Very often, one is faced with a question that at first glance seems obvious, but in truth requires some rather precise thinking to find an answer.

To limit the extent of the ways in which possible answers may arise, we will focus on business requirements for the moment. Business websites can come in a few different forms, but primarily are designed to either assist or even take over the process of sales.

Some businesses are more comfortable with this idea than others, and indeed this level of comfort can be compounded by particular things such as; who leads the market and what they do; the industry itself and how it operates historically; the business management and their exposure to modern practices; the introduction of young people into the business.

All of these elements have a contributing factor that can directly influence the desire for change and the resulting actions that lead to the introduction of new technological tools.

In short, that’s a very long winded way of saying that some businesses are stuck in the past. This is an entirely understandable way of thinking, and in truth it comes with some real sense. Regardless of whether a company is B2C or B2B, the way humans operate – and have done for millions of years – has not really changed. Websites are still created by people as a way of focusing attention on five core principles. These five principles are the basic requirements that an individual, whether they work for a business or are a single consumer, require an understanding of in order to make a purchase.

A good salesperson, and a good web designer / developer, is one who understands these principles and adjusts their approach to ensure factor is met in turn.

The five principles are:

Status – How will the proposed purchase affect your business or individual status? Can I use this to my advantage?

Certainty  – Is this purchase certain to have the desired effect? Is it trustworthy?

Autonomy – Am I making the choice to do this on my own volition or am I being conned? What are the further implications of making this choice?

Relatedness – Do I understand what other things this purchase may affect? (Upselling and Additional Advantages)

Fairness – Am I sure that I am being treated fairly? How does my experience fare compared to others?

If a website is highly effective at meeting these five principles and directly leading sales without any other involvement then the answer to the proposed question is …. NEVER … or at least very rarely. When something works well DO NOT CHANGE IT.

One of the biggest annoyances for website users or people who use effective digital tools are when companies introduce blocks (eg. pop-ups and enforced account creation) which seem like effective sales reminders but in real terms only serve to halt users achieving their goals or stop them getting the information they need. Updating a working and effective website can be a really really bad idea. Any change should be considered in light of the above principles. In addition, websites also have other core principles which can affect sales. Many of these are engineering solutions – such as website speed, the ease of contact, security features and business security.

 

How Often Would You Recommend An Update?

If the consensus, within the business and outside, is that a website needs updating then in truth, it needs updating. Old websites are terrible for business and easy to spot. An outdated or non functioning website is a sure sign that a businesses is either unable or unwilling to invest time and energy for their customers. This can impact some of the core principles of sales such as Status and Certainty.

If a website is not meeting its aims or completing its function successfully, then it needs updating, but before you go ahead and do so you should be aware of exactly why it is not meeting its aims. In many many cases businesses are simply not aware of why a website is not working. They are often unwilling to ask customers or feel unqualified to approach the challenge of improvement.

One critical point to note: If your website has been updated in the past two years, and meets the engineering criteria (loads within 4 seconds, has relevant security measures etc) then the chances are that the updates you require are small, yet highly significant.

 

The Power Of Small Changes

To paraphrase Executive Creative Director of OgilvyOne, Rory Sutherland, people tend to think that marketing is a bit like Newtonian physics – that big changes require big forces. The truth is that while the world is full of big things, you can achieve astounding and far-reaching results from small and seemingly insignificant single or repeated actions.

He recently ran an experiment where they ran two prize draws – one with a large cash prize for one person and one with a small teddy bear for entering but no prize. The one with the teddy bear achieved 300% more responses and cost significantly less for the company. This outcome was achieved because people prefer the certainty of a small gift and like to give things to other people rather than a risk a waste of time and small chance of a larger prize.

The point here is that updates don’t always have to start from square one. Often companies go 85% of the distance in solving their problems but fail to reach the final hurdle because they have missed out on a critical opportunity or not thought about the issue in quite the right way.

 

Creating Another Route To Success

Sometimes, to challenge all of the above, an idea – perhaps connected with a particular new technology or method – comes along which drives change. This could be something like a fantastic use for 360 degree cameras, Virtual reality or augmented reality. In these cases it can sometimes pay to be ahead of the trend and take a risk with a bold new update.

This can often be an extremely difficult or even long journey, but for those who are able to put their full weight behind it the outcomes can be truly spectacular. In some rare cases businesses may succeed in meeting the particular criteria and doing most of the work right, but they fail because in real terms they played it too safe. There are just too many companies doing the exact same thing and they don’t have that vital component which makes a customer want to purchase.

The key thing to note is that a new approach is a risk, and businesses are, for the most part, highly concerned with mitigating and removing risk. If you want to pursue a new approach or push through ground-breaking changes, then you should be as prepared to face internal challenges as external ones.

I these cases, which are few and far between, and where a businesses future may hang in the balance – we recommend keeping the idea that bold, fresh and innovative approaches can have a wide range of impacts. The main note here is that the bigger the change – the greater the need for research and understanding, focusing on aims and how these changes may affect the five principles in the SCARF model previously mentioned.

 

Moving Forwards And Planning Your Updates

In any case the tools which are available to monitor, analyse, improve and upgrade digital tools are rapidly expanding. While some businesses may seek solace in a slow and steady approach, the undeniable truth is that the sooner businesses look to integrate digital tools and empower their sales the better for them and the industry as a whole. The sooner good industry practices are developed, the easier they are to adopt, improve and expand upon for the sake of customers.

Part of this means dedicating real time and energy, the same way that you might train a salesperson within a company – scoping a map for changes and a process of continual development, both from an engineering and marketing perspective, to achieve the best results in the long term.

If all else fails though, and you need a number to keep in your mind – then if your website is more than two years old – it is probably negatively impacting your business.

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