, menus or footer. Really helpful (she says sarcastically).

3. It has an intro splash page

Ever visit a site that has a fancy homepage that no doubt includes music and something happily dancing out onto the screen, where the only text on the whole page (well, after the “L O A D I N G” message finally disappears) is “Enter website”?

Were you confused because you thought by typing in the correct domain name, you already HAD entered the website?

Maybe the more important question is: Have you ever visited a page of a website that begins this way beyond the one described above? Probably not, because the showy splash page was created by an agency or designer to impress only the CEO of that company. No one else, and I do mean no one else, will watch a completely useless animation for 25 seconds before being given the option to “enter the site” and get to the real content.

4. It uses a Flash navigation

Maybe your site doesn’t have a motion-heavy splash page. You think you’re safe because only your ostentatious navigation menu is built using Flash.

Let me ask you this: what is the purpose of a website’s navigation? Oh, that’s right. So visitors can NAVIGATE the site. Know how many of your visitors think it’s cool if the menu fades into existence each time a new page loads? Zero! On the contrary, know how many of your visitors think it’s annoying? Hmm, it’s hard to tell, but you can check your Google Analytics to see how many people are leaving your website after they see that awesome navigation bar load on what I would guess would be a maximum of two pages.

Even worse are the people who are on computers without a recent version of Flash Player installed. Those folks can’t even click to a second page of your site if they wanted to. Nice!

5. It uses — gasp — Flash for the entire design

Much like the framed website, the all-Flash website usually has only one URL that is used for every page of the website. That means no bookmarking and no sharing individual content pages.

And although there has been much improvement in search engines’ ability to index all-Flash websites in recent years, it still doesn’t hold a candle to the much more search-engine-friendly HTML option.

And then there’s the oh-so-small Apple problem. In a nutshell, some Apple products (i.e. the iPhone and iPad — ever hear of them?) don’t support Flash. Visitors coming to your all-Flash website through these vehicles get a big blank screen or a nice friendly message about how Flash Player is needed to view the site (more on this here).

What’s the take-away here?

Determine if your website commits any of these cardinal sins. Then, before you begin the process of redesigning, ask your web designer/developer what structure they’ll be using to build your new site. Key phrases you want to hear include: CSS-based, cross-browser-compatible, standards-compliant, and strictly validated.

Key phrases you don’t want to hear include: tables-based, frameset, splash page, Flash navigation, and strictly Flash-based.

If you have no idea what this blog post is talking about, ask a website professional or website-savvy friend to take a look at your site’s code. They’ll be able to tell what’s going on, and how desperate (or not desperate) you are for a redesign.

About the Author

Lauren Rauseo is your one-stop shop for print design, websites, HTML email, and more. When she's not busy working on client projects, Lauren enjoys running, doing yoga, drinking a soy white mocha, and having a dance party in the living room with her kids. Shake it off, people, just shake it off.

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