By Nathan Fulwood, Realise Digital
Keeping a website fresh and current so that it meets ever changing visitor expectations can be a struggle. So, how do you keep your site cutting edge without going through a full-scale redesign every couple of months?
The answer is continuous website development. This is a systematic approach to web development, encouraging incremental improvements in real-time. It’s based on the idea that your site should be an organic entity that is never ‘finished’ but that constantly evolves to meet changing demands.
There are numerous benefits. Updating your site on a regular basis gives visitors a reason to return time and again, while increasing customer engagement and keeping the site fresh for the search engines. You’ll also see great return on investment because you are constantly improving the effectiveness of your site.
Here are seven ways continuous website development can dramatically improve the effectiveness of your site:
1. Build in phases
If you are developing a website against a deadline, it is unlikely you’ll have the time and resources to develop it all at once in time for the ‘go-live’ day. With continuous development, you can build your website in stages so that your lists of desired content and functionality can be prioritised in the planning phases against cost, effort and budget. The ‘must-have’ features will be in the first phase, while the ‘nice to have’ additions can wait till time or money allows.
You should also revisit this ‘wish-list’ from time-to-time to check your priorities haven’t changed.
2. Get feedback
Using the feedback you receive from your visitors as part of your continuous development strategy is a great way to improve the effectiveness of your site. For example, provide visitors with a feedback tools, like comments or ratings around key content, or tap into social media and monitor what is being said about your site. You could even conduct site surveys or invite visitors to user testing sessions.
Don’t over-react though! One negative email can sometimes cause undue panic. So make sure you pay attention to the positives as well as the negatives.
3. Watch those analytics
Website analytics is an invaluable part of any digital marketer’s toolkit. It’s vital in helping you make informed developments to your site too. But for analytics to really be an asset, you have to identify what it is you actually need to measure so plan your key performance indicators before you build your site.
There are some metrics that will be more important than others, for example keep an eye on pages with high bounce or exit rates. If it isn’t a ‘thank you for your order’ page, then you might be missing a call to action.
4. Improve in real-time.
A/B and multi-variate testing is a fundamental part of continuous website development, particularly on high-traffic sites. This type of testing allows you to serve up two different pages to different visitors and then compare the two and see which is more effective. You’ll then be able to see in real-time whether changes to your site are an improvement or not and make further changes (and then test these as well).
Companies with the most effective websites will be continuously testing different variations to get better and better results.
5. Keep up with the Joneses
Just because it is right for them, doesn’t mean it is right for you. You shouldn’t feel as though it is necessary to copy what your competitors are doing at every stage, you do need to keep an eye on innovations on their websites and consider adopting elements that would work for your site too. You should also be looking further afield, looking at innovative companies outside of your sector.
Hopefully, by investing in continuous development, you will establish a best of breed site that will see your competitors running scared.
6. Don’t make a rod for your own back
One thing is inevitable: at some point you are going to want to consider a wholesale redesign or restructuring of your site. The good news is, if you have a continuous website development strategy in place, this should be a relatively easy task.
As you’ve been making continual improvements to the site, the effort needed to get you where you need to be should be minimised. If you develop your site to ensure separation on content and design (a favoured phrase of good web developers) then you should be able to focus your efforts where it counts, without the tedium of re-entering pages of content.
7. Use your ultimate secret weapon
The most important weapon in your continuous development strategy will be your digital agency. I would say that,wouldn’t I? But there is nothing more frustrating than seeing site released into the wild, never to return. So, instead of tackling a continuous web development process on your own, make sure you tap into the expertise of your agency. It will be up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices and will obviously have an intricate knowledge of your site.
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